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Community service leave explained

Community service leave explained (Last Updated On: July 29, 2014)

All employees (including casuals) are entitled to community service leave to undertake certain activities from day one of their employment. Importantly, there is no limit on the amount of leave they can take and, while community activities are commendable, these absences can place a significant strain on businesses. Therefore, it is important that employers understand when employees are entitled to take community service leave.

Eligible activity

Employees are only entitled to this leave when they engage in jury duty or a voluntary emergency activity in relation to an emergency or natural disaster. An employee is entitled to be absent when they are undertaking the activity, any associated travel time and to have reasonable rest time immediately following the activity.

An employee cannot simply choose to assist in an emergency or disaster.  The employee must be a member of or associated with a recognised emergency management body, which has requested that the employee assist (or where it would be reasonable to expect such a request would be made).

Recognised bodies include firefighting, civil defence or rescue bodies and any other body established to plan or respond to emergency or natural disasters.  For example, the Country Fire Authority (CFA), State Emergency Services (SES) and the RSPCA are recognised management bodies.

Notice and evidence requirements

An employee who wishes to take community service leave are required to provide their employer with notice as soon as reasonably practicable and advise the employer of the expected length of the absence.

Employers are also entitled to ask for evidence supporting the reason for the absence.

Paid or unpaid?

Generally, community service leave for voluntary emergency activity is unpaid. However, it is important to check whether there are any payment obligations under state legislation, modern awards or other applicable agreements.

In relation to jury duty, all employers are required to pay permanent employees make-up pay (the difference between any jury duty payment and their base rate of pay) for at least the first 10 days that they are absent.  In some states, for example Victoria, employers are required to continue making up the difference in ordinary pay until the jury service is completed.

If employees do not provide evidence of their jury duty payments or that they have taken all reasonable steps to obtain jury duty pay, the employer may be able to withhold pay.

By Jansu Sanli – Employment Relations Consultant 

Please contact Employsure on 1300 651 415 if you have any questions in relation to community service leave or are unsure about your own State or Territory laws then please contact Employsure on 1300 651 415. 

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