Application for COVID-19 General Order aims to provide further flexibility to manage private sector employment arrangements

Details  Created: 05 May 2020

The Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission has received an application seeking that it issue a General Order under section 50 of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA) for private sector employers and employees, based on the amendments made to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) arising from the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus (Measures No.2) Act 2020 (Cth).


The application seeks a General Order in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide for the following specific temporary measures:


  1. A requirement that where a JobKeeper payment is payable, the employer is to provide eligible employees the value of the JobKeeper payment or the amount owed for work performed;
  2. Ability for employers to stand down employees (either fully or partially) because they cannot be usefully employed arising from the COVID-19 pandemic or government initiatives to slow the transmission of COVID-19;
  3. Ability for employers to alter the duties of work of an employee in order to continue the employment of one or more employees of the employer;
  4. Ability for employers to alter the location of work in order to continue the employment of one or more employees of the employer;
  5. Option for an employer and employee to agree to work being performed on different days and times, provided that the employee is not to unreasonably refuse an employer’s request.


The proposed General Order is intended to apply to all employers and employees in the private sector within the State industrial relations system, whether or not they are covered by an award or industrial agreement. The proposed terms of the General Order are said to aim to provide the flexibility to manage employment arrangements in a manner that supports the JobKeeper Scheme, preserves jobs and supports the viability of businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


The application seeks for the General Order to be operative on a temporary basis only, applying until 28 September 2020, coinciding with the date the Jobkeeper Scheme arrangements set out in the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Act 2020 (Cth) cease to apply.


The Commission held a conference with parties named in section 50 of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA), consisting of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, UnionsWA, and Minister for Industrial Relations, the Honourable Bill Johnston MLA. The section 50 parties are conferring with a view to agreeing the terms of a proposed General Order.


The Commission intends to deal with the application as a matter of priority given the current circumstances. Any person wishing to make a submission to the Commission regarding the application for the proposed General Order is invited to do so in writing by 4.30pm on Monday 11 May 2020.