Workplaces and individuals may be affected by flooding in parts of Australia.
There are several paid and unpaid leave entitlements employees may be able to access if they are affected by the floods or to assist with emergency management activities. These include:
- annual leave
- sick and carer’s leave
- community service leave
- Defence Reservists.
Minimum entitlements to annual leave, sick and carer’s leave and community service leave come from the National Employment Standards (NES). Awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements can’t offer less than the minimums in the NES but they can provide more.
Annual leave can be taken at any time an employer and employee agree. An employer can only refuse a request for annual leave if the refusal is reasonable.
In some cases, an employer may be able to direct an employee to take annual leave – these rules are set out in awards and registered agreements.
Sick and carer’s leave
Employees (other than casual employees) affected by a natural disaster or emergency may be entitled to take paid sick and carer’s leave.
An employee can take paid sick leave when they can’t work because of a personal illness or injury.
For example, an employee injured during a flood may be entitled to sick leave.
Full-time and part-time employees who have used all of their paid sick and carer’s leave, and casual employees, are entitled to 2 days unpaid carer’s leave per occasion to provide care and support to a family or household member due to illness, injury or in the event of an unexpected emergency.
An employee has to let their employer know that they are taking sick or carer’s leave and they may need to provide evidence.
Community service leave
All employees, including casuals, are entitled to take community service leave for certain voluntary emergency management activities if what they are doing fits the definition of a voluntary emergency management activity. This leave applies to the activity and reasonable travel and rest time.
Community service leave is unpaid.
There is no limit on the amount of community service leave an employee can take.
Defence Reservists may be called to help with the floods. In addition to the NES and any entitlements under an award or agreement, Defence Reservists have rights and protections under the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 when they are absent from work on defence service leave. This includes the right to be released from work while undertaking defence service and to continue to be employed on their return.
Pay during a stand down
Floods may affect whether some workplaces can stay open.
If a business can’t open or needs to temporarily close, employers may be able to stand down an employee in some circumstances. This includes when an employee can’t do useful work because of:
- equipment breakdown if the employer isn’t responsible for it
- stoppage of work for which the employer can’t be held responsible, including severe and inclement weather or natural disasters (such as floods).
During a stand down period, an employee:
- doesn’t need to be paid
- accrues leave in the usual way.
Some awards, agreements and contracts have extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay.