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 business? 
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:

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:

For more information about employee entitlements contact Employsure Advice on 1300 651 415.

The Money Edge | Bundaberg

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