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Supporting staff

With employees one of the most important assets in running a successful business, it’s important to retain and support them in the wake of COVID-19.

Business owners should act now to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in their workplace, and ensure a safe working environment in line with current health advice and business restrictions.

Preventative actions include:
  • Consider whether large gatherings, such as ceremonies, assemblies or celebrations can be postponed, reduced in size/frequency or cancelled.
  • Cancel non-essential activities such as business travel, study visits, extra-curricular activities and sporting events.
  • Encourage flexible working arrangements including working from home and off-peak travel.
  • Purchase COVID-19 prevention supplies, for example alcohol sanitisers or soap.
  • Provide and promote sanitisers for use on entering buildings.
  • Ensure high standards of routine environmental cleaning.
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly, including desks and keyboards.
  • Open windows, enhance airflow and adjust air conditioning.
  • Promote preventive actions amongst your staff - lead by example.
  • Avoid large indoor meetings and lunchrooms and use outdoor venues if possible.
  • Plan for increased levels of staff absences.
  • Plan for what to do if staff arrive sick to work.
For more information about keeping employees and customers safe during COVID-19, visit Safework Australia.


What do I do if a staff member or customer exhibits signs of COVID-19?

  • Be prepared for staff calling in sick – estimates are that up to 40% of the population might call in sick at some stage over the coming months.
  • If a staff member becomes sick, have a plan in place for where you can take them until they can be medically examined.
  • If you are concerned that one of your patrons has contracted COVID-19, be courteous and please advise them of your concern.
  • Encourage them to self-isolate, stay at home (self-quarantine) and contact the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080.
Organisations and employers who are responsible for a workplace or venue should start to take actions now to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. This includes any venue, such as a school, university, office building or any workplace.


Support to continue employing your apprentices and trainees

There is support available for businesses to retain their apprentices and trainees.

Commonwealth Assistance

Eligible employers, including Group Training Organisations, can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.  Registration opens from early April. For more information, visit Supporting apprentices and trainees.

Additional information and assistance can also be found through the Commonwealth Government's Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.

State Government assistance

Businesses that employ new apprentices or trainees between now and 30 June 2021 will receive payroll tax exemption. This means that wages paid to apprentices and trainees who commence a relevant contract or undertake training with an eligible employer will have taxes on that position waived for the first 12 months.

For further information, please visit Revenue SA.


Flexibility and local support

If you are winding down your business or considering temporarily closing, there are ways to keep your apprentice or trainee engaged with their learning. In some circumstances, this will mean you can access these valuable skills when the time is right or help support an apprentice to continue their career.  


Options to consider:
  • Off-job training: This could mean online training and your apprentice should speak to their training provider. As an employer, you will need to continue to pay wages for the time your apprentice spends in attendance at training.
  • Flexible rostering: So that the contracted hours can continue to be met, subject to award conditions.
  • Suspend the training contract: You can now put on hold the training contract for an apprentice or trainee with suspensions up to and including Friday 1 January 2021, providing time for your business to be ready again to resume.
  • Discuss with your apprentice possible leave arrangements.
  • Support industry transition: Your apprentice or trainee may benefit from experience within another business that is in a position to offer them on-the-job experience, until you are able to provide this again. In this case, you would continue to pay wages and entitlements.
If you have any questions regarding your apprentices or trainees, contact us.

Termination and disputes

For information about your responsibilities and obligations, visit Managing an apprentice.

The Office of the Training Advocate provides independent and confidential support, including mediation if required. For more information, visit Office of the Training Advocate.


Employee entitlements

The Fair Work Act does not have specific rules where employees are delayed overseas or in quarantine, so employees and employers need to come to their own arrangement. This may include:
  • 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 contract of employment)
  • arranging any other paid or unpaid leave by agreement between the employee and the employer.

For further information, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 or visit Fair Work Ombudsman.

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