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A stand down is different to unpaid leave. It is also different to a shutdown.

Stand downs, unpaid leave and shutdowns are used for different reasons and affect certain entitlements under the Fair Work Act differently.

Stand down

Employers can tell employees not to work if their employees can’t usefully be employed for reasons outside the employer’s control.

Reasons outside the employer’s control include things like:

  • equipment breakdown
  • industrial action
  • a complete stoppage of work because of a government shutdown, or
  • severe and inclement weather.

This is called stand down.

A stand down is initiated by the employer and may affect multiple employees.

During a stand down, employees:

  • don’t work
  • don’t have to be paid
  • stay employed.

Different or extra rules may apply to standing down employees under an enterprise agreement or employment contract.

More stand down information

Pay during inclement or severe weather and natural disasters has information about when an employee can be stood down during severe weather or natural disasters.

Stand downs has information about when an employee can be stood down and the interaction with paid leave.

Stand down, continuous service and accumulation of leave has information on how stand down affects employees’ entitlements.

Ending employment during a stand down has information on notice and pay in lieu of notice during a stand down.

Unpaid leave

Employees can take periods of unpaid leave with the agreement of their employer. For example, an employee may take a period of unpaid leave to travel if their employer agrees, or they may take unpaid sick leave if they’re unwell and have run out of paid sick leave.

Unpaid leave is usually initiated by the employee and only affects that individual.

More unpaid leave information

Unpaid leave and continuous service has information on how unpaid leave affects employees’ entitlements.


A shutdown is when a business chooses to temporarily close down all or part of a business for a particular period, such as Christmas and New Year. A shutdown is also known as a close down.

During a shutdown, employees can be directed to take annual leave if:

  • their award or agreement allows it, or
  • they aren’t covered by an award or agreement.

More shutdown information

Direction to take annual leave during a shutdown has information about leave during a shut down.

Payment for hours not worked has information about payment during a shutdown.

Direction to take leave when an employer shuts part of a business has information about leave during a shutdown.

View references

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