Employers would be aware that the Modern Award under which Bricklayers and Apprentices are paid is the Building and Construction Award [MA000020]. For the purpose of clarifying what is ‘fair work’, the Award defines bad weather that might result in the need for a stand down as ‘Inclement weather’. Such weather nearly always necessitates a paid stand down of employees to protect the business against claims in the event of safety risks and to protect the well-being of everyone. The Award also defines the circumstances which might trigger an unpaid stand down, unrelated to weather conditions and a ‘Shut Down’.
In terms of the Award, inclement weather is rain or abnormal climactic conditions (whether hail, extreme cold, high winds, severe dust storms, extreme high temperatures or the like or any combination of these conditions) where it is not reasonable or it is unsafe for employees to continue working in these conditions. In most circumstances where any of these apply, employees and casuals are required to be stood down with pay because to not stop working risks health and safety. The maximum amount that can be paid per employee is 32 hours over a 4 week period.
However, there are inclement weather situations where the Award identifies that this cost to the business might be averted. These are where:
- The employee can work on other job sites not affected by the weather
- The employee can work inside
- There is an emergency or
- A concrete pour that has to be completed.
When would an Unpaid Stand Down Apply?
There are circumstances which are beyond the control of the employer where he may have to ‘stand down’ employees on no pay. It’s important to note though, that employees can’t be stood down just because there is not enough work. An unpaid stand down would only be triggered if there is no useful work for them to do because of:
- Equipment break down
- Natural disaster (including floods, bushfires, tropical cyclones) or
- Industrial action.
Ideally, if there is another work site to send the employee to, this is far preferable to standing down a team member on no pay. Another option to consider is to offer the employee a period of paid leave, such as annual leave, which would be accruing to the employee.
How is a Stand Down different to a Shut Down?
Under the Award, a Shut Down (or Close Down) means a temporary closure for a holiday season, such as for the public holidays of Christmas, New Year and at the employer’s discretion, a period of leave following this. Employees can be directed to take annual leave during a shut down and are paid their annual leave entitlements accrued through their work to date. If sufficient annual leave isn’t accrued, the employee is not paid for the period outstanding. Check out the Direction to take annual leave during a shut down page at Fair Work Ombudsman website for more information.
Each of the above categories of Stand Down and Shut Down are covered in detail at the Fair Work Ombudsman website with links to in-depth information and contact details. Don’t forget the Fair Work Quiz at both this website you’re on now and at ABBTF, for questions and answers on key topics relating to pay and conditions for Bricklaying Apprentices. Both our websites also contain Apprentice Pay Rates and Conditions, found in the menus. Whether you’re an employer or a Bricklaying/blocklaying apprentice, requiring general help, call our teams in ABBTF’s State Offices.