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Employers may send employees home for reasons outside their control such as severe and inclement weather, equipment breakdown or industrial action. Read on for information about when an employer can stand an employee down, whether they need to be paid, and the difference between a stand down and a shut down.

What is severe and inclement weather?

Employees working outdoors have greater exposure to severe weather conditions. There are rules about working in inclement weather, including when an employee can be sent home and whether they need to be paid.

Inclement weather is when it’s unsafe or unreasonable for an employee to work because of severe weather conditions. Examples include heavy rain and storms, bushfires, extreme heat or cold, hail or high winds.

Awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements can set out what:

  • severe and inclement weather includes
  • employees and employers have to do when there is inclement weather.

An employer can’t ask their employees to start or continue to work during severe and inclement weather if it’s unreasonable or unsafe. Employers don’t have to pay their employees when this happens, unless an award or agreement says they do.

The Gardening and Landscaping Services Award 2020 doesn’t say anything about inclement weather.  If you pay your staff under this wage, you will need to find out when you can stand down employees. See information below or visit the Fairwork Ombudsman site for more information here.

What is a stand down?

A stand down is when an employee can’t do useful work because of:

  • equipment break down, if the employer isn’t responsible for it
  • industrial action, when it’s not organised by the employer
  • stoppage of work for which the employer can’t be held responsible, including severe and inclement weather or natural disasters.

Employers can’t stand an employee down just because the business is quiet or there isn’t enough work.

An employer can’t stand down an employee if they’re on approved leave.

Pay during stand down

During a stand down period, an employee:

  • doesn’t need to be paid
  • accrues leave in the usual way.

Best practice tip

Employers may consider other options instead of standing down employees.

These include letting employees:

  • take a period of paid leave, such as annual leave
  • work at another location such as from home or another work site.

Casual employees and stand down

Casual employees can’t be stood down if the business is quiet but they can be sent home after they’ve worked their minimum engagement period. For more information about casual employee pay and entitlements, see Fairwork’s Casuals page.

For more information please see the Fairwork Ombudsman website here.

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