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Coronavirus – Employees stood down may be able to recover unpaid wages

Many employers are standing down employees amid the coronavirus pandemic.  However, the Fairwork Ombudsman states that 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.

This is due to the fact that certain enterprise agreements and employment contracts can have different or extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay, for example, a requirement to notify or consult. Therefore it is necessary that employers follow the necessary requirements of applicable enterprise agreements and individual employment contracts when considering standing down employees.

Employees can be stood down without pay under the Fair Work Act if they can’t be usefully employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer can’t reasonably be held responsible.

Employees that are stood down remain employed during the period of the stand down.

Employers may be able to stand their employees down without pay during the coronavirus outbreak for the following reasons:

  • the business has closed because of an enforceable government direction relating to non-essential services (which means there is no work at all for employees to do even from another location)
  • a large proportion of the workforce is in self-quarantine meaning the remaining employees can’t be usefully employed
  • there’s a stoppage of work due to lack of supply for which the employer can’t be held responsible.

The Fairwork Ombudsman site – https://coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au – offers valuable information to Employers and Employees on their obligations and rights as well as the temporary changes to some 103 Awards during the corona virus pandemic.

If your organisation is in need of support in the application of these new laws, please contact us.

For more info contact us.