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Majority of employees at contract managed aquatic and recreation centre across Sydney stood down without pay

Majority of employees at contract managed aquatic and recreation centre across Sydney stood down without pay
July 6, 2021

Further to news reports about staff and cast members at Sydney theatres and Belgravia Leisure facilities across Sydney being stood down with out pay during the Coronavirus lockdown, Australasian Leisure Management has been made aware that this is the case with most employees up to supervisor levels at the majority of contract managed aquatic and recreation centres the city.

This contrasts with council-managed facilities, which are continuing to pay staff, but with them either currently being redeployed or set to be redeployed to other areas if the lockdown is extended.

Deprived of operating income the contract managed sites have been compelled to stand down without pay or encourage them to use up annual leave during the lockdown.

Explaining the predicament facing the business, Belgravia Leisure Chief Executive, Nick Cox stated “we have done exactly the same as every other management company, including most Council operated venues (adopting) exactly the same arrangements that have been in place every other time the industry has been forced to close venues due to COVID.

“Victoria has been through four lockdowns and the latest lockdowns in NSW has forced us to apply the same arrangements for our affected employees, which of course is exacerbated without JobKeeper, which concluded on 29th March.”

Advising that the closure of Belgravia Leisure workplaces is in accordance with NSW Government directives designed to stop the spread of COVID-19, Cox pointed out “Belgravia has no choice or say in this decision, but we know that the closure is to the benefit of keeping our communities safe.

“Belgravia is not unique in standing down its employees as a result of the lockdown in Sydney. Every other operator in the industry has done the same thing.

“Closure of our facility means that we have no business and no cash flow (and) cash flow is what allows us to pay staff.”

Cox added that “the stand down of employees without pay is lawful and common in these situations” and that “stood down staff remain Belgravia employees (with) part and full-time employees continuing to accrue leave entitlements - including LSL - while they are on stand down.

“All employees accrue employment service time - which is important in the event that a position is made redundant, as an example). All employees on stand down - including casual employees - are guaranteed a return to their jobs prior to the lockdown.”

Cox also emphasised that “Belgravia offers its staff greater employment security than other employers in our industry (and) has, for the past two years moved from employing casual employees - which historically has been the most common mode of employment - to employing part-time employees and has given staff the opportunity to move from casual to part-time in order to provide staff with greater job security and added leave benefits.

“Under recent changes to the Fair Work Act, all casual employees will be offered the opportunity to become part-time employees.”

With limited Federal and state government support for businesses impacted by the ongoing lockdowns, Cox noted “it is for governments to step in and support affected businesses and their employees.

“We support governments providing assistance to businesses and its workers hurt by these forced closures (and) to the extent that we can, we are committed to supporting all of our staff during this difficult period.

Belgravia’s comprehensive Employee Assistance Programme is available to all Belgravia staff (and their immediate families) on a confidential and no cost basis. We have also provided free access to Home Fitness Network and MHeLP - an online training and support program in mental health, for all of our staff.

“We will open our business and staff will return to their pre-lockdown jobs as soon as we are allowed to do this.”

Commenting on the wider implications of the closures, and contrasting the aquatic and recreation industry with the live performance sector where Live Performance Australia has developed a plan for a Business Interruption Fund to provide greater assurance against the risk of disruption to operations due to the reimposition of public health restrictions to manage COVID-19 outbreaks or clusters, Cox concluded “perhaps this could have been an opportunity for the leisure industry to unite and advocate to Government about the important role that we play in strengthening the physical and mental health and wellbeing of so many people across Australia and New Zealand.”

Images: The Belgravia Leisure-managed Andrew Boy Charlton Pool at Woolloomooloo, NSW - which it operates on behalf of the City of Sydney (top) and Belgravia Leisure Chief Executive Nick Cox (below).

Article amended 7th July 2021.

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