Published: 15/07/2022
Category: On The Job
Published: 15/07/2022
Category: On The Job

As floods pummelled Brisbane and the New South Wales north coast in 2022, workers and their families felt the familiar dread for what lay ahead of them.

Once again they were facing the heartbreaking destruction of their homes and communities as flood waters inundated their towns and cities. They steeled themselves for the laborious, dirty and exhausting clean up that lay ahead of them.

On top of all of that, they contended with the prospect that their jobs had been washed away in the floods as well.

How were they going to be able pay the bills and put food on the table if there was no job to go to? Where would they find the money to re-house themselves without any work? And how on earth would they ever be able to afford to rebuild their lives if the jobs they once relied upon had disappeared due to the impact of climate change?

Climate change is here, and it’s now revealing the full array of its destructive power. That means it is going to be a huge disruptive force in the working lives of millions of Australian workers.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) is Australia’s largest youth-run organisation, and its mission is to build a movement of young people leading solutions to the climate crisis.

Introducing climate disaster leave

After an agreement with their employer that saw the climate disaster leave entitlement provided on a year-to-year basis, AYCC union members are looking to have a climate disaster leave provision enshrined in their latest enterprise agreement.

Part of the motion that passed in support of the leave provision explains why it is seen as fundamental to workplaces in a world experiencing climate change:

A Climate Disaster Leave policy, similar to Community Service Leave, allowing AYCC employees to take paid leave to protect our communities from climate disasters, and to help them recover – including but not limited to bushfire, flood, heavy storms, and cyclones.

When people say they need to help their communities in the face of climate disasters, we want our organisation to say, “What can we do to help?” What that person’s care for their community looks like, and what community means to them should be determined by them, with the approval of their manager. We trust our peers and our shared dedication to our mission – and we know we’d ask for this time only when we and the people we care for need it most.

The proposed leave provision is designed to ensure workers are fully resourced when climate disaster strikes and includes:

  • For full time Employees: 5 days of paid Climate Disaster leave per calendar year.
  • For part-time Employees: Pro rata entitlement with 1 day of paid Climate Disaster leave per the number of days that the staff member ordinarily works per week.
  • Any Employee in these circumstances will have flexibility to work remotely, in consultation with their manager (for example: the ability to work from home during an experience of smoke pollution as long as required; the ability to work from a regional area for 3 weeks while supporting family).

A leave entitlement for a changing world of work

AYCC National Director Alex Fuller told On the Job that climate change leave reflects the real challenges people are facing in their working lives.

We know that the reality is extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more extreme as a result of climate change. Alongside the direct provision of leave, something that we do as well is provide additional support and flexibility for staff who are impacted by these kinds of disasters.

Alex Fuller
AYCC National Director

Alex Fuller  -  AYCC National Director

“We recognise that work isn’t isn’t the only thing going on for people in their lives. As an organisation that puts a lot of value on collective action, giving back to the community, looking out for other people, we want to make sure that our team members have the ability to do that in their own communities and for their own families and friends, in times of crisis,” Fuller said.

The AYCC is leading the way in recognising the impact of climate change on workers. It’s an example of how collective action through union organising is more relevant now than ever before.

Step up to take real climate action in your workplace

Young workers lead the way on climate change leave

Young workers lead the way on climate change leave