Coronavirus: Win for bosses wanting workers to take leave

Major employers seeking to make workers use up annual leave while receiving the JobKeeper payment have had a legal win after the Fair Work Commission ruled against a worker who opposed Village Roadshow Theme Parks forcing her to take leave.

In one of the first JobKeeper disputes ruled on by the commission, the tribunal heard VRTP was subject to “stinging criticism” by workers after directing them to use up annual leave while they were off work and receiving the $1500 a fortnight JobKeeper payment.

The low-paid female employee, who has worked for the company for 22 years and currently works two days a week, is among a large number of theme park staff stood down since March.

She opposed VRTP’s request to reduce her annual leave balance down to two weeks, that being four days. She had five holidays planned over 2020 and 2021 and objected to the company drawing down on her accrued leave.

She told the commission she considered the JobKeeper legislation was not intended to assist large employers such as VRTP use its employees’ annual leave accruals to set off against the JobKeeper payment made by government.

She said small employers might need to take such action to avoid financial collapse but long-serving employees working for large corporations should not have their annual leave adversely affected.

READ MORE:Shorten washes hands of isolation|Beijing crackdown on lab security|Housing market: What’s the worst that could happen?|Our loony protesters are among the looniest

“If my employer was a small business that was at risk of bankruptcy due to COVID-19, I would do whatever it took to help them stay afloat,” she said. “Trust me, I would work for nothing. But the fact remains that VRTP is merely lining their own pockets, and paying their shareholders a dividend is of more importance than the outrage of their employees.”

The employee, who receives $375 for 15 hours a week, would get $750 a week while on JobKeeper.

The commission heard the majority of employees on a closed Facebook group expressed “concern, angst and disgust” at VRTP for directing workers to use up their leave while it accessed the JobKeeper scheme.

In her decision, Commissioner Jennifer Hunt said the legislation required the worker to consider the request and not unreasonably refuse it. She said the request was not unreasonable. “In all the circumstances, and noting (the worker) anticipates requiring four days’ annual leave for her proposed holidays … I consider her refusal of VRTP’s request is unreasonable.”