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Employers’ Obligations to Defence Reservists

Published October 19, 2016 (last updated June 24, 2020) -
employee serving in army

An employee who has a Defence background brings many valuable assets to a workplace. They are generally very adept at following instructions, possess strong leadership skills, have a high level of discipline, and work well within teams.

Australia’s Defence Reserves are a vital component of our country’s Navy, Army and Air Force which means that Reservists may sometimes require time off from their civilian role due to deployment overseas or within Australia. These deployments can range from combat operations through to emergency relief in times of natural disasters.

Whilst many employers are aware of the clear advantages of employing a team member who has a military background, they may be unsure of what their obligations are if their workforce includes a Reservist.

As well as receiving the same workplace rights and entitlements as all other employees under the Fair Work Act 2009, Reservists also receive additional workplace protections under the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001. This Act serves to protect Reservists in their civilian roles from discrimination, disadvantage or dismissal for reasons associated with their Defence service.

The Act also stipulates that employers are prohibited from preventing or hindering a Reservist from taking Defence Service leave. This means that employers are required to release their employees to undertake all required Defence service and then re-employee them once they return. This also includes releasing the Reservist if they are required to undergo training.

There is no legal requirement for employers to pay their Reservist employees whilst they are on Defence service leave, unless otherwise specified in the relevant Modern Award or workplace agreement. Employers cannot direct their employee to use annual leave or long service leave if the employee is required to attend to their Defence service obligations.

It is advised to have a Defence Reserve leave policy in place which assists both employers and employees in clearly understanding their respective rights and responsibilities.

As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist, we can assist understanding your employee’s rights and entitlements, and advise on Defence Reserve leave policies for your business. Call us today on 1300 651 415.

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Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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