Publications - COVID-19
The latest in legal developments - Delta Edition
18 August 2021
In January 2021 we published an article on the latest legal reforms and schemes that had resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic at that time. That article may be accessed here. Since that time the Delta Variant of COVID-19 has emerged, and a further raft of legal reforms and schemes have been implemented. This article provides a summary of those reforms and schemes and links to further information.
Stay at home orders
The NSW Government has issued repeated amendments to the Public Health (COVID-19 Additional Restrictions for Delta Outbreak) Order 2021 (Order) under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW). The most recent of these amendments require people who live in, usually work in or usually attend a university or other tertiary education facility in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour local government areas (LGAs) to stay at home.
Contained within that Order is a list of LGAs, and residents and workers within those areas, that are subject to further restrictions.
The Order (described by the NSW Government as the “Delta outbreak restrictions”) can be accessed here.
A list of Authorised Workers can be accessed here.
Reintroduction of National Cabinet’s Mandatory Code of Conduct for Commercial Leasing
The NSW Government will re-introduce the National Cabinet’s Mandatory Code of Conduct for Commercial Leasing (Code of Conduct) to mandate rent relief for eligible tenants impacted by COVID-19.
The Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2021 (NSW) (Regulation) will be extended until 13 January 2022 and will require landlords to renegotiate rent having regard to National Cabinet’s Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct requires landlords to provide rent relief in proportion with their tenant’s decline in turnover. Of the rent relief provided, at least 50 per cent must be in the form a waiver, and the balance a deferral.
The Regulation applies to commercial and retail tenants with a turnover of up to $50 million who qualify for the COVID-19 Microbusiness grant, COVID-19 Business Grant or JobSaver Payment. It will prohibit a landlord from evicting or locking out a tenant for certain breaches of the lease unless they have first renegotiated rent and attempted mediation.
We have separately written a more detailed article on the recent commercial leasing changes, which can be found here.
The Code of Conduct as published in 2020 can be accessed here.
The Regulation as published on 13 August 2021 can be accessed here.
For more information on mediation support and the Small Business Commission visit the Small Business Commissioner website here.
For more information on support available for businesses visit the Service NSW website here.
Hardship fund for small commercial or retail landlords
A new $40 million Hardship Fund will also be established to provide a monthly grant of up to $3,000 for small commercial or retail landlords who provide rental waivers of at least the value of the grant and any land tax relief they are eligible for.
For more information on land tax relief visit the Service NSW website here.
If you’re a business, sole trader or not-for-profit organisation in NSW and you've been impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible for a one-off grant of $7,500, $10,500 or $15,000.
For more information on the Business Grant please visit the Service NSW website here.
If you are a business, sole trader or not-for-profit organisation in NSW and you have been impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible for the 2021 COVID-19 JobSaver payment.
JobSaver will provide cash flow support to impacted businesses to help maintain their NSW employee headcount from 13 July 2021.
For more information on the JobSaver payment please visit the Service NSW website here.
If you’re a micro-business (small business, sole trader or not-for-profit organisation with aggregated annual turnover between $30,000 and $75,000) impacted by the recent COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible to apply for a fortnightly payment of $1,500 to cover business expenses for the duration of the Greater Sydney lockdown.
For more information on the Micro Business Grant please visit the Service NSW website here.
Small business fees and charges rebate
If you are a sole trader, the owner of a small business or a not-for-profit organisation in NSW, you may be eligible for a small business fees and charges rebate of $1500.
For more information on the Rebate please visit the Service NSW website here.
Employment Law and COVID-19: Vaccinations and workplace
Now that vaccines for COVID-19 are becoming more widely available and accessible in Australia, the discussion has lately turned to whether vaccination against COVID-19 can be made compulsory in the employment context. Vaccination is clearly a key tool which is needed to ensure both individuals and the community are protected from the worst of the virus, and will be the only way we can get on top of the pandemic and find a way to live with the virus.
To assist employers, the Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman has recently updated the information about workplace rights and obligations with regard to vaccination. That information is available here.
Ultimately, whether an employer can mandate that an employee must be vaccinated will depend on the particular circumstances of that workplace and each individual worker. Regardless of an employee’s vaccination status, it is important that employers support their employees. The Ombudsman’s suggestions include employers:
- providing leave or paid time off to allow employees to get vaccinated (this may also extend to time off work in the days after vaccination to allow employees who suffer side effects to recover);
- helping to ensure employees have access to reliable and up-to-date information on vaccinations, vaccine efficacy and vaccination availability; and
- where an employee does not wish to be vaccinated or does not have access to vaccinations (whether temporarily or on a more permanent basis), exploring other options for the relevant employees such as alternative work arrangements.
Links to additional information on related topics, such as refusing directions to be vaccinated and providing evidence of vaccination, are also available on the Ombudsman’s website.
Where can I find more information?
For more of our COVID-19 legal alerts, updates and publications, please click here. Alternatively call us on +61 2 9233 7299.