Pay during inclement weather & stand down
Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws
If your workplace has been impacted by coronavirus, we have information about your workplace rights and obligations at Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws.
A number of temporary changes have been introduced due to coronavirus including:
- JobKeeper – changes to the Fair Work Act to support the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme
- temporary award changes – allowing for temporary workplace flexibility in some awards
- pandemic leave – unpaid and paid pandemic leave (including worker and disaster payments) during coronavirus.
These changes may affect the information on this page.
Employers may send employees home for reasons outside their control such as severe and inclement weather, equipment breakdown or industrial action. Read on for information about when an employer can stand an employee down, whether they need to be paid, and the difference between a stand down and a shut down.
On this page:
What is severe and inclement weather?
Employees working outdoors have greater exposure to severe weather conditions. There are rules about working in inclement weather, including when an employee can be sent home and whether they need to be paid.
Inclement weather is when it's unsafe or unreasonable for an employee to work because of severe weather conditions. Examples include heavy rain and storms, bushfires, extreme heat or cold, hail or high winds.
Awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements can set out what:
- severe and inclement weather includes
- employees and employers have to do when there is inclement weather.
An employer can't ask their employees to start or continue to work during severe and inclement weather if it's unreasonable or unsafe. Employers don't have to pay their employees when this happens, unless an award or agreement says they do. If the award or agreement doesn't say anything about inclement weather, find out when an employer can stand down employees.
Check your award or agreement for information about how to decide if the weather is inclement and what to do.
Find information about inclement weather procedures in your award by selecting from the list below.
- Building, construction and on-site trades
- Contract cleaning services
- Don't know
- Hair and beauty
- Health support services
- Real estate
- Road Transport
- Social, community, disability and home care services
- Storage services and wholesale
Can't find your award? Check the List of awards.
Workplace health and safety
Each state and territory has a workplace health and safety authority that can give advice to workplaces experiencing severe and inclement weather. If you must work during these conditions, get advice about preventing incidents and illnesses from your local workplace health and safety body.
Natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones can cause devastation to communities, businesses and individuals. For information about pay and conditions during natural disasters check our Employment conditions during natural disasters and emergencies fact sheet.
What is a stand down?
A stand down is when an employee can't do useful work because of:
- equipment break down, if the employer isn't responsible for it
- industrial action, when it's not organised by the employer
- stoppage of work for which the employer can't be held responsible, including severe and inclement weather or natural disasters.
Employers can't stand an employee down just because the business is quiet or there isn't enough work. Some awards, agreements and contracts have extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay. Check the List of awards to see if this applies to you.
An employer can't stand down an employee if they're on approved leave.
Pay during stand down
During a stand down period, an employee:
- doesn't need to be paid
- accrues leave in the usual way.
On 18 May 2020 the Federal Court of Australia handed down a decision confirming that an employee who has been stood down under the Fair Work Act can’t take paid sick and carer’s leave or compassionate leave.
This decision may be appealed. We’ll update our information if that happens.
In the meantime, the decision reflects the current state of the law and applies to affected employers and employees.
Best practice tip
Employers may consider other options instead of standing down employees.
These include letting employees:
- take a period of paid leave, such as annual leave
- work at another location such as from home or another work site.
Casual employees and stand down
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. For more information about casual employee pay and entitlements, see our Casuals page.
Disputes about stand down
An application to deal with a dispute about a stand down can be made to the Fair Work Commission
- an employee
- a union
- a Fair Work inspector.
If the Fair Work Commission makes an order about the dispute, you need to follow it or you risk being penalised.
Is a stand down the same as a shut down?
No, a stand down is different to a shut down. A shut down is when a business temporarily closes during slow periods of the year, such as Christmas and New Year. A shut down is also known as a close down.
Pay during shut 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.
Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.524
Think a mistake might have been made?
Mistakes can happen. The best way to fix them usually starts with talking.
Check out our Help for resolving workplace issues section for practical advice on:
- figuring out if a mistake has been made
- talking to your employer or employee about fixing it
- getting help from us if you can't resolve it.
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