Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Ipswich senior associate Michaela Bartonkova.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Ipswich senior associate Michaela Bartonkova.

CORONAVIRUS: Workers’ rights explained during quarantine

 

AS the coronavirus continues to spread, there are fears workers will be forced to go without pay or have to use up annual leave if they need to go into quarantine.

The virus was labelled as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation yesterday but there have been no confirmed cases in the West Moreton area so far.

Without any paid leave, casual workers are the most vulnerable if they cannot work.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Ipswich senior associate Michaela Bartonkova said there was no one-size-fits-all situation for employees in such an event.

"If you're sick but your employer wants you to see a doctor or stay home, you should follow that direction," she said.

"However, they should not ask you to use your personal leave, nor as a general rule can they direct you to take annual leave.

"What you should do is receive at least your base rate of pay to see the doctor and if your boss asks you to self-quarantine you should receive at least your base rate of pay for that period as well."

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Ms Bartonkova encouraged casual workers to let their employers know as soon as possible if they were showing any symptoms of the virus.

"If you're not able to work any of the rostered shifts, you may be required to provide a medical certificate as a casual worker," she said.

"You don't get the paid sick leave but your boss isn't allowed to terminate your employment or stop giving you shifts because you were sick.

"It would be important for the worker to let the employer know as soon as they are able to return to work."

Ms Bartonkova said it was important employers balanced their responsibilities with the rights of their workers.

She said in the unlikely event a workplace is closed as a result of a 'stand down', employers do not have to pay employee's wages.

"It is an extreme measure and can only be used when the decision is effectively out of the employer's hands," she said.

"If someone is willing and able to work … and you want them to stay at home you should be prepared to continue to pay them at their base rate."

FOLLOW THE LATEST ON THE CORONAVIRUS

Queensland Health chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said local health authorities are "leaving no stone unturned" to keep people safe from coronavirus.

"While working hard on containing the virus, the team has also been planning the next phases of our response to keep Queenslanders safe," she said.

"This includes daily meetings with all local hospital and health services to co-ordinate and prepare for a range of scenarios.

"Our focus is on providing clear information to stakeholders and community groups, well-resourced health facilities, ensuring appropriate equipment is in place and availability of medication."

The Queensland Council of Unions estimates there to be about 680,000 workers across the state who do not have access to any form of paid leave.

Read more stories from Lachlan McIvor.