ALERT – Bushfires, Smoke Haze, Volunteers & Leave

Published November 2019

Queensland and New South Wales are currently experiencing horrendous conditions due to bushfires, with forecasts suggesting conditions are likely to continue for the remainder of the week. This alert is a reminder on how you can assist and manage your employees during this time.


Community Service Leave is unlimited unpaid leave to enable volunteers of SES, CFA, RSPCA etc to assist with emergencies like the fires currently burning in Queensland.

An employee engages in a voluntary emergency management activity and will be eligible for Community Service Leave if:

  • the activity involves dealing with an emergency or natural disaster
  • the employee engages in the activity on a voluntary basis
  • the employee was either requested to engage in an activity, or it would be reasonable to expect that such a request would have been made if circumstances had permitted
  • the employee is a member of, or has a member-like association with a recognised emergency management body (eg. SES, CFA, RSPCA)

Allow these employees to take the time they need to assist our beautiful country, and be sure to thank them for all their hard work during this difficult time!

Of course, you can also allow them to use any accrued annual leave if they so wish. Or if you’re feeling generous, you can continue to pay them if you like.


For those with employees working outside or frequently changing between indoors and outdoors, stop and think about whether there’s other work these employees can do that minimises their exposure to the smoke and haze. I am confident clients will understand if meetings or projects need to be rescheduled.

If you are aware of any employees with existing lung or respiratory conditions (or anything else that could be impacted by smoke and haze), be sure to consult with them on how their condition should be managed.


Your Award, EA or employment agreement may also have a severe weather or stand down provision that will guide you on how to send your employees home if it is unsafe or not viable for work to continue. Typically stand downs are unpaid, but check your specific Award, EA or employment agreement first.

Stay safe and look out for your mates.


#edwardshr #community #qldbushfires #nswbushfires

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