Coronavirus and Employer Obligations

As a result of the Coronavirus isolation requirements, Fair Work has now released guidance on employee arrangements.

Below is a summary of situations that may arise, and the responsibility for employers and employees:

Where an employee HAS contracted Coronavirus and required to self-isolate

Employees who cannot attend work because they are sick with Coronavirus can take paid sick leave. If an employee needs to look after a family member or a member of their household who is sick with Coronavirus, or suffering an unexpected emergency, they are entitled to take paid carer’s leave.

Under the Fair Work Act, casual employees are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion. Full-time and part-time employees can take unpaid carer’s leave if they have no paid sick or carer’s leave left.

An employee must give their employer reasonable evidence of the illness or an unexpected emergency if their employer asks for it.

Where an employee has NOT contracted Coronavirus but does not want to attend work

Where feasible, employers can provide flexible working arrangements that allow employees work from home.

If that is not possible, an employee may seek to take annual leave, long service leave or unpaid leave. However, there is no obligation for the employer to agree to paid leave. Additionally, there is no requirement for an employer to pay the employee for sick leave without the employee providing reasonable evidence (eg a doctor’s certificate)

Where an employee has NOT contracted Coronavirus but is required to self-isolate

An employee may be required to self-isolate because of factors such as returning from overseas or under other government or health officials orders. In this instance the employee is not ordinarily entitled to be paid (unless they use leave entitlements at the agreement of their employer).

The Fair Work Act does not have specific rules for these kinds of situations, so employees and employers need to come to their own arrangement. This may include:

working from home or another location (if this is a practical option), noting they should review any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employment contracts or workplace policies

taking sick leave if the employee is sick

taking annual leave

taking any other leave available to them (such as long service leave or any other leave available under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract)

arranging any other paid or unpaid leave by agreement between the employee and the employer.

Where an employee has NOT contracted Coronavirus, but their employer has requested they do not attend work

Where an employer directs a full-time or part-time employee to stay home in line with advice, for example in line with the Australian Government’s health and quarantine advice, and the employee is not sick with Coronavirus, the employee should ordinarily be paid while the direction applies.

Where an employer has reduced workload due to deteriorating business conditions

Some employers may need to make employees’ positions redundant in response to a business downturn. If an employee’s job is made redundant their employer may have to provide redundancy pay. The Fair Work Act has requirements that employers have to meet before they can terminate an employee’s employment, such as providing notice or pay in lieu.

If an employer seeks to vary employees’ work rosters, they should review any applicable enterprise agreement, award, employment contracts or workplace policies. Particularly for full-time and part-time employees, an employer is usually required to seek employees’ agreement to change their rosters.

Under the Fair Work Act employees can only be stood down without pay in limited situations. Deteriorating business conditions due to the Coronavirus would generally not be one of these situations.

An employer should carefully review their obligations under the Fair Work Act as well as any applicable awards or agreements before dealing with any of the above situations.


Single Touch Payroll


Single Touch Payroll (STP) is a change to how businesses will report employee information to the ATO. Payments such as salaries & wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and superannuation will be reported directly to the ATO each time your employees are paid. This will be done via your payroll software. At present, salary & wage and PAYG withholding information is provided to the ATO via your Business Activity Statements, while superannuation information is provided to superannuation funds only when the contributions are made.

Who does Single Touch Payroll apply to?

STP will be phased in for all employers. For businesses with 20 or more employees, STP will come into effect from 1 July 2018. It is proposed to be extended to businesses with less than 20 employees from 1 July 2019. Employers are required to do a head count of their employees as of 1st April 2018 to determine if they are required to start reporting from 1 July 2018. Full-time, part-time and casual employees are all included in the count while independent contractors do not.

The benefits of Single Touch Payroll reporting

The main drawback for the transition to single touch payroll is having to become familiar with the new process. Some employers may also have to purchase new software to meet the STP requirements.

Despite this, there will be numerous benefits from the change:

For employers

  • As payroll reporting will be combined with the pay run process, some end of year reporting (such as providing payment summaries) will be eliminated
  • The withholding fields on Activity Statements will be automatically generated based on the payroll information eliminating potential errors
  • Super choice forms and TFN declarations can be completed online saving time when taking on new employees

For employees

  • Real time access to employment income and superannuation information via MyGov
  • Payroll information will prefill into tax returns

How to report


When it comes to meeting the STP reporting obligations employers will have three options:

  1. Report through your current payroll software such as your bookkeeping, accounting or payroll software

Most payroll software providers (like Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks) have been working to make their software STP enabled. The provider may offer:

  • An end-to-end solution where their software allows the reporting and sending of the file to the ATO, or
  • A partial solution where the software only allows for STP reporting. In this case the file will need to be sent separately through a third party.

If you haven’t been advised of your payroll software provider of their STP status you can either contact them or refer to Australian Business Software Industry Association (ABSIA) website. Most payroll software providers will have extensive information available on their website as well.

2. Report from a new STP ready payroll solution

You will need to choose a new STP ready payroll software where you are currently reporting payroll information to the ATO using paper forms or where your current payroll software will not offer STP reporting. You can check the ABSIA website for STP ready solutions.

3. Utilise the services of a third party who can report through STP on your behalf.

Getting ready for Single Touch Payroll

Once you determine you will be required to start STP reporting you should first contact your payroll software provider to find out:

  • If they will be STP enabled,
  • How they will offer STP reporting (eg through an update or a standalone product),
  • When they will be ready. Some software providers will have a deferred start date as they won’t be ready by July 1, and
  • What support they will offer you with the transition

If you won’t be ready for STP reporting by 1 July or your payroll providers deferred start date, you will need to apply for a deferral. The deferral request is available via the ATO website.

The ATO has announced the first 12 months of reporting will be a transition period. As a result, unless they contact you saying otherwise, no administrative penalties will apply for lodging late or making errors in your reporting.

Where to get more information

The ATO website has detailed information on the introduction and requirements of STP.

Payroll software providers also have details of their STP solutions and how they will be implemented.




For more information on this topic, or for assistance with understanding or implementing STP, contact our team at Private Wealth Accountants.


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