Your options as an employer during a natural disaster
As an employer, it’s important to understand the options that are available to you during natural disasters. Here’s a rundown of some things to consider.
If your business can’t operate normally
If your business can no longer operate normally during a natural disaster, there are a number of options available to you as an employer. The options you take will depend on a number of factors, including:
your employees’ enterprise agreement, award or contract
the facilities you have in place
the severity of the natural disaster
the state or territory you run your business from.
The options you take may include:
inviting your employees to voluntarily use leave
offering work-from-home arrangements
letting your employees work from other locations.
If these aren’t possible or sufficient, options may also include:
requiring your employees to use annual leave, if doing so is reasonable
standing down your employees (note that it is only legal to stand down your employees without pay if a disaster makes it impossible for your employees to complete useful work - for example, during flooding or a bushfire evacuation).
Whatever option you choose, it’s important that you comply with the relevant laws and regulations. It’s always good practice to check your award, agreement or contract before making decisions that will affect your employees.
Read the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Employment conditions during natural disasters and emergencies factsheet for more information.
Personal and carer’s leave
If a natural disaster affects your employees, they can still take personal and carer’s leave. The National Employment Standards allow employees to use personal and carer’s leave if they:
are unfit for work due to personal illness or injury
need to care for an immediate family member or household member due to an unexpected emergency.
Under the National Employment Standards, unexpected emergencies can include natural disasters.
Disasters can also cause personal illness or injury. In both these cases, your employees may be eligible to take personal and carer’s leave.
Community service leave
Your employees also have a right to community service leave. Employees can be eligible to claim unpaid community service leave if they are a member of a recognised emergency management body and volunteer to help the community deal with a natural disaster.