COVID-19 and Labour Law: Australia
Keywords:Covid-19, Labour Law, JobKeeper income support scheme, Home working, Stand downs, Redundancies, Pandemic leave
The Australian regulatory response to the COVID-19 pandemic initially involved high levels of cooperation between all levels of government, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and key business groups. The impacts of business closures and restricted operations were quickly seen through widespread stand downs and, increasingly, layoffs of workers. A wage subsidy scheme for affected employees (JobKeeper) left out many casual and migrant workers. Norms of workplace regulation were rapidly adapted to allow businesses to adjust operations and many employees to work from home, while those working in essential sectors contended with overwork and safety concerns. The economy opened up again as the infection rate was brought under control, only to be followed by the re-imposition of even stricter controls in the state of Victoria due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Four months into the crisis, the early consensus approach to appropriate regulatory settings for employment relations is under significant strain. Contestation over the shape and extent of industrial relations reform has re-emerged, as it becomes clearer that business interests and conservative political forces seek to utilise the pandemic to advance a deregulatory agenda.
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