Can I Stand Down My Employees?

by Oct 8, 2021All Posts, Covid 19, Industrial Relations

One of the most common questions our team is being asked at the moment is “can I stand down employees?” If there’s no work for them to do, what are the rules? What are my responsibilities as an employer?

Basically, the answer is a stand-down is appropriate when an employee or group of employees cannot be employed or provide useful duties because of a stoppage of work that is beyond the control of the employer. The COVID-19 situation is a perfect example of this. In case of situations such as the one we’re in, the employer may “stand down” an employee or group of employees for the necessary duration, without pay.

A stand-down is a serious last resort. The first step we recommend is to have a discussion with employees about taking their annual leave. It’s also important before making any big decisions, for business owners to think long-term about the effects of stand-downs on company culture, whether your business can afford to stand down staff, and whether it’s legal to do so. Some modern awards have provision for such a shutdown and we suggest you contact us to see whether that applies to you.

Stand-downs must comply with legislation, and this is definitely something you should talk to us about before taking any steps. If there’s a reference to a stand-down provision within your modern award or enterprise agreement, you may wish to get legal advice as well. We are happy to advise you in these matters and point you in the right direction where necessary.

The main thing to consider in event of a stand-down is: is there is a genuine full stoppage of work, not just a slowing down.

There are four questions to consider when you’re thinking about standing down employees:

  • Is there a genuine stoppage? In many cases with this COVID-19 situation the answer is yes; the government has announced many services that are no longer able to operate in this climate. However, if business is simply slowing down because of the effects of social isolation this is a different issue.
  • Is it outside your control? You can’t legally stand down employees if business is poor because of your own reasons.
  • Do you see this stoppage as temporary? Will you want your employees back in a few months?
  • Could employees be redeployed to other duties within the business?

If this all seems too hard, if you are unclear on the steps, or afraid that you would make a mistake, give us a call on 1800 577 515 or email at Alternatively you can book a video chat at

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