Federal Court Decision against Paid Personal Leave for Stood Down Workers


The Federal Court has rejected an application by unions for stood-down Qantas employees to have access to their paid personal leave entitlements including sick leave, carer’s leave, and compassionate leave. Qantas employees who were stood down due to COVID-19 can only access their annual and long service leave entitlements.

Three unions lodged a dispute in the Federal Court claiming that the Fair Work Act 2009 prevented employers from cutting off access to these payments during a stand-down. The unions also claimed that because employees were taking approved paid or unpaid leave they were not regarded as stood down. They cited cases of employees who were suffering from serious illnesses and claimed the lack of access to personal leave payments was disadvantaging them.

However, the federal court upheld Qantas’ decision stating that personal leave entitlements were a form of income protection that require employees to be receiving income to be eligible for.  Because there was no work to perform and subsequently no income, there was no income to protect. The decision was made to protect employers from having to payout and protect their employees. Since the decision unions have urged Qantas to voluntarily allow personal leave.

The repercussions of this decision are that when employees are stood down, they can access their annual and long service leave entitlements however, employers are not obliged to allow access to paid personal leave entitlements. This is because in a stand-down there is no income to be protected and employees do not have to be authorized to be absent from work. 

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Written by Danielle McNamee



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Marisa Ross

HR Advisor

Marisa is an experienced and motivated HR professional with a strong HR generalist and business operations background with a focus on employee relations, performance management, leadership training & development, workers compensation & injury management, and employee retention. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Human Resource Management and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science with a minor in Counselling. Having worked in a variety of industries from SMEs to large blue-chip organisations, Marisa is passionate about enriching employee experience, employee retention, and building leadership capability in people management.

Aimee Grigson

Aimee Grigson

WHS Advisor

Aimee has a strong understanding of Workplace Health and Safety Legislation and standards and has extensive HSEQ experience in a number of industries. Aimee has a great ability to engage across all levels of organisation, including field teams, leadership and external stakeholders. Aimee ensures Health and Safety Management Systems are compliant to legislation, effectively implemented and understood by all. Aimee has a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and qualifications in auditing and incident investigations. Aimee is passionate about coaching and developing small businesses towards a positive safety culture.