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    What entitlements apply to employees who volunteer to assist the community?


    Employers and employees should be aware of what entitlements apply to employees who volunteer to assist the community with disaster relief activities.

    S109 of the Fair Work Act entitles an employee who is a member of a ‘recognised emergency management body’ to take a period of unpaid leave for the purpose of engaging in an eligible ‘community service activity’, such as dealing with a natural disaster.

    The Fair Work Act refers to a ‘recognised emergency management body’ as meaning:

    • a body that has a role or function under a designated disaster plan
    • fire-fighting, civil defence or rescue body
    • any other body — a substantial purpose of which involves securing the safety of persons or animals in an emergency or natural disaster, protecting property in an emergency or natural disaster, otherwise responding to an emergency or natural disaster.

    This provides that an employee carries out a voluntary emergency management activity if:

    • the employee carries out an activity that involves dealing with an emergency or natural disaster
    • the employee carries out the activity on a voluntary basis (whether or not the employee is directly or indirectly receives an honorarium, gratuity or similar payment for the activity)
    • the employee is a member of, or has a member-like association with, a recognised emergency management body
    • and either:
    o the employee was requested by or on behalf of the body to carry out the activity, or
    o no such request was made, but it would be reasonable to expect that, if the circumstances had permitted the making of such a request, it is likely that such a request would have been made.
    Activities forming part of leave

    Community service leave allows the employee to be absent if the period of absence is reasonable in all the circumstances and consists of one or more of the following:

    • time when the employee engages in the activity,
    • reasonable travelling time associated with the activity
    • reasonable rest time immediately following the activity.

    Notice and evidence:

    An employee must give his or her employer notice before taking community service leave.

    The notice must be given as soon as practicable (which may be a time after the absence has started) and must advise the employer of the period, or expected period, of the absence.

    If the employer requires it, the employee must provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the absence is because the employee has been or will be engaging in an eligible community service activity.

    Reasonable travel and rest time:

    A reminder that occupational health and safety laws provide for a general duty of care toward employees and an adequate period for rest before recommencing work should be considered.

    If you require further information contact Savvy HR. Provided as general guidance only and is not to be construed by the reader as legal advice or as a recommendation to take a particular course of action in the conduct of their business or personal affairs.

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