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Employment Law: 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 employment law 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 under Employment Law according to the Fair Work Act, 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 Fair Work 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 employment hours;
  2. Mutual agreement to leave arrangement with either normal or reduced pay;
  3. Redundancies; and/or
  4. Job keeper employment incentives implemented by the government.


It is important to speak to one of our Nambour employment lawyers in Sunshine Coast to discuss your specific job circumstances and understand your legal obligations before making any decisions to stand employees down.

Contact Butler McDermott law firm in Sunshine Coast for employment law advice concerning your obligations towards your employees now. Our Nambour employment lawyers are happy to have a confidential discussion with you to address any concerns you may have and clear up any confusion as to your legal responsibilities towards employees during these uncertain times.

This article from Butler McDermott law firm’s Sunshine Coast employment lawyers 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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Peter Boyce


Peter has been practising as a Nambour Solicitor since 1977 and joined Butler McDermott Lawyers the same year.

With over 40 years practicing as a Sunshine Coast lawyer, Peter has extensive knowledge of various facets of law.

He has practised in all areas of litigation and has special interests in:

  • Criminal law
  • Civil and Commercial litigation
  • Retirement Village matters
  • Sports law
  • Resumption of land and compensation claims


Peter has specialised knowledge of and experience with resumption matters as a result of the Traveston Dam project, road corridors, Main Roads and water pipeline. He is renowned for his professional approach and is an experienced and determined advocate.

Brent King


Brent works as a litigation lawyer, providing litigation legal advice in relation to both civil and criminal law matters, including:
  • Defamation Claims
  • Contract and Debt Disputes
  • Building and Construction Disputes
  • Planning Matters
  • Criminal Law and Traffic Legal Matters
Having grown up on the Sunshine Coast and joining Butler McDermott after the completion of his studies, Brent appreciates the needs of our clients, and brings a particularly commercial approach to litigation. Brent is a member of the Queensland Law Society and the Sunshine Coast Law Association, and has litigated a wide variety of matters in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts.

Al Upton


After arriving at Butler McDermott Lawyers in 2016, Al quickly progressed to running our Wills and Estates section and has successfully litigated disputes in the Supreme and District Courts of Queensland in the early stages of his career.

In the years that followed Al has now moved to assist our clients with commercial and property matters having achieved positive outcomes in that area as well as general litigation. Al’s experience has him uniquely placed to provide quality advice in the areas of property, commercial, wills and estates and general litigation.

Al is involved in giving back to the community, sitting on the board for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and Sundale Community Foundation. He otherwise became a director of Butler McDermott Lawyers in November 2021.