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COVID-19: One-off crisis or long-term problem?

On 11 March 2020, the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID‑19) was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Governments around the world have introduced severe measures to curb the spread of COVID‑19 and its impacts.

From early March 2020, Australian federal and state governments began introducing social distancing and self‑isolation measures with significant impacts on businesses, particularly in the retail, hospitality and entertainment sectors.

Australian businesses have also taken significant measures to address the risks that the economic and social impacts of COVID‑19 pose to them, including in substantial reductions in their workforce and working from home arrangements.

COVID‑19 is for the government, public health and safety, and for many businesses, a true crisis.

But is it wise for all businesses to make commercial and legal decisions based on the assumption that COVID‑19 is a one-off, short-term crisis that will pass, can be contained by drastic actions now, and that things will return to normal in a relatively short period?

On 30 March 2020, the federal government announced additional financial measures, including a $130 billion JobKeeper Payment package to help subsidise employee wages and incentivise retention of jobs (see here).

With new measures and restrictions being introduced on a daily basis, it is tempting to do nothing or go into economic “hibernation”.  But what if things do not return to normal? What if restrictions on public gatherings remain in force for longer than expected or supply chain effects stretch on for months or years?

During this time legal rights and obligations continue to accrue, and commercial decisions made now can have significant consequences for businesses and companies in a range of areas including, employment law, WH&S, privacy law, corporate governance, dispute resolution, insurance and corporate solvency.

Businesses should give careful consideration to the legal consequences of their current decisions, and the legal risks posed not only in the current crisis environment, but also long term.

Further information about some of the key government restrictions and other measures in place, and key legal implications arising out of COVID‑19 can be found here.

Automic Legal has a team of lawyers who are across the latest COVID‑19 developments and can provide up to date advice targeted to specific implications.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Jonathan Stephens on 0419 260 679 or Jonathan.Stephens@automicgroup.com.au

Disclaimer: This article is for information and reference purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice.