What the NRL’s New “No Fault Stand Down” Policy Teaches Us About Employment Law
This week, National Rugby League player Jack de Belin withdrew his application to the Federal Court, which was challenging the League’s newly introduced “No Fault Stand Down” policy and fighting for his eligibility to play in the St-Illawarra Dragons Round 1 clash with North Queensland this Saturday night. While de Belin is not expected to take the field, the ongoing saga might leave you wondering about your own rights at work. Is it possible for your employer to stand you down?
The Fair Work Act 2009 is a federal law that provides the framework for the pay and conditions of working Australians. It includes The National Employment Standards, which are minimum standards of employment which cannot be displaced by Enterprise Agreements, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of both employees and employers.
Those rights and responsibilities extend to stand down periods. Section 524 of the Act provides three specific circumstances in which an employee may potentially be stood down from their employment without pay. These are all circumstances where an employee is unable to be usefully employed.
This can arise from situations where there is a breakdown of machinery or equipment, participation in industrial action, and other stoppages of work for which an employer cannot reasonably be held responsible. In these circumstances, the employer will not be required to make payments to the employee for the period of the stand-down.
However, it is important to note that these provisions may not apply where an enterprise agreement or other employment contract is in place. In those circumstances, standing down an employee must be in accordance with the terms of the agreement or contract. This might include additional requirements of an employer to give notice or engage in consultations with the employee.
Additionally, an employee is not taken to be stood down during a period when the employee is taking leave, whether paid or unpaid, or otherwise authorised to be absent from their employment. This allows employees to take paid leave, such as their annual leave, during a period in which they would otherwise be stood down.
Disputes over the standing down of employees may be dealt with by the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Commission may deal with the dispute by arbitration, however, may also use mediation or conciliation. In doing so, the Commission must take into account fairness between the parties involved.