Returning to work part 2: Coming back from Stand-down

by Oct 9, 2021All Posts, WH&S

With businesses across the country needing to shut their doors temporarily during the first part of the year a large number of employees have been stood down. Now that things are opening up again, so long as your business is operational, your workplace is safe, and there is work for your employees to do, it’s time to get them back to work.

How do I reverse a stand-down, and get my employees back to work?

It’s worth noting that this is not an optional thing—under the legal provisions of the Fair Work Act, so long as your business is operational and safe and there is work for them to do, a stand-down is no longer permitted.

This may be difficult for some businesses where there’s been a significant drop in income, and you may not have the work necessary for all your staff, or less than they’re used to doing. If you’re receiving JobKeeper payments for your staff, you’re able to issue a JobKeeper Enabling Direction. This means that you have the right to:

  • Change their days or hours (including to nil)
  • Change their regular duties (subject to certain conditions)
  • Direct the employee to take annual leave.

To find out more about what you can do under a JobKeeper enabling direction and how to do it, read here.

Please note, any orders given under a JobKeeper enabling direction needs to be in writing, with at least three days’ notice.

If you’re not receiving JobKeeper payments, you can still request your employee take annual or long service leave, providing this is applicable under the terms of their award. Other potential options are setting up agreements whereby an employee works half their regular hours each week, for instance, and takes the rest in annual leave or unpaid leave.

Arrangements like this, however, require agreement from your employees and should be documented in writing. Please call Assurance HR on 1800 577 515 for specific advice and documentation for your circumstances.

If your employee doesn’t agree to your proposals and you’re not eligible for JobKeeper directions, you may have to consider redundancies. We can help you organise this also.

Can I stagger my employees’ return?

In some circumstances, it might be too much to have all employees returning to work at the same time. However, once a workplace is operational and employees can be usefully employed, there are no provisions for some employees to remain stood-down while others return.

To work out how best to stagger employees’ returns, look at what JobKeeper enabling directions you can utilize, as well as the other suggestions listed above. Be careful with how you approach this. It’s important to be objective about which employees are returning first—based on skill set or other similar criteria—to avoid a later discrimination claim. This is particularly important if some employees are being directed to take leave, with or without pay.

What if a stood-down employee refuses to return?

It’s worth having a chat with them about their reason for refusal. If their refusal is because they’re receiving JobKeeper and they don’t want to work, this becomes a disciplinary issue. Contact us on 1800 577 515 for advice on how to deal with this if it eventuates.

Reversing JobKeeper enabling directions

The same guidelines for reversing a stand-down also apply for reversing JobKeeper enabling directions. If you have staff who are working reduced hours or different duties under such a direction, you must notify them in writing, with at least three days’ notice, that you will be reversing that direction. If your employee refuses to return to their normal job or hours it’s important to talk to them about why, what their concerns are (if they have any), and address any disciplinary issues as you would normally.

Unlike a stand-down, however, a JobKeeper enabling direction may continue for as long as is practical for the business. If you need more information on what you can and can’t do under a JobKeeper enabling direction, please contact us today on 1800 577 515.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll be looking at workplace absences and how to deal with them, your rights, and your employees’ rights. See you then!

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