24 March Standing down employees: What you need to know March 24, 2020 By Reef Admin General 0 These are uncertain times for all of us and real estate employers are rightfully concerned about what lies ahead for their businesses. The REEF Helpline has been inundated with phone calls from members looking for advice regarding employment issues during this Coronavirus crisis. The most common question we're being asked relates to standing down employees: "If things get bad, can I stand down employees for a time and not pay them?" As an employer, you may go through periods where there's simply no work for your employees to perform. Where employees cannot be usefully employed, you may be in a position to stand them down and send them home without pay. Your ability to stand down employees without pay is regulated by the Fair Work Act. The Fair Work Act provides that where an employee or group of employees cannot be usefully employed for a period because of a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible, then you may "stand down" that employee or group of employees for that period without pay. To apply the stand down provisions under the Fair Work Act there must be a STOPPAGE OF WORK, not simply a downturn or slowing of work. With this in mind, even if your agency closes its doors to the public, it's likely you will continue trading by remote means. This will probably entail utilising working from home arrangements, where this is a practical solution to managing the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Such circumstances may not necessarily fit under the definition of a stoppage of work and utilising the stand down provisions under the Fair Work Act may be risky. Notwithstanding this, it's possible there could be legitimate circumstances where you may be lawfully permitted to stand down an employee, or a number of employees, without pay. This should be seen however as a last resort. Remember, as with many other COVID-19 related decisions, you should consider balancing affordability, culture and engagement with the law before deciding what to do. In summary, where you are considering standing down staff without pay until we get through this COVID-19 crisis, you need to ask yourself three critically important questions: Is there a stoppage of work? (not simply a downturn in the amount of work) Is it for a reason reasonably outside your control? (i.e. COVID-19 related) Can the affected employees be employed to perform useful work? If the answer to the first question is “NO”, you should avoid standing down the employee, but rather consider any other alternatives that may be available to you to manage your business concerns. Related Workplace investigations – Here's what you need to know Workplace investigations are a necessary, but often difficult task. As an employer, you need to rely on the result of the investigation to decide upon disciplinary action. Employee deductions: What's allowed, what's not To deduct or not to deduct? When it comes to deductions from an employee's pay, what's allowed and what's not? What amounts can an employer take out before it hits an employee's hand? Fair Work Commission hands down Award review decision The wait is over! The Fair Work Commission has handed down its decision regarding the statutory review of the Real Estate Industry Award. Here are the details. Coronavirus - Employment Q&As (part 1) The REEF Helpline has been inundated with calls regarding the Coronavirus and its impact on employment. To address some of your questions, please take the time to read the following essential information. A message from the CEO: What's happening at REEF It's hard to believe we're halfway through the year. What started as a busy year shows no sign of slowing down. Here's just a few things we've been focused on. Sorry, we're closed: Annual office shutdown Are you thinking about closing your agency over the Christmas/New Year period? If you are, it's time to start planning. Here are some tips to help you manage employee leave during this time. Comments are closed.