By now, most businesses have had to make difficult decisions in the face of COVID-19. For some, that has meant standing down all or part of their work force.
This is a concept new to many employers and employees alike, and the law surrounding this measure isn’t always clear – even for large corporations like Qantas.
The Federal Court of Australia has recently shed some light on section 524 of the Fair Work Act, handing down its decision in the case of Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia & Ors v Qantas Airways Limited .
The Court found that Qantas was not required to pay personal/sick leave to the two-thirds of its 30,000 employees stood down, as the purpose of the Act’s stand down provisions are to provide economic relief to employers during times where an employee cannot be usefully employed for reasons outside the employer’s control.
While this decision is a helpful direction from the Court, the legality of a stand down will always turn on the employer’s individual circumstances.