Employee entitlements during natural disasters or emergencies
Australia can experience a variety of natural disasters and wild weather conditions such as bushfires. These events can cause devastation and major disruptions to the people, businesses and workplaces that are affected.
So what if an employee 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.
What if you need to temporarily close your
If you decide to temporarily close your business or workplace as a result of a natural disaster or emergency, it is important to ensure you apply the correct employee entitlements during the closure. This may include offering the employee with a choice of taking their paid leave, or in some cases, standing down employees without pay.
Can you stand down employees without pay?
The Fair Work Act includes provisions which enable employers to stand down an employee without pay. However, the scenarios in which a business can stand down employees without pay are narrowly defined including that:
- Your business' stoppage of work must be caused by something that an 'employer cannot reasonably be held responsible' - such as a natural disaster; and
- The employee cannot usefully be employed during this period
However, it is not mandatory for stand downs to be unpaid. If the stand down is legally allowed to be unpaid, you may still choose to pay your employees at your discretion. You should also check the Award or Agreement to see if it contains any additional stand down provisions.
There are other options to consider before you decide to stand down your employees, these may include:
- Asking employees if they are willing to take a period of paid annual leave.
- Where appropriate, consider flexible working arrangements, like working from home.
- Where there is more that one worksite or workplace and not all sites are affected by the disaster, consider options for sharing work and hours among sites.
For more information about employee entitlements contact Employsure Advice on 1300 651 415.
The Money Edge | Bundaberg