CYCLONE DEBBIE: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR EMPLOYEES IF YOUR BUSINESS HAS HAD TO CLOSE?

CYCLONE DEBBIE: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR EMPLOYEES IF YOUR BUSINESS HAS HAD TO CLOSE?

Many businesses in North and South East Queensland have been forced to shut their doors and send their employees home as a result of Cyclone Debbie.  This has left many business owners unsure about whether they will have to pay their employees, and if so, how the time off should be treated.

Section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the “FW Act”) allows an employer to “stand down” employees, without pay, where they cannot usefully be employed because of any stoppage of work for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible, such as a natural disaster.

Floods are considered to be a natural disaster, so generally speaking, an employer does not have to pay an employee if they were, or are being, stood down as a result of Cyclone Debbie. However, an employer may still wish to pay such employees.

We have put together a few options for employers to consider that will allow such employees to be paid:

1.  Employers can gift their employees this time off with pay;

2.  Employers can allow their employees to take a period of accrued paid leave (for example, annual leave); or

3.  If an employee had to take leave from work to care for a member of their immediate family or household due to the unexpected emergency conditions, for instance to care for children sent home from school as a result of the school closures, the employee could take this time off as carer’s leave. Such leave would be taken from the employee’s personal/carer’s leave entitlements, meaning if the employee had paid personal/carer’s leave accrued this time off will be paid. If however, they had used all of their paid personal/carer’s leave, this time off will be unpaid.

As an employer you should however also check your employees’ industrial instruments or contracts of employment to see if they contain any different stand down provisions that may apply. If they do, then the provisions of the FW Act may not apply and you may still be required to pay your employees in accordance with the terms of those instruments or contracts.

Contact the team at HR Law if you would like advice on how you should pay your employees as a result of the closure.

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