During this COVID-19 period, employers are finding it more and more difficult to maintain work hours of their employees with many businesses finding work slowing down.
It is important to remember however that when considering stand downs or reductions in hours, this must be done fairly to avoid challenge as has been evidenced in recent times by Thomas Foods who unfairly stood down a clerk while keeping the full time hours of others, and more recently, benchtops manufacturer, Ideal Acrylics who stood down a long serving machinist in April whilst a director of the business performed the duties.
As a result of the machinist being made redundant in July, the machinist has challenged the stand down claiming it did not comply with the stand down provisions of the Fair Work Act.
The machinist claimed that the stand down was a result of a work slow down and not a stoppage as manufacturing and the machine work continued.
Whilst a director of the company used the machine, he also performed fabricating work and trained three full time employees to become fabricators.
It was further submitted that Ideal Acrylics paid the machinist annual leave without consent, when he had provided a medical certificate which should have been paid personal leave for a three-week period.
The Fair Work Commission agreed with the machinist that the situation did not constitute a stoppage of work and that whilst the machinist work was different to that of a fabricator, his old machine continued to be operated during the period of stand down.
Instead the FWC found that Ideal Acrylics had simply had a slowing down of work and decided to reduce their labour costs by implementing the stand down.
Given the reduction in work that did occur, it would have been reasonable for Ideal Acrylics to reduce their labour costs however this should have been done in a fair manner across their employee base.
The FWC found that the machinist could have been usefully employed in fabrication and that he should have not had to carry almost the whole burden of stand down.
As a result, the machinist was awarded a partial compensation for his income loss given the employee had already received payment for annual leave and a one week discount applied for the employer due to the COVID-19 pandemic effect.
For assistance in reducing your labour costs, please contact us at [email protected] or 1300 720 004.
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