In light of the current global COVID-19 pandemic, and with no foreseeable end in sight, you may soon be facing the bleak reality of having to shut down your workplace (or part of your workplace) for a period of time.

During the period of the forced shutdown, your obligations as an employer to your employees continues. However, there is some relief in these circumstances.

Section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides circumstances in which an employer can stand down their employees. The effect of an employer standing down an employee is that the employer is not required to pay ordinary hours of work to the employee for the stand-down period.

During this period of forced closure when the employee is not able to perform their work, you can rely on section 524 to stand down your employees, with or without pay. In these circumstances, it is your choice whether you pay some or all of the employee’s pay.

As the employer, you can also request, if you wish, for the employee to take their accrued annual leave or long service leave. But if you agree to this, then you need to pay the employee during this leave period.

Please note that NSW has passed legislation to give workers earlier and more flexible access to their long service leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees can now take their long service leave with less than the current one month’s notice, and in blocks of less than a month, where there is an agreement between the employer and employee. Because your agreement is required, if you as the employer need the services of the employee during this time, then you can refuse the early leave.

If you are intending to stand down your employees during this pandemic, you must notify the affected employees in writing of any stand-down period and the arrangements that will apply during that period, e.g. pay, party pay, leave, etc. Please contact us for appropriate documentation to put this in place. Our documentation gives you two alternatives:

  • To stand down without pay and no right to take annual leave or long service leave; or
  • To stand down with pay and the option to take annual leave or long service leave.

If you need any help implementing an effective stand down, or to get assurance that section 524 applies to give you the right to stand down employees, then call us on 02 9331 0266.