Attention is drawn to the following immediate matters which may require consideration as a consequence of the flood depending on personal and business circumstances:
The National Employment Standards (“NES”), applicable industrial instruments, contracts of employment and employer policies will need to be considered to determine which best governs leave entitlements; including compassionate leave, carers’ leave and community service leave (NES). Many administrative and paralegal staff will be governed by the Legal Services Award 2010. For those who are members of the Queensland Law Society, I draw your attention to their Guide.
In the event the industrial instrument or employment contract does not make provision to stand down employees, a national system employer may invoke s. 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), which provides for closure of a workplace for reasons the employer cannot be held responsible for.
It may be possible to work from home subject to establishing the environment is safe and secure and the appropriate risk assessments are conducted. Otherwise, it may be appropriate to redeploy employees to alternative business premises, subject to the work to be performed and duties involved. Consideration should be given to the applicable industrial instrument, employment contract and the need for additional employment benefits.
Employment Assistance Programs (“EAP”)
Many employers have EAP’s in place which can be utilised for the emotional and psychological well being of their employees in these circumstances. If such a program is not in place, consideration should be given to a local provider or for referrals see: http://www.eapaa.org.au/
Employment related injuries
Many employees will be engaged in work which has the potential to cause injuries either physically or psychologically. Employers are reminded of their non-delegable duty of care to employees and the need to assess the risks being faced to employees and to address them, including exposure to electricity: www.justice.qld.gov.au/fair-and-safe-work/floods-electrical-and-workplace-safety. Many work environments and the travel required to be performed by employees has substantially changed. It will be necessary to minimise these risks and where possible eliminate them, together with regular reviews and monitoring. I refer you the Queensland Health site and their fact sheets.
A number of benefits are available to both employers and employees. Centrelink’s hotline is: 180 22 66.
Some business will not continue and close or be forced into administration, liquidation or receivership. In such circumstances, employers will have no alternative to consider their obligations under the applicable industrial instrument, contract of employment and Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
This is not intended as providing specific advice and simply touches on some more immediate issues and does not address all employment issues.
Brisbane Barrister – David Cormack