In the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic being declared, Helix Legal answered a number of questions for clients. Here is the top 8 FAQ’s. If you know anyone who could benefit from some credible information, please feel free to pass on this information and the link to the Helix COVID-19 Construction Hub. Helix Legal is made up of lawyers and industry professionals who have worked in the industry their entire careers, we want to do what we can to provide good information the industry can rely on.
Question 1: Will my project be shut down due to the ban on gatherings?
At this stage – No. The most recent advice from PM Scott Morrison is that construction sites are an essential service and will not be shut down at this time. BUT – follow the Helix Hub for further updates.
Question 2: Do my project teams need to implement the social distancing requirements?
Yes. There is no question that these measures should be observed as well as adopting hygiene practices on site. There are resources and tools if assistance which can be accessed using the Helix Hub.
Question 3: Are construction projects part of the closures announced by the Government on 18 March 2020?
No. Construction projects are not listed on the closures. Click here for more information.
Question 4: Has the construction industry been shut down anywhere overseas?
Yes. Take a look at the EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS section of the Helix Hub.
Question 5: Is it true that there will be a “holiday” from personal liability for insolvent trading and an increase in statutory demand threshold?
Yes. The Government will give temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent. Further, the Government is temporarily increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand from as low as $2,000 to $20,000, to last for six months. The time companies have to respond will also be increased from 21 days to six months. Read more at the Australian Financial Review and the Commonwealth Media Release.
Question 6: If I have a project at the Gold Coast but I live at Byron Bay what does this lock down in Queensland mean for me and my job?
As reported in many media outlets today (24 March 2020), Queensland’s border closed from midnight Wednesday 25 March 2020. However, if you work in the construction industry, live across the border in NSW and need to come to a site in Queensland then you will be exempt from the border closure. You should continue to monitor updates regarding these exemptions. State Disaster Coordinator Steve Gollschewski is quoted in the Courier Mail on 24 March 2020 confirming that a permit is being worked on:
“Trying to find something really simple to be able to identify those cars that can come through so that people can get through really quickly.”
“If you can imagine, if you’ve ever been through an RBT in Queensland, with police presence … it will be that kind of methodology.”
*UPDATE: You can now apply for a border pass through the Queensland Government website.
Measures took effect in Queensland from midnight 25 March and include:
- Border road closures and police checks on vehicles on major highways;
- Advice to aircraft passengers at departure points that travellers to Queensland will be required to self-isolate for 14 days;
- Travellers arriving at Queensland airports to be met by police and other officers; and
- Termination of rail services.
Question 7: Are days under BIFA still counting?
Yes. There are many deadlines in BIFA because being fast tracked is one of the most fundamental aspects of the legislation. There is no halt to your rights or obligations under BIFA at this time. Under BIFA a business day does not include—
“(a) a Saturday or Sunday; or
(b) a public holiday, special holiday or bank holiday in the place in which any relevant act is to be or may be done; or
(c) any day occurring within any of the following periods—
(i) 22 to 24 December;
(ii) 27 to 31 December;
(iii) 2 to 10 January.”
As the circumstances develop there may be some alteration but the situation currently is that all strict time frames must continue to be followed. Janelle Kerrisk of Helix Legal, discusses the importance of counting days under BIFA here.
Question 8: If I am a Queensland resident contractor and I have to cross the NSW border each day for work purposes, do I need a permit to return home?
No. Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski of the Gold Coast stated in a recent article that:
“If you’re a Queenslander coming back into Queensland, there’s not going to be any issues for you, you’ll be allowed to come back in, and obviously they may be driving a Queensland registered car with a Queensland address, that’s the sort of thing we’re talking about.”
Not intended as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.