QANTAS says……Stood down? No sick leave for you!
Below is an excellent analysis by Anthony Forsyth¹ of QANTAS’s interpretation of the Fair Work Act to refuse its 20,000 staff that are stood down to access paid sick leave and yes, we are even talking about those diagnosed with COVID-19. I am finding more information on this as it comes to light and am extremely disappointed in QANTAS’s mismanagement of confirmed COVID-19 employees among it’s baggage handlers, and their inability to access paid sick leave.
This QANTAS Fair Work debacle comes shortly after SafeWork NSW commenced an investigation of a QANTAS employee that was stood down on 02 February, who was both a Union delegate and WHS representative.² QANTAS management took adverse action against the WHS rep for telling employees that “it was not safe to work on aircraft arriving from China in early February.” ²
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) NSW Branch Secretary stated that it was vital that WHS representatives had the full backing of the law and the regulator to ensure workers got the protections they need. ³ “QANTAS could face the first prosecution of its kind including multiple breaches for discriminatory conduct and prohibited behaviour” against the worker.²
This is an interesting combination of events for both pieces of legislation when tackling the same problem that is the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights the frustrations of WHS professionals being overruled and adversely targeted by management for carrying out their legislative responsibilities not only as a WHS professional, but on behalf of their employer.
It also highlights the connection between both the Fair Work and WHS legislative protections and how failure to comply with one, can compound the other. In this case, the PCBU failed to provide a safe working environment by ignoring the WHS representative (in addition to taking adverse action against them), and then again failing its employee’s by denying them access to an accrued paid entitlement such as sick leave.