It is likely that some clients may be facing new challenges as a result of the disruption presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here we provide vital information on the legal and regulatory consequences to assist you through this time.

Business support

We aim to ensure we are doing everything possible to assist our clients through this challenging time and invite you to contact us should you have legal questions.

Our response to COVID-19

A note from Managing Partner, Bill Karvela.

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Managing your workforce

New Duty to Report COVID-19 to WorkSafe

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The Fair Work Commission has today (Wednesday 22 July 2020) issued a statement that it has come to a provisional view that paid pandemic leave should be inserted into the Aged Care Award.

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In a busy week for the courts and the Fair Work Commission, three significant decisions have been handed down related to COVID-19 issues.

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On 8 April 2020, the Parliament passed legislation to give effect to the Government’s JobKeeper scheme and to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to give eligible employers greater flexibility to modify employees’ working hours, days, duties and location to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business and seek to preserve jobs.

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We have prepared the following FAQ’s based on the most common questions we have been receiving from employers. We have set out your minimum legal obligations as well as best practice to help guide you.

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A COVID-19 flexibility schedule has been added to the Clerks Private Sector Award. The variation enables employees to work across classifications and duties provided they have the correct qualifications along with other variations.

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COVID-19 flexibility schedule added to Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 by the Fair Work Commission.

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Tax

The worldwide impact of COVID-19, which has resulted in countries around the world shutting down their borders and international travel being banned, requires companies to operate online whenever possible.

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Due to the widespread economic impact of COVID-19 which has caused financial uncertainty for many businesses, contracts for the acquisition of goods or services may be cancelled in order to mitigate against further losses.

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The JobKeeper payment scheme was announced on 30 March 2020 with the objective of providing financial support to entities to assist with the impact of COVID-19. Since that time, there has been a significant amount of information released to explain the complex operation of the scheme, including Treasury Rules, Australian Tax Office (ATO) rulings and guidelines, together with amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 to enable employers to temporarily vary work arrangements for eligible employees.

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The Victorian Government recently announced a range of tax relief measures in response to COVID-19 to assist landlords and businesses. The State Revenue Office (SRO) has now provided further guidance on these initiatives.

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The JobKeeper payment scheme was announced on 30 March 2020 with the objective of providing financial support to entities to assist with the impact of COVID-19.

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The worldwide impact of COVID-19, which has resulted in countries around the world shutting down their borders and international travel being banned, requires companies to operate online whenever possible.

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The Victorian Government recently announced a range of tax relief measures in response to COVID-19 to assist landlords and businesses. The State Revenue Office (SRO) has now provided further guidance on these initiatives.

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On 23 March 2020, the Federal Government urgently passed legislation to introduce economic stimulus measures to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Here we provide an overview of the incentives.

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Ceasing contracts

The effects of COVID-19 may make it impossible for you or your commercial counter-party to fulfil your respective contractual obligations, or at least to do so at the time or in the manner you envisaged when you entered into that contract. Depending on the provisions of your contract this could trigger a ‘force majeure’ clause or ‘frustrate’ the contract entirely.

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Suspension of insolvency laws

On Monday 23 March 2020, the federal parliament passed the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 (Cth) implementing a range of urgent measures announced by the government on Sunday 22 March 2020.

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Leasing rights and obligations

On 1 May 2020 the Victorian Government passed regulations for the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Commercial Leases and Licences) Regulations 2020 giving substance to the National Cabinet Mandatory Code of Conduct.

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Rigby Cooke has received several enquiries from landlords and tenants alike regarding their rights and obligations under their lease. Here we provide guidance about a tenants obligation to pay rent and rights to terminate a lease agreement.

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Protecting personal information

  • Organisations should remember their privacy obligations when managing the spread of COVID-19 and maintaining business operations during this pandemic.
  • Personal information that relates to infection and exposure with COVID-19 is sensitive information and is afforded higher protection under law.
  • Extra security measures may be required to ensure security of organisations’ information and data as remote work arrangements become the norm.

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Business mergers and acquisitions

We provide recommendations for a few common M&A practices and provisions that buyers and sellers should consider in addressing and allocating legal risks.

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From 29 March 2020, the monetary thresholds for substantial interests attracting the obligation to obtain Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval have been reduced to $0. Changes to FIRB screening mean lower value transactions will now require applications for approval.

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Construction contracts

The impacts of COVID-19 mean that key aspects of a construction project may need to be reconsidered. The correct approach will depend on a range of factors, including the stage at which your project is impacted.

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Wills and Powers of Attorney in self-isolation

Recently we discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of having a Will and Powers of Attorney in place. It has also highlighted the challenges of arranging and executing these documents whilst in lockdown.

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On the 12 May 2020 the Victorian Attorney-General passed Regulations in the form of the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Electronic Signing and Witnessing) Regulations 2020. We welcome these changes which modify the application of various Acts to provide for among other things, electronic signatures and the witnessing of the signing of documents by audio visual link.

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The COVID-19 medical emergency highlights the importance of having a Will and Powers of Attorney in place. Now is the time to ensure you – and your loved ones – are protected by guaranteeing you have valid and effective medical and financial documents prepared.

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International trade

One of the major tasks for government’s around the world are to adopt measures which may assist business to recover and thrive as they plan to move out of COVID– 9 restrictions.

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In light of the ongoing and increasing impact of COVID-19, here we summarise a few relevant issues in the international supply chain, including at our national border.

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One of the major tasks for government’s around the world are to adopt measures which may assist business to recover and thrive as they plan to move out of COVID– 9 restrictions.

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During the current pandemic, the focus of many has been on the manufacture of the medical equipment required for the treatment of COVID -19 and their urgent movement through the international supply chain.

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The Australian Government has now moved to impose export controls on COVID-19 goods – which applies to personal protective equipment, alcohol wipes and hand sanitiser – during the present ‘human biosecurity period’.

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Transport & Logistics sector

There have been a number of developments in recent weeks that all transport and logistics operators with employees need to be aware of.

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With State and Federal Governments announcing changes to their response policies daily, there has been understandable concern about the continued operation of the supply chain domestically and internationally.

With the implementation of these restrictions, the central question for freight and logistics providers is, is freight an “essential service”?

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Hospitality sector

The Victorian Commission for Liquor Licencing and Gambling Regulation has announced a special temporary limited licence free of charge available to current liquor licensees that may be granted within 72 hours from application lodgement.

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COVID-19 flexibility schedule added to Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 by the Fair Work Commission.

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