Due to ongoing requirements put in place by governments to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, and the resulting significant loss in trade, we have advised that a large proportion of the workforce is to be progressively stood down from work over the coming days/weeks in response to this situation. This is a very stressful time for both employers and employees.
I have put together a list of questions that employees are asking, and some answers.
You can use this information as a starting point for your communications but obviously they will need to be adjusted to your specific circumstances.
What does stand down mean?
Stand down is a temporary suspension of the employer’s obligation to pay employees and the employee’s obligation to attend for work. It means you remain employed, but you are not required to perform any duties and the employer is not required to pay you. The period of the stand down does not affect your continuity of service.
When is this stand down going to take effect from?
There will be a progressive implementation of stand downs and each employee affected will be personally notified. The Stand Down Notice issued to impacted employees will advise the employee of the time and date the stand down will commence and when the stand down is expected to conclude (although the conclusion will be under constant review).
How long is the stand down going to last?
Initially the stand down period has been nominated to be until Monday 31 May 2020. The situation is extremely fluid so this date will be under continual review, and you will be kept informed should circumstances change that will affect that date.
How is the decision made about who will be stood down and who won’t?
Stand down occurs where an employee cannot be usefully employed. Beyond that, each area of operations may also be taking into account where relevant, individuals’ capabilities, qualifications and experience required for the work that is available.
Do I get paid during stand down?
No, we are not obligated to pay employees during a stand down period. But there may be opportunities to access accrued paid leave.
Does my leave continue to accrue whilst I am stand down?
Yes. Whilst you are stood down your service with us continues. For this reason, you will continue to accrue leave entitlements the same way you would if you were working.
Can I access my accrued annual leave?
Yes, you will be able to access your accrued annual leave. Whilst on approved annual leave you are not taken to be stood down.
The company will consider each application for annual leave on its merits and will not unreasonably refuse a request. Any requests will be approved subject to the company’s capacity to pay.
Can I get annual leave at half pay?
You can apply for a period of unpaid leave in addition to a period of paid annual leave and request in writing that you want the paid component to be averaged over the entire period of the combined paid leave and unpaid leave.
Can I use my sick or carers leave during my stand down?
If you become sick or need to take carers leave whilst you are stood down, you are able to access your accrued personal leave entitlements. The normal rules about sick/carer’s leave apply at this time, including evidence of the need for the leave.
Can I use some of my long service leave?
In some cases, early access to long service leave is permitted. You should make enquiries with your payroll/HR departments to determine if you are in such a jurisdiction. The same issues about capacity to meet all leave applications and the effects on the business also apply to situations where long service is applied for.
I was already on annual leave when I got the stand down notice. How does it affect me?
Your annual leave period will continue as normal, however as you have been advised that no work is available for you, then the stand down period will effectively apply when your annual leave expires.
I am on parental leave. Am I stood down too?
Technically yes, but in a practical sense, unless your parental leave is due to expire in the stand down period, nothing changes for you and your parental leave continues as normal.
What if I don’t get a stand down notification?
You are to continue to attend work and you will be paid.
Can I apply for a redundancy payout instead of being stood down?
No, at this time the company is not making any employee redundant as a result of this situation.
Can I apply for any casual jobs that might come up at the company during stand down?
Yes, there is no barrier to that and a separate employment contract to your main job can be entered into if a casual job became available (whether in your usual occupation or not) and that will be a stand-alone arrangement.
Can I work for some other employer while I’m stood down?
Yes, if you are stood down and not receiving any paid leave from the company, and there is no conflict of interest issues, you are free to work elsewhere during the stand down period.
Can I claim benefits while on stand down?
Some employees may be eligible for assistance and it is advisable to make direct enquiries with Centrelink (Mygov) to get accurate information first hand.
The Australian Government is providing financial assistance to Australians that are facing hardship during this time, with these packages under continual review. This assistance includes:
- Income support for individuals
- Payments to support households
- Temporary early release of superannuation
- Temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown rates
- Reduced waiting times for jobseeker payments
- Reduced means testing for jobseeker and parenting payments
In addition to this the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments to include permanent employees who are stood down or lose their employment as a result of the economic downturn due to the Coronavirus. This can also include a person required to care for someone who is affected by the Coronavirus.