Australia’s unemployment rate is tipped to reach 3.92 million workers forced out of work as a result of SARS-CoV-2. According to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), the figure is estimated to be 10% for the June 2020 quarter (up 5%). If true, these figures depict a daunting image for Australia’s economy and for potential unemployed workers in months to come. Considering these figures, one should be armed with a basic understanding on employees’ and employers’ duties in these unprecedented times.
There’s no doubt that employees are facing uncertainty in their employment, after all, these are uncertain times. Employees and employers should be aware that the general provisions of the National Employment Standards remain in effect. This means that such standards cannot be contracted out of and serves to establish the minimum employment standards.
Your employment status (i.e. full-time, part-time, casual or probation) will ultimately identify whether you are entitled to certain protections. It will also identify relevant provisions applicable to you as set out in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
One such provision an employer may invoke, subject to relevant provision is the stand down provision.
Stand Down vs Termination
What is Stand Down and is it different to termination?
Yes. Stand down and termination operate to achieve different goals. Stand down is a term used under the FWA to effectively place an employee on hold until the business’ dealings and undertakings improve. That is, effectively initiating an option to reinitiate an employee for duties and employment at a future date, as opposed to terminating employment.
When Stand Down Can Occur?
Stand down may occur under the guise of the FWA. The FWA establishes the circumstances in which an employer may enact stand down provisions. Section 524(c) FWA identifies that an employee may be stood down in circumstances where an employee cannot be usefully employed due to a ‘stoppage of work for any cause which the employer cannot reasonably ben held responsible. Employers and employees should consider contacting Midwinters Lawyers for information and advice on stand down provisions.
Alternatively, if you would like discuss other employment law issues and find out more information about your rights, obligations and duties under employment law, please contact our office.
Section 524(c) of the Fair Work Act allows an employee to stand down employees “during a period in which the employee cannot be usefully employed” because of “a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible”.
2 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-13/coronavirus-unemployment-covid-19-treasury-figures-jobless-rate/121455423 https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/national-employment-standards