Published: 19/01/2023
Category: Work Health and Safety
Published: 19/01/2023
Category: Work Health and Safety

If you have been impacted by the recent floods in South Australia or Western Australia, or the heavy rain in Queensland, this information will help you plan your next steps.  

This article will cover safety during extreme weather, your leave entitlements, and government support available.

Prepare and protect

Extreme weather or not, employers are legally obliged to protect your health and safety at work.  

Before disaster does strike, your employer should be monitoring for severe weather risks and putting plans in place to protect you and your workmates.

For flood disasters, plans need to include evacuation protocols and safe clean up arrangements.  

Clean-up operations can be dangerous if not navigated properly. Whether it’s structurally unsound buildings or exposure to sewage, your employer must provide protection from these hazards.

Working on flood clean up? Make sure you have the proper PPE.

Floods and heavy rains will also impact your usual work commute. With roads washed over or crumbling away as they have been in Queensland, you won’t be able to get into work. Your employer should have plans in place to deal with that situation.  

But if there aren’t any plans set up, chat to your workmates about it to find out their concerns.  

When you have any worries about your health and safety at work, it’s important to have those conversations and talk to your Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) about what to do next. 

When it comes to something like extreme weather events, you are bound to be facing similar problems and it will help to figure out together what will work best for everyone.

Don’t have a Health and Safety Representative?

The purpose of HSRs is to represent you and your colleagues in health and safety matters. And that’s not just physical health – it’s to take care of your mental health too.  

You and your workmates elect one (or more) of you to become a HSR which comes with specific legal powers – check with your union what these are because they do vary depending on the state or territory laws.  

Not to be confused with safety officers who are chosen by your employer, HSRs put workers first. They act for you and your coworkers’ best interests. 

To get the process of electing HSRs jump started, contact your union for support. If you’re not a member, it’s all the more reason to join today.

What leave you can take during a natural disaster and for how long

Currently, there is no universal form of leave that enables you to be absent from work due to natural disasters. However, there are alternative paths for taking leave:  

  • You may have leave entitlements under your Award or enterprise agreement
  • State or territory workplace health and safety laws also provide a general duty of care that employers must consider. 
  • You can also apply for annual leave, long service leave and personal (sick/carer’s) leave if you have to care for an immediate family or household member. Eg. If a family member is suffering from heat-related illness. 
  • You can also access an additional two days of unpaid leave if required. 

Government support in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland

There is government financial support available to those impacted by floods in SA or WA or by the severe rains in QLD.  

Some brief information on these payments and allowances are provided below. For full details, check out the Services Australia website.

For those affected by the South Australian Floods that started in November 2022, there you may be eligible for financial support from the Commonwealth Government and/or the South Australian Government.  

The Disaster Recovery Allowance can be claimed if you’ve lost incomes due to the floods and are in one of the Local Government Areas listed on the Services Australia website.  

The River Murray flood financial assistance supports you with emergency accommodation, one-off grants, travel cost relief and free legal help. Find out the full details on the South Australian Government website.

For those affected by Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie (which led to the Kimberley floods) in the Derby West Kimberley Local Government Area, you may be entitled to a lump sum payment from the Commonwealth Government.  

Find out if you’re eligible and how to claim the payment on the Services Australia website. 

There is not a specific payment or allowance for those impacted by the severe rains in Queensland. However, you might be eligible for the Commonwealth Government’s Crisis Payment. 

The Crisis Payment is for when you’ve had to change where you live due extreme circumstances, including a natural disaster. Find out if you are eligible for the Crisis Payment on the Services Australia website.

Cover photo credit: Wes Warren on Unsplash

Work rights and support during floods and heavy rains

Work rights and support during floods and heavy rains