The Fair Work Act allows an employer to stand its employees down when:

  • there is a stoppage of work;
  • the employer cannot reasonable be held to be accountable for the stoppage;
  • the employee(s) cannot be usefully employed by the employer; and 
  • the reason the employee(s) cannot be usefully employed is because of the stoppage.   

The effect of standing down an employee is that:

  • the employer is not required to pay the employee;
  • the employee remains employed for the period of the stand down and will continue to accrue entitlements during this period (like annual leave); and
  • the employee may have additional entitlements during the stand down period under their relevant enterprise agreement, modern award or contract of employment.

The employer must check that any enterprise agreement or contract of employment that apply to the employee do not impose additional requirements that need to be met before a stand down can occur.

Employers should exercise the option to stand down cautiously, because if they stand down their employees unlawfully, their employees may be able to recover unpaid wages.

An employer cannot stand down an employee because the employee is quarantined/self-isolated or has tested positive to COVID-19.

What are employee’s rights if they are stood down? 

The effect of standing down an employee is that:

  • the employer is not required to pay the employee
  • the employee remains employed for the period of the stand down and will continue to accrue entitlements during this period (like annual leave); and
  • the employee may have additional entitlements during the stand down period under their relevant enterprise agreement, modern award or contract of employment.

The employer must check that any enterprise agreement or contract of employment that apply to the employee do not impose additional requirements that need to be met before a stand down can occur.

Is there an alternative to standing staff down?

An alternative to a stand down may be for an employer to agree to its employees taking any annual leave or long service leave they are owed.

Can employees be stood down if they are in quarantine or self-isolated?

An employer cannot stand down an employee because the employee is quarantined/self-isolated or has tested positive to COVID-19.