Coronavirus – government rescue package and privacy update

Government rescue package  

The Government has, today, announced a multi-million dollar rescue package for businesses. At the centre of this package, is a $5.1b wage subsidy which will see the Government pay employers up to $150,000, per business, over the next 12 weeks.

As always, the devil is in the detail, and we are yet to review any official documentation related to the Rescue Package. For now, a summary of the employment-related aspects of the Rescue Package is below:

  • Any business that can show a 30% decline in revenue for any month between January and June 2020, when compared with the same month last year, will be eligible for support.
  • A wage subsidy scheme will be available from 18 March 2020 to eligible businesses and will pay up to $585 per week for full time employees and up to $385 for part-time employees.
  • A new scheme will be introduced, which will see the same payments (up to $585 for full time employees and $385 part time) for any workers or contractors who need to self-isolate for the required 14 days. The scheme will also pay out the entire sickness period for anyone infected with COVID-19.

Privacy – how much information can you disclose?

The Privacy Commissioner has recently answered commonly asked questions when it comes to protecting the privacy of employees:

Q: If an employee returns from overseas and self-isolates with possible COVID-19 symptoms, can you tell other employees?

A: Principle 8 of the Privacy Act 1993 says an agency should check that personal information is accurate and complete before they use it. In this scenario, the employee is unsure if they have the virus so are taking precautionary steps – therefore the employer should first discuss with the quarantining staff member how they want to deal with any announcements.

Q: An employee comes to work with possible COVID-19 symptoms and is sent home. Can staff be told the employee who might have the virus?

A: An exception under the Privacy Act 1993 permits the use and disclosure of personal information where it is believed that the disclosure is necessary in order to prevent or lessen the risk of a serious threat to someone’s safety, wellbeing or health. Therefore, if you are concerned about a risk of transmission to other employees, you could tell them about the possible exposure.

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving, demanding flexibility and understanding from everyone. Please contact us if you would like confidential advice on this ever-changing situation.

Workplace Law team

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen DrewittMaria Green,  Hannah Martin, Joseph HarropHolly StruckmanAlex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia StrickettKen Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh)Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske SchutteLingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

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