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How to Navigate Employees During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Employers, make sure you understand your legal obligations towards your employees as you deal with the business uncertainty brought about by Covid-19.

With increased government restrictions and the possibility of having to close your doors, employers need to know their rights in reducing staff hours or having to stand employees down temporarily without pay. The covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for many employers and it is important they seek tailored advice for their set of circumstances.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) has provisions to stand employees down without pay where they cannot be usefully empoyed in circumstances where there is a ‘stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible’. This means an employee can only be stood down if they cannot be usefully employed because of the stoppage. An employee should be given an opportunity to perform normal duties for which they are capable of performing (perhaps remotely where possible) and perform duties that may fall outside of their normal duties before a decision is made to stand them down. Generally speaking, a downturn in business or where it is uneconomical to continue to employ staff, may not be considered a stoppage of work for the purposes of the Act.

There are possible restrictions on the ability to stand employees down without pay, which could be included in relevant Awards, Enterprise Agreements and Employment Agreements. Further, there are some alternatives to standing employees down without pay, including: -

  1. Mutual agreement to reduce hours;
  2. Mutual agreement to leave arrangement with either normal or reduced pay;
  3. Redundancies; and/or
  4. Job keeper incentives implemented by the government.

It is important to speak to one of our Nambour solicitors to discuss your specific circumstances and understand your obligations before making any decisions to stand employees down.

Contact Butler McDermott law firm on the Sunshine Coast for legal advice concerning your obligations towards employees now.


This article is not intended to advise you in relation to your specific circumstances and should be used as a general guide only.

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