Floods, cyclones, bushfires and employer obligations

Natural disasters can come in many forms in Australia and have various impacts on businesses. Whether businesses have to shut down, employees are unable to get to the workplace, or a product/service cannot be provided, employers will have to react in a suitable way, taking all factors into account. In times of natural disaster, stress can be high among both employers and employees which can add pressure to employers when making decisions on standing or shutting down. Being careful in your response is key, here are some things to consider when making your decision. 


Most employers will already be aware of the need for flexibility during the crisis and its aftermath in relation to supporting employees during the clean up, difficulties they may face in attending work, providing time off for participation in any emergency services duties, etc. This is of course in the context of their business being able to re-open as quickly as possible and to resume normal business operations.

Flexibilities could include –

  • Providing paid annual leave (or long service where appropriate) for weekly employees rather than standing them down without pay where stores cannot open due to the flood situation.
  • Accommodating employee requests where they are unable to attend for usual shifts due to transport issues or the need to attend to their own urgent personal circumstances.

Legislated employment obligations

Some of the minimum obligations of employers include –

  • Community Service Leave – all employers are obliged to provide unpaid leave for those employees engaged in reasonable emergency services activities as part of a recognised body such as the SES, Red Cross, Army Reserve etc.
  • Carers Leave – providing unpaid carers leave for casuals, and paid leave for any full and part-time staff members, required to provide care or support to family or household members due to the flood emergency. Some awards provide that the right to unpaid leave also extends beyond family and household to other people generally for whom the employee is required to care, for example, neighbours.
  • Compassionate Leave – up to 2 days leave (paid for non-casuals) where members of the employee’s immediate family or household are seriously injured or die.


The Fair Work Act also provides for standing-down without pay for weekly (i.e. non-casual) employees unable to be usefully employed due to the flood situation. Whilst these provisions would be unlikely to be necessary in all but the rarest situations, employers who may be affected should contact ER Strategies on 1300 55 66 37 for specific advice.

Centrelink and other government assistance

Federal Government Assistance for flooding and severe weather victims is available via Centrelink. Employees can call 180 22 66 for assistance, or visit http://www.centrelink.gov.au.

Need assistance?

Natural disasters can throw your business into a bit of chaos and can create a lot of stress. Having someone else manage some of the more challenging elements of running a business can really alleviate some of the pressure you are facing. If you are needing assistance give us a call on 1300 55 66 37, or click the button below to contact us.

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Need to let an employee go? Use our letter of termination template to ensure you are using the correct format. 

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