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Urgent & Important - QTA Industrial Relations Advice - Natural Disasters & Employee Entitlements

27 Mar 2017 10:36 AM | Administration (Administrator)

URGENT & IMPORTANT - QTA Ltd Industrial Relations Alert

QTA Members/Industry Colleagues with the imminent threat of Cyclone Debbie off the Queensland Coastline, we provide the following article in relation to Natural Disasters and Employee Entitlements.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact QTA’s Employment Relations Manager, Travis Degen on 07 33494 4388 or email

For QTA Ltd members in the potential impact zone of Cyclone Debbie, please take care and be safe.

Natural Disasters and Employee Entitlements e.g. Flood, Cyclone, Fire

If an employer is unable to continue operating the business as a result of a natural disaster, they will need to determine employee entitlements during the closure.  This may include offering the choice of taking accrued paid leave, or in some cases, standing employees down.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides a default right for an employer to stand down employees for a certain period. The effect of standing down an employee is that the employer is not required to make payments to the employee for that period. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) right to stand down arises when an employee cannot usefully be employed during a period of time because of a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible (for example a flash flood which prevents employees from entering their work premises).

An employer can only exercise a Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) right to stand down an employee if they cannot be usefully employed. If an employer could obtain some benefit or value from work performed by an employee then the employer will not be able to stand down that employee.

Where an employee is physically ‘cut off’ from attending work or they are required to care for themselves or family members, it’s desirable they remain (where they can) in constant communication with their employer.  It is from these discussions the employee and employer can decided upon how the absence will be treated, for example through the use of accrued paid leave and when the employee can safely return to work.

Where a long distance driver is already ‘on duty’ and delayed because of an impassable highway the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award provides an employee must be paid for all time up to a maximum of eight hours in any period of 24 hours, at the rate weekly base rate (i.e not hourly driving rate). The employee must take all reasonable steps to minimise the period of delay.

Employees that are members recognised volunteer community disaster relief organisations, such as the State Emergency Services are entitled under the National Employment Standards (NES) in the Fair Work Act to take a period of unpaid leave for the purpose of undertaking community volunteer activities associated with natural disaster.

Under the NES, the duration of community service leave is not defined, however it must be reasonable having regard to:

  • a)     the time the employee is engaged in the activity;
  • b)    reasonable travel time associated with the activity; and
  • c)     reasonable test time following the activity.

Employees wanting to take a period of community service leave must provide their employer with notice as soon as practicable and if required provide suitable evidence they are a member of a recognised volunteering body and been activated for the emergency or natural disaster.

Members should be aware that this can be a complex area of Law and before taking any decisions they should seek the advice of Travis Degen, our Employment Relations Manager on or phone 3394 4388.

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