Stand-downs during COVIOD-19


What you need to know - Stand Down

 

What is ‘stand-down’?

Under the Federal Government’s (very unfair) Fair Work Act, employers have a legal right to ‘stand down’ workers without pay in circumstances beyond their control.  It was meant for short periods (like industrial disputes and machinery breakdowns).  No-one foresaw that it would be used to cut off employees’ wages for months at a time. 

 

Can the Employer stand me down?

Yes. 

 

Should Employers stand employees down?

Even the Federal Government has urged employers to avoid doing this. Schools and colleges, which get a substantial part of their income from the state and federal governments, have no excuse for doing this to employees. Unfortunately, some Outdoor Education providers and private colleges whose enrolments have totally dried up may need to take this step, but schools have secure income taken directly from the taxpayers’ pockets.  In this time of crisis, they are among the very few organisations in a position to show some compassion. 

 

Is there a process?

Arguable but, in any case, the Employer must exhaust all possibilities for redeploying you into other roles.  If you have any suggestions for other work they could give you, raise this in writing and, if you are prepared to be a bit flexible about the sort of work you might be prepared to do, stress this.

 

Can I take leave instead?

Any half-reasonable employer will at least discuss with you whether you would prefer to use up any annual or long-service leave entitlements you might have before they cut your income off entirely.  Given that the changes to Jobseeker (previously Newstart) payments, including the increased payment rates and waiving of waiting periods, you might be better to keep your leave entitlements in the bank and claim benefits.  Your employer should give you a chance to seek advice and work this out first.

 

Should they be making me redundant instead?

Probably not.  It’s a hard one, and that’s why the employer should give you time to seek advice and work it out.  If you get made redundant:

  • You will be eligible for some severance pay, depending on how long you have been employed
  • You will get paid out any accrued annual leave and long-service leave.

Keep in mind though:

  • You won’t have a job to go back to
  • Your government Jobseeker allowance might be delayed
  • You lose your accumulated personal (sick / carer’s) leave
  • Once you are made redundant, you stop accumulating personal (sick / carer’s) leave, long-service leave and annual leave.

 

Can the employer pay out my leave entitlements when I am stood down?

No.  There are some limited options for paying out annual leave, but they mostly require your agreement.

 

Can the Employer make me use my annual leave?

Basically, no.  This can only happen if the Award or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement that covers you permits it.  None of our Agreements permit this.  If your employment is not covered by an Agreement, you are covered by one of the Awards:

  • The Awards covering general school staff and tutors/teachers in post-secondary colleges only allow the employer to make you take annual leave where you have “excessive accrued leave” - and they must go through a process to try to reach agreement with you.
  • Teachers in schools don’t have accumulated annual leave because it’s absorbed into school holidays.

You can always agree to go on leave, but the employer cannot just make you do it.

 

Can the Employer make me use my long-service leave?

No

 

Do I accumulate entitlements while stood down?

Yes.  Stand-down counts as service, so you continue to accrue leave entitlements (other than long service leave).