Bushfires impact workplaces too

18 January, 2017

News of bushfires is rife over summer and can have a devastating impact if it brings your business to a grinding halt.

With January in full swing, we’re well and truly into bushfire season, but what happens when workers have to down tools and businesses are impacted by the destruction of buildings?

If access to a business is cut off due to a bushfire, are companies still obliged to continue to pay staff?

An employer is obliged to continue to pay employees, even if there is no work available. In some situations, however, it may be possible to ‘stand down’ employees without pay. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) identifies certain circumstances where a stand down may be applied, including where:

  1. It is a stoppage of work for any cause for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible; and
  2. The employee cannot usefully be employed because of this reason.

In the context of a bushfire, if access to your business is prevented or if the effects of a total fire ban prevents normal business operations it may be considered such stoppage of work.

During a period of stand down, an employee’s continuity of service cannot be broken and the stand down counts towards service for all purposes (i.e. accrual of annual leave).

It is important to check any applicable contract of employment, award or agreement in case there are any differing entitlements.

If there is mutual agreement for an employee to access accrued annual leave during this period, it would no longer be considered a stand down.

► For further information and advice about stand downs, contact CCI’s Employee Relations Advice Centre today on 9365 7660 or advice@cciwa.com