Stand downs

Employers may be able to stand employees down from work due to circumstances that are outside the employer’s control.

Reasons can include:

  • equipment breakdown
  • industrial action
  • when the business has closed because of an enforceable government direction.

This page has information about when an employer can stand an employee down and whether they need to be paid. You’ll also find information about the difference between a stand down and a shut down.

For information on pay during severe weather or natural disasters, visit Pay during inclement or severe weather and natural disasters.

Stand downs

Employers may be able to stand down employees:

  • under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract, or
  • under the general Fair Work Act provisions.

Stand downs under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract

Employers should check any applicable award, enterprise agreement or employment contract to see if any stand down provisions apply. An award or agreement might also include consultation obligations or industry-specific rules for a stand down.

Check our List of awards to find your award. You can also use our Find my award tool to help work out what award you’re covered by.

Covered by an agreement? Go to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) – Find an agreement database external-icon.png to access it.

Stand downs under the Fair Work Act

If there are no relevant rules in an award, agreement or employment contract on stand downs, then the Fair Work Act provisions usually apply.

A stand down under the Fair Work Act is when an employee can't do useful work because:

  • equipment breaks down, if the employer isn't responsible for it
  • industrial action, when it's not organised by the employer
  • work stops for a reason that the employer can't be held responsible for, such as:
    • due to lack of supply
    • a natural disaster, or
    • the business has closed because of an enforceable government direction.

Employers can't stand an employee down just because the business is quiet or there isn't enough work.

An employer can stand an employee down without pay during the employee’s leave period.

The Fair Work Act stand down provisions only apply when an employee’s enterprise agreement or employment contract doesn’t have stand down provisions. Employers should check the relevant enterprise agreement or employment contract to see if it has any stand down provisions that apply.

Best practice tip

If an employer does stand down employees under the Fair Work Act, it’s best practice to tell those employees in writing (where possible), including:

  • the start date of the stand down
  • whether the employees will or will not be paid
  • the effect on other employment entitlements.

Employers should also try to update employees about when they think the stand down will end.

Before standing down employees: employer checklist

Employers should consider all available options before making the decision to stand down their employees.

Working from home arrangements

Alternative working arrangements such as working from home might be suitable depending on the business and the employee's work.

Find out how to introduce and manage working from home arrangements at Flexibility in the workplace.

Changes to duties, hours of work or rosters

Employers can talk to their employees about temporarily agreeing to change their duties, rosters or hours if this means an employee can keep working. There are different ways that employers and employees may be able to make these kinds of changes.

Employers need to check the rules under the applicable award or agreement, as well as the employee's employment contract and any workplace policies. Employers will usually need to consult with their employees about these types of changes.

Understand how to change workplace duties or hours of work at Flexibility in the workplace.

Accessing paid or unpaid leave

Employers and employees can also arrange for the employee to take leave. Options include:

  • taking accrued annual leave
  • taking any other paid leave (such as long service leave or paid leave available under an award, enterprise agreement or employment contract)
  • taking any other paid leave by agreement between the employee and the employer.

In some circumstances, employees won't have access to paid leave. For example, if they’ve used all their accrued leave entitlements. In these situations, employers and employees can agree for an employee to take unpaid leave.

Employees may also be able to direct an employee to take accrued annual leave in certain circumstances. Learn more at Directing an employee to take annual leave.

Pay, leave and casuals

Pay

During a stand down, an employee:

  • doesn't need to be paid
  • accrues leave in the usual way (such as annual leave and sick and carer’s leave).

Leave

Employees can agree with their employer to use certain types of paid leave during a stand down. Examples include:

Employees who are stood down without pay under the Fair Work Act can't use paid sick and carer's leave or compassionate leave during the stand down.

Employees who are stood down without pay under the Fair Work Act are entitled to be paid for public holidays that fall during the stand down period. This applies if the employee would normally have ordinary hours of work falling on the day of the public holiday.

Time away from work due to a stand down counts towards an employee’s service. This means that time stood down is included when calculating an employee’s entitlements under the National Employment Standards including:

Find more detailed information on stand downs in our Library on:

Casuals

Casual employees can't be stood down if the business is quiet, but they can be sent home after they've worked their minimum engagement period. Read more about casual employee pay and entitlements on our Casuals page.

Disputes about stand down

If there is a dispute about a stand down, an application to deal with a dispute can be made to the FWC by:

  • an employee
  • a union
  • a Fair Work inspector.

If the FWC makes an order about the dispute, you need to follow it or you risk being penalised.

Learn more about making applications disputing a stand down at FWC – Industrial action external-icon.png.

Shut downs

A shut down is different to a stand down. A shut down is when a business temporarily closes during slow periods of the year, such as Christmas and New Year. It’s also known as a close down.

Employees can be directed to take annual leave during a shut down if:

  • their award or agreement allows it, or
  • they're award and agreement free.

To find out if employees can be directed to take annual leave during a shut down, go to our Direction to take annual leave during a shut down page.

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