COVID-19, Work & You

Across Australia the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 (or coronavirus) is impacting everyone in our community.

The SDA understands this is a distressing time, especially for retail staff in supermarkets. Supermarket workers are frontline workers ensuring Australians have food on the table and essential items. The SDA is here to support you.

The situation is ongoing and changes rapidly and the SDA is doing its best to ensure that your health and safety at work is the number one priority.


  • Your health must not be put at risk during this time
  • Your safety must be a priority and your employer should have increased measures in place that keep you safe
  • You must have financial and job security during an increasingly uncertain time

Health & Safety

Your employer must be doing everything they can to provide you with a safe workplace and there should be new policies that protect you during this time.

Ten Point Plan for Health and Safety Measures:

The SDA is engaging daily with major companies on arrangements being put in place to keep workers safe during the pandemic.

On top of measures already introduced the SDA is calling for retailers to:

  • Go ‘cash free’ and accept card payments only.
  • Install plexiglass screens at cash registers to protect workers who cannot keep at least 1.5 metres from customers.
  • Display signage and floor marking to ensure social distancing.
  • Ensure sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content is readily available to all staff.
  • Provide workers with gloves and personal face shields.
  • Provide bags free of charge for each purchase to avoid handling of customer bags. No use of customers’ used bags unless the customer bags it themselves.
  • Continue to increase security to assist in enforcing purchase limits and in dealing with unreasonable customers. Police resources may also need to be deployed to protect workers.
  • Ensure regular cleaning and sanitization of workstations and personal protective equipment.
  • Take a zero tolerance approach to customer violence and abuse.
  • Publicly promote the SDA’s No One Deserve A Serve campaign to improve customer behaviour.

Essential service payment for frontline workers

The SDA has called for a $5 per hour increase for workers as an essential service payment during any lockdown.

If only essential services are allowed to operate then frontline workers including those at supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations and convenience stores should receive higher wages.

If you are working now during shutdowns, you are considered essential, whether you’re a retail, pharmacy, fast food or warehouse worker.

Many workers are already working around the clock under extremely difficult circumstances, it’s only fair for their wages to reflect their efforts to keep Australia running during this time.

Sign our petition calling for an essential service payment here.

Paid leave

The SDA is calling for special paid leave for all workers if they have to self isolate – whether you’re a full-time, part-time, casual or contract worker. Show your support for this by signing our petition below.

We’re calling on employers and the Morrison Government to provide this.

Casual workers are at risk of having to go without pay if they are required to self-isolate leaving them vulnerable to having to choose between going to work sick or paying the bills. That’s why the SDA is also pushing for paid leave for casuals as permanent staff will continue to be paid and have access to personal leave.

Retail industry rescue package

The retail industry urgently needs a retail industry rescue package from the Federal Government to help workers and businesses. Click here to read more. Key measures include:

  • Wage subsidy for all retail workers to protect their income and their jobs
  • A means tested underwriting of a line of credit for retailers, to ensure they can continue to trade without being insolvent; and
  • A government guarantee of rental payments to landlords or the Federal Government facilitating with landlords to reduce the rent with all savings by employers to pay employee wages

Read more about the JobKeeper wage subsidy here

No abuse or violence from customers

We continue to call on the community to show all retail workers the respect they deserve during this time, there is no excuse for abuse and violence. If you experience an abuse or violence from a customer, report it. Share our message to shoppers to respect retail workers here.

Paid leave

The SDA is calling for two weeks special paid leave for ALL workers who are required to self isolate because of COVID-19 regardless of whether they are permanent, part-time, casual or a contract worker.

We have secured paid leave for casual staff at:

  • Woolworths (including Supermarkets, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Big W)
  • EG Group (formerly Woolworths Petrol)
  • Officeworks
  • Target
  • Kmart
  • IKEA

We have secured: additional paid leave for part-time and full-time staff if they do not have personal leave available at:

  • Woolworths (including Supermarkets, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Big W)
  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Myer
  • EG Group (formerly Woolworths Petrol)
  • IKEA
  • KFC

Retail Rescue Package – Wage Subsidies

In great news for workers, the Federal Government has listened to our calls and announced a wage subsidy scheme for businesses and workers affected by COVID-19.

This means all full-time, part-time and casual workers (casuals need to have been employed by more than 12 months) of eligible employers will receive this JobKeeper payment of $1500 a fortnight backdated to March 30.

This amount will be paid directly to employers, who will then have an obligation to pass this full payment onto workers.

For an employer to be eligible they must have seen a reduction in turnover of 30% due to the COVID-19 crisis (50% for employers who have $1 billion turnover or more). Not all employers will be eligible.

The SDA will be engaging with the Government on the details of this package to ensure fair access this payment.

We are also working with employers on if they are eligible and how this will be implemented, and we will update members once we have more information. If you have recently been stood down, you don’t need to do anything at this stage.

You can’t receive both the JobSeeker payment, through Centrelink, and the JobKeeper payment from your employer. If you are in receipt of the JobSeeker payment, you’ll need to work this through with Centrelink if your employer agrees they will pay you the JobKeeper payment.

Read more here:


Latest Health Advice

Please keep up to date with latest health advice from the Federal Government here. Your state or territory government has additional advice. It is crucial that you look after your physical and mental health during this time and follow important advice to protect yourself and others.

Business Closures

The Prime Minister and National Cabinet have implemented social distancing rules and required the closure of many businesses including beauty salons, non-food markets, as well as pubs, clubs and licensed venues. Restaurants, cafes and food courts are to offer takeaway only.  Read more here.

Government Payments

The Australian Government announced social security payments for both new and existing clients of Centrelink whose hours have reduced or are unemployed. Read more here. Following calls from the SDA, unions and businesses, the Australian Government has also announced ‘JobKeeper’ payments for businesses to pay for wages. For support for business read more here.

The entire retail industry continues to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and this includes stores and companies shutting down.

We understand this is an incredibly difficult time for you and the SDA is here to support you if this happens.

Check with your employer or the SDA if you are stood down about when it is taking effect, what you are entitled to and what your rights are.

It is essential for you to access important Government Assistance during this difficult period.

Please note the SDA and the retail industry continue to call for direct wage subsidies in this current crisis but advise you to access the Government Assistance currently in place.

Below is useful information about the next steps to take to access help.


The Australian Government has announced payments and streamlined claims for people affected by coronavirus.

You can apply for Centrelink payments at Services Australia Online.

You do not need to attend in person.

  • If you don’t have a Centrelink number, you can complete an ‘intent to claim’ online or call them on 132 850.
  • If you have a Centrelink number, you can lodge a claim online here.

In addition to payments that are usually available, the government is providing:

  • a temporary fortnightly $550 Coronavirus Supplement if you are receiving an eligible payment.
  • a $750 Economic Support Payments to those getting an eligible payment.
  • a second $750 Economic Support Payment is for those who are not getting the Coronavirus Supplement.
  • a one-off Crisis Payment of one week of your base income if you’re in severe financial hardship and either:
    • need to self-isolate
    • are caring for someone self-isolating.

The government has also waived documentation requirements, waiting periods, asset tests and mutual obligations for some payments.

Your stand down notice is the key piece of information for Centrelink.

You may be considering accessing your superannuation or early retirement. To discuss this, contact your super fund or the Australian Taxation Office. The fund for retail and fast food workers is Rest.


Repayment relief for home loans is available from all the major banks if you have either suffered a job loss, or a reduction of income due to the Coronavirus impact.  Banks are offering up to 6 months mortgage payment deferral upon application. This essentially freezes your repayments for the period to allow relief of outgoings.

Please contact your personal bank for further information.


For renters, the Government has announced a moratorium on evictions that are due to Covid-19 (the coronavirus). Contact your state-based fair trading / consumer affairs / residential tenancy authority.

For those with a mortgage, major banks have announced the option for deferral of repayments for 6 months. Contact your personal bank for further information.


If you require professional assistance for your health, we have a list of useful resources further down this page.

What happens to your SDA membership if you are stood down?

We will suspend your fees from the time when your employer stops paying you.

Your union membership will continue and you will not have to pay any fees until you return to work. You can still call us, message us, and access all of our SDA services.

This is the time when you need your union the most, and we are here to support you.

  • Woolworths
  • Dan Murphy’s
  • BWS
  • Big W
  • Officeworks
  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Ikea
  • EG Fuels

Regardless of low stock levels, changes to trading hours or long customer waiting times, there is no excuse for abuse and violence from customers.

Your employer must have a process in place so all employees know what to do when incidents occur.

Please continue to report all incidents at your workplace so there is an official record of the abuse or violence.

If you experience abuse or violence from a customer and are unsure what to do, ask your manager or supervisor for help dealing with the situation.

SDA members have for several years been campaigning to eliminate abuse and violence through our No One Deserves A Serve.

Please share our video message – There’s No Excuse For Abuse – with your family and friends.

Your employer should have new policies and procedures in place for the health and safety of employees during this period.

You should also keep updated with advice from the Federal Government Department of Health here.

There are some important things you can do:

  1. Wash your hands regularly
  2. Use hand sanitiser between customers (this should be provided by your employer)
  3. Clean or wipe down your work station / check out regularly
  4. Keep a safe distance from customers where possible
  5. If you feel unsafe or have concerns, discuss these with your manager

Be proactive about looking after your health. If you are sick, do not attend work.

If you believe you may have contracted coronavirus, seek professional medical advice (initially by telephone) and inform management.

The National Coronavirus Hotline is 1800 020 080.

The Australian Government has issued a 14-day self isolation period for anyone entering Australia starting Sunday 15 March 2020.

If you are currently overseas, you will need to do this. Seek advice via the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080. You should inform your employer as soon as possible and confirm the process in place at your store.

The SDA is calling for special paid leave for all workers if they have to self isolate – whether you’re a full-time, part-time, casual or contract worker. Show your support for this by signing our petition below.

We’re calling on employers and the Morrison Government to provide this.

Casual workers are at risk of having to go without pay if they are required to self-isolate leaving them vulnerable to having to choose between going to work sick or paying the bills. That’s why the SDA is also pushing for paid leave for casuals as permanent staff will continue to be paid and have access to personal leave.

The SDA welcomes recent announcements that Woolworths including Dan Murphy’s and BWS, Kmart, Target and Officeworks will pay casual staff for the hours they would have worked if they have to self isolate for 2 weeks.

{Woolworths, Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Kmart & Target only} Additional leave is also applicable to permanent part-time and full-time workers. Permanent workers will receive up to an extra 2 weeks of paid additional leave on top of their current personal leave entitlements should they be required for isolation or an extended period of sickness.

This means permanent workers will need to use their current personal leave entitlements before using the additional leave but have access to the safety net of a further two weeks should they require it.

Check with the SDA to see what applies to you.

The additional leave will also be accessible should you be required to look after an immediate family member or a member of your household who has been directed by a medical professional or a relevant government health authority to self-isolate, be quarantined due to COVID-19 or meets the criteria to self isolate.

This would include having to look after your children should schools and or day care centres be closed due to measures taken the government to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Major supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths have announced changes to trading hours including closing stores at 8pm to ensure stores are able to restock.

This may impact your store. However, your roster and pay should not change as a result of these changes as employees will be expected to work when shops are closed.

You should work your shifts and be paid as normal. However, you may be asked to complete different tasks or there may be changes to your job role.

Remember, if you are permanent your roster cannot be changed without consultation first, if you do not agree to a roster change do not sign anything and contact the SDA for advice.

If you experience abuse from customers as a result of these trading hour changes, please report it.

If you have any questions or need support, please contact the SDA.

We know you are working hard and thank you for continuing to provide an important service to the community during this difficult period.

If you are struggling with your mental health or need professional support at this time, we have a list of useful resources.

Ph: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue
Ph: 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline
Ph: 1800 55 1800

The National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service
Ph: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)