NSW Government Releases Natural Disaster Toolkit For Small Businesses

Published November 12, 2019 (last updated July 22, 2020) -

The NSW Government has released an educational guide for small businesses to help them prepare their business for disasters. The release of this guide comes as bushfires pose a ‘catastrophic fire danger’ threat to many parts of the state.

At the time of writing, many bushfires are burning all around NSW, from Albury on the Victorian border, to the Mt Warning region just south of Queensland border. A number of fires have been classified as ‘Out of control’ or come with an ‘Emergency Warning’ from the NSW Rural Fire Service.

According to the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, over 575 schools and 20 TAFE campuses were closed today due to the threat posed by the bushfires.

Using the 2017 Lismore floods as a case study, the guide strongly suggests businesses should prepare for disaster as those that “were prepared in the face of the 2017 Lismore floods had significantly better business outcomes”.

The guide offers a five-step plan for disaster preparation. The plan is at follows:

  1. Know your risk
  2. Plan now for what you will do
  3. Get your business ready
  4. Be aware
  5. Look out for each other

The guide also suggests a few common-sense, actionable items from an employer perspective. These include inducting staff into your emergency action plan, developing a plan to keep them engaged in the case that business, severely damaged by a disaster, can not operate normally and therefore provide them with an income.

Yesterday Employsure also published a media release on employee entitlements during natural disasters, sharing advice for businesses caught in a disaster zone or affected by a disaster.

For example, Senior Employment Relations Adviser from Employsure, Michael Wilkinson, gave some advice around for employers in the case that employees cannot attend work due to a natural disaster or emergency.

“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.”

In the case that an employer has to temporarily shut down their business as a result of a natural disaster, Wilkinson says “It is important for employers to apply the correct employee entitlements during the closure.

“If the closure falls within the stand-down provisions, then the employer might not be required to pay the employee. If the business is closed and it otherwise could have operated, an employee could be entitled to payment.”

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