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VICTORIA’S Stage 4 restrictions will require a review of workforce needs and all dealerships and service centres should examine future requirements, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce said on Wednesday.

It said that for affected members “careful consideration should be given to the appropriateness of current employment arrangements and whether changes need to be made in relation to matters such as reduction of hours and stand down, the taking of paid or unpaid leave, and potential decisions around redundancy.”

“This should also entail consideration of the number of employees, the role/classification composition required currently and going forward, as well as leave balances, accruals and length of service – together with strategies around consultation,” it said.

The VACC said the options available will be directly influenced by which category the employer and employees fall into – JobKeeper eligible; the flexibilities under the VRSR Award; or those not eligible under either.

For those eligible for JobKeeper, the current rate of $1500 a fortnight will continue until September 27 and then change to a lower rate of 1200 a fortnight until January 4 2021 and will continue at the rate of $1000 a fortnight until March 2021.

“Employers may need to review the JobKeeper Enabling Directions they currently in place,” the VACC said.

“For example, an employer may need to issue a new JobKeeper enabling stand down direction, requiring an employee to work further reduced hours or days.

“Members are reminded that an employer must give an employee at least three days written notice before they give a JobKeeper direction (or a lesser period if agreed by the employee) and consult with the employee about the JobKeeper direction (and keep a written record of the consultation).

“Members should note that employees continue to accrue entitlements based on their pre-JobKeeper stand down hours of work.

“Employers may also request (which cannot be unreasonably refused) an employee take accrued paid annual leave (provided that they retain a balance of at least two weeks leave) – and may agree with the employee for double annual leave to be taken at half pay.”

For those employees who are not eligible for JobKeeper but currently use the flexibilities under Schedule I of the VRSR Award, the current arrangements have been extended to August 31, 2020.

The VACC said that these arrangements provide an ability to provide a temporary reduction of hours of work for full-time and part-time employees, but with stricter limitations than those applying to JobKeeper employers.

“Members should note that employees continue to accrue entitlements based on their hours of work prior to the temporary reduction direction,” the VACC said.

“Schedule I also enables an employer to request (which cannot be unreasonably refused) an employee take accrued paid annual leave, provided that they retain a balance of at least two weeks leave – and may agree with the employee for double annual leave to be taken at half pay.”

For employers not eligible for either JobKeeper or Schedule I, the VACC said there is no ability to direct employees to reduce their hours of work or accept a request to take annual leave.

“However, there is nothing preventing an employer and employee mutually agreeing to a temporary (or permanent) reduction of hours in writing,” the VACC said.

“An employer and employee may also mutually agree to the employee requesting a period of paid or unpaid leave.

“Where such agreement is not able to be reached and a business is required to cease operations as a result of Stage 4 restrictions, the employer is entitled to stand down its employees in accordance with s 524(3) of the Fair Work Act 2009.

“This option is available where employees cannot usefully be employed because of a stoppage of work for which the employer could not reasonably be held responsible.”

By Neil Dowling

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