When workplaces shut quickly because of a lockdown

Last week, the Victorian Government announced a temporary lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The new lockdown measures include the closure of some workplaces and the requirement to not leave home to go to work unless it is ‘authorised work’.

These restrictions started from 11:59pm on Thursday, 27 May 2021.

What should employers consider when workplaces shut quickly because of a lockdown?

Employers may be able to stand employees down during a sudden workplace closure that is outside the employer’s control. For example, they may be able to stand down employees when:

  • the business has closed because of an enforceable government direction (which means the employee can’t be usefully employed, even from another location)
  • there’s a stoppage of work due to lack of supply for which the employer can’t be held responsible.

Employers should first discuss and communicate with employees about a stand down. They should also discuss other workplace options available to employees. These can include:

  • working from home
  • changes to duties, hours of work or rosters
  • taking paid or unpaid leave.

As always, before employers introduce these changes, employers should consider what rules may apply under the Fair Work Act or any rules contained in their industrial instruments.

As a reminder! From 29 March 2021, the JobKeeper Fair Work Act provisions no longer apply. This means that if a sudden lockdown happens on or after this date, workplaces can’t rely on the JobKeeper provisions.

Under section 524 of the Fair Work Act, an employer can stand down an employee without pay where they can’t usefully be employed because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer can’t reasonably be held responsible. Importantly, employees who are stood down without pay are still employed for the period of the stand down.

Employers generally can’t stand down employees under the Fair Work Act stand down provisions simply because of a decline of business conditions or because an employee has coronavirus. More information and your obligations can be found in the following link: CLICK HERE

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