Under the Fair Work Act*, your employer must be able to demonstrate two things before you can be legally stood down.
First, the stand down must be ‘because of…a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible.’
Where employers have received government directives to close their business, or where there is a lack of supply of materials, then they would not be held responsible. However, if, applying government directives regarding COVID 19, your employer is still able to trade but trade is significantly reduced, any decision to stand you down solely as a result of such a downturn might not be legal.
Consider whether your work has stopped, and if so, whether your employer could be reasonably said to be responsible for the work stopping.
Secondly, before you can be legally stood down you must not be able to be usefully employed in the business (whether working from home, or from another location, or doing different tasks on a temporary basis).
If you believe that you could continue to be usefully employed in some capacity in the business then you may be able to dispute any decision to stand you down.
If you have been wrongly stood down, you may be able dispute the stand down and/or claim backpay.
*Note: if you are covered by an award that allows your employer to stand you down in different circumstances, then the award will override the requirements set out above. To check if you are covered by an award go to the Fair Work Ombudsman website:
If your employer is taking part in the Jobkeeper scheme, then they will have additional powers to stand you down. If this is the case, refer to the JobKeeper section of our Know your work rights during COVID-19 FAQs.