Call us 1300 651 415
MyEmploysure

Employee entitlements during natural disasters or emergencies

press release
4/2/2019

 

Australia can experience a variety of natural disasters and wild weather conditions, such as floods, bushfires, tropical cyclones, and severe storms. These events can cause devastation and major disruptions to the people, businesses, and workplaces that are affected.

 

What if employees cannot attend work due to a natural disaster or emergency?

 

According to Senior Employment Relations Adviser from Employsure, Julian Hackenberg, “In some circumstances, an employee may have entitlements under their Award or Agreement that are relevant when an employee is unable to attend work due to an emergency or natural disaster. If no such entitlement exists, there are a range of options available to employers and employees depending on the circumstances.”

 

What if the employer temporarily shuts down the business?

 

Hackenberg says, if your employer decides to temporarily stop business operations or shutdown the workplace as a result of a natural disaster or emergency, “It is important for employers to apply the correct employee entitlements during the closure. This may include offering employees with a choice of taking their paid leave, or in some cases, standing down employees.”

 

Can employers stand employees down without pay?

 

The Fair Work Act includes provisions which enable employers to stand down employees, without pay, where they cannot usefully be employed during a period because of any stoppage of work for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible, such as a natural disaster or emergency. However, according to Hackenberg, “It is not mandatory for stand downs to be unpaid. Your employer may choose to continue to pay staff, but this is at their discretion. We encourage employers to do all they can during this devastating time for the entire community.”

 

If Townsville employers choose to stand down employees during this time, “It’s important they notify those employees in writing (where possible), including the date which the stand down begins, whether the employees will or will not be paid, and the impact on other employee entitlements,” he said.

 

What are the alternatives to standing down employees?

 

Hackenberg encourages Townsville’s employers and business owners to consider a range of options to offer employees during this difficult time, such as:

 

  • Asking employees to take a period of paid annual leave
  • Where appropriate, consider flexible work arrangements, like working from home.
  • Where there is more than one worksite or workplace and not all sites are affected by the disaster, consider options for sharing work and hours among sites

Media enquiries.

Melissa Fanous
[email protected]
+61 412 033 103