Leave entitlements during natural disasters

There is presently no specific universal form of leave to allow employees to be absent from work due to the impact of a natural disaster.

If you are affected by a natural disaster, you can apply for annual leave, long service leave or other leave that is available to you.

You may also be able to apply for personal leave (also known as sick leave/carer’s leave) under the National Employment Standards (NES) in some circumstances – for instance where you have to provide care or support to an immediate family or household member due to illness or in the event of an unexpected emergency.  This could include, for example, leave to care for children if a school is closed due to a natural disaster/emergency.  

An additional two days of unpaid personal leave is also available in this situation if all paid leave has been used.

Community Service Leave

Voluntary firefighters and other emergency services volunteers can generally access “Community Service Leave” pursuant to the National Employment Standards (NES).

The duration of leave is not specified by the Fair Work Act, however an absence that is reasonable in all the circumstances is permitted to allow an employee to engage in emergency management activities, including associated travel and rest time.

Community Services Leave under the NES leave is unpaid. However, some workplaces may have enterprise agreements or other arrangements to provide paid leave in these or similar circumstances.

Government Support

Federal, state and local governments may provide different types of support for communities affected by natural disasters.

Local government may assist in the provision of refuge and recovery centres as well as provide exemptions from fees and charges in some circumstances. State government schemes provide a range of support for affected communities, business and individuals, but are generally targeted toward property damage and immediate recovery needs (e.g. temporary accommodation and food). In many circumstances support is provided through or in partnership with the Federal Government.

Details of the Federal Government schemes in operation from time to time may be found here and here.

The range of income assistance available in respect of any particular disaster may include:

  • A Disaster Recovery Payment for up to $1,000 if you have been seriously affected (for example you are injured or your home is damaged);
  • A Disaster Recovery Allowance equal to the JobKeeper payment for up to 13 weeks if you have lost income as direct result of the disaster; and
  • An Additional Chid Care Subsidy allowing you to access up to 100 hours of subsidised childcare per fortnight for up to 13 weeks.

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