I have been personally affected by the bushfires; do I need to attend work and can I volunteer?

I have been personally affected by the bushfires; do I need to attend work and can I volunteer?

Natural disasters often result in employees requiring time off to care for themselves or their family. Employers should keep in mind the health and wellbeing of their staff when granting access to leave entitlements as state workplace health and safety laws provide for a general duty of care toward employees that should be considered.

Some awards or agreements provide for certain leave entitlements during national disasters. If your award provides for emergency leave then you will be entitled to access that leave during natural disasters. However you should consult your award to confirm that you have access to this type of leave.

If you are not covered by an award or your award makes no mention of leave during natural disasters then you may still be able to access personal/carer’s leave. This may be because you or a family member are injured or your child’s school is closed due to the natural disaster. If you have no accrued personal/carer’s leave you are entitled to two 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. If you are not being paid you and your employer may come to an agreement to allow you to access any accrued annual leave.

What if I’m a volunteer?

If you are a volunteer firefighter, the National Employment Standards provides that you are entitled to be absent from work to engage in community service. You must inform your employer as soon as practicable. You must also:

  1. Be engaging in an activity that involves dealing with an emergency or natural disaster; and
  2. Be engaging in the activity on a volunteer basis; and
  3. be a member (or have a member-like association) with the recognised emergency management body; and
  4. Have been requested to attend, or if it would be reasonable to expect, that if the circumstances permitted, that a request would have been made.

You may also be granted a reasonable rest period as part of your community service leave.

Accordingly, you may have access to leave entitlements and if you have been unable to access your leave entitlements then you should seek legal advice.

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