The ABCC remains open to assist the building and construction industry

Building and construction in Metropolitan Melbourne under Stage 4 ‘Stay at Home’ Restrictions

The Victorian Government has announced new restrictions for the building and construction sector under Stage 4 ‘Stay at Home’ Restrictions in Metropolitan Melbourne as well as the introduction of a Worker Permit Scheme. Further information is available on the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website.

For the construction sector, permitted work premises include:

  • Building and non-building construction (including residential)
  • Construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services to support these projects, and other construction in line with restrictions
  • Critical repairs to any premises, are allowed, where required for emergency or safety.

All construction sites are required to have a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan and must follow density restrictions of no more than one worker per four square metres in enclosed spaces.

Additional restrictions apply to:

  • Workers visiting multiple sites
  • Residential construction sites
  • Large-scale construction sites.

Please see the Business Victoria website for guidance on the changes that need to be adopted by Victorian residential and large-scale construction sites in line with Stage 4 restrictions.

ABCC Hotline

The ABCC Hotline (1800 003 338) remains open from 7am to 6pm (AET) and we encourage you to call if you have any questions. Alternatively, you can contact us via our website.

Site visits

ABCC Inspectors are available to visit building sites or workplaces, if you need assistance. Like everyone, ABCC staff will be taking all necessary and reasonable precautions to minimise the spread of COVID-19. This includes when they are on site. 

Generally, our Inspectors will provide you with notice before attending your site, to ensure that any face-to-face meetings can be undertaken as safely as possible.

Wherever possible, the ABCC Inspectors will explore with you how best to provide assistance without needing to resort to face-to-face meetings.

Flexibility in workplace laws

JobKeeper changes in the Fair Work Act

On 9 April 2020, the Fair Work Act was amended to support the implementation and operation of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme (JobKeeper scheme) in Australian workplaces.

These changes are temporary and will end on 28 September 2020.

The new provisions enable employers who qualify for the JobKeeper scheme, and who are entitled to JobKeeper payments for their employees, to give directions called ‘JobKeeper enabling directions’. In certain circumstances, this means that employers can temporarily:

  • stand down an employee (including by reducing their hours or days of work)
  • change an employee’s usual duties
  • change an employee’s location of work.

The new provisions also enable employers who qualify for the JobKeeper scheme, and who are entitled to JobKeeper payments for their employees, to make agreements with their employees to change their days and times of work and take annual leave in certain circumstances.

For more information on the JobKeeper Scheme visit our FAQ page.

COVID-19 – Your health and safety

Please visit the Australian Government website for the latest information on COVID-19, including requirements and conditions for quarantine periods.

If you require information about COVID-19 itself, please visit the Australian Government’s Department of Health website.

If you have an issue relating to safety on your site, including in relation to COVID-19, please contact the relevant state or territory safety regulator.

Other helpful links:

Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner

Safe Work Australia - Construction guidance material

Taking paid or unpaid leave

Depending upon workplace arrangements workers may need to consider taking paid or unpaid leave.

For more information on paid or unpaid leave, visit our FAQ page.

Redundancy

Redundancy entitlements are set out in the National Employment Standards and contained in the Fair Work Act.  These provisions provide that most permanent employees are entitled to a redundancy payment based on their years of service and a notice period of termination (or a payment in lieu of notice). 

However, there are exemptions to the redundancy payments under the Fair Work Act.  These include where a modern award contains its own industry specific redundancy provisions.

An example of this type of award is the Building and Construction General On-Site Award 2010, which covers the majority of workers in the building industry.  Under this award:

  • redundancy has a broader meaning than the NES, including that an employee is entitled to redundancy even where the employee terminates their own employment
  • employees are entitled to more generous payments
  • permanent employees with less than 12 months service are entitled to redundancy pay (as long as the redundancy was initiated by the employer)
  • employers are able to make contributions to a third-party redundancy fund. 

Where an employer has used a third party fund, this means that the employee needs to apply to the fund when they are made redundant to receive these entitlements.  If the employer is not using such a fund or has not made all the necessary contributions, the employer is liable to directly pay the employee any outstanding redundancy payments.

In addition to redundancy pay and notice of termination, where an employee is made redundant or terminated, employers should also ensure that the employee is paid for any annual leave or accrued RDOs that they are owed.

Standing down employees

One of the potential consequences of COVID-19 may be that work may need to stop on some Australian building sites.  Where this occurs, an employer may need to consider whether to stand down its employees.

Some examples of reasons that could lead to a stand down include where:

  • the business has closed because of an enforceable government direction relating to non-essential services (which means there is no work at all for employees to do even from another location)
  • a large proportion of the workforce is in self-quarantine meaning the remaining employees can’t be usefully employed
  • there’s a stoppage of work due to lack of supply for which the employer can’t be held responsible.

Before reaching the decision to stand down employees, employers and employees may wish to consider eligibility for JobKeeper payments.  View more information on JobKeeper on the ATO website.

The ABCC can provide advice and assistance to employers considering implementing a stand down to make sure they do so lawfully. The ABCC can provide advice and assistance to employees who are subject to potential stand down.

For more information on standing down employees, visit our FAQ page.

COVID-19 and the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016

We are here to help you understand your rights and responsibilities under the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 (the Code) during the COVID-19 outbreak

The Code continues to apply to code covered entities in relation to their building work. The ABCC is here to provide advice and assistance to code covered entities during this time.

For more information on the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016, visit our FAQ page.

Helpful links

Please visit the Australian Government website for the latest information on the virus, including requirements and conditions for quarantine periods.

If you require information about COVID-19 itself, please visit the Australian Government’s Department of Health website.

If you have an issue relating to safety on your site, including in relation to COVID-19, please contact the relevant state or territory safety regulator.

Industry Update - April 2020 Edition

The April edition of Industry Update features the latest information from the ABCC in response to COVID-19: FAQs, information on how to keep your worksite safe and more.

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