Here's some handy advice from the SDA - Newcastle and Northern Branch about your rights when extreme weather hits. Check out their website for more.

http://www.sdan.org.au/our-union/news/staying-safe-storm

STAYING SAFE IN THE STORM

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Assistant Secretary, David Bliss, explains your rights at work today.

 

It’s wild out there today! So don’t let it get wild in your workplace too. Find out your rights when you can’t get to work today because of the storm or find out what happens if your workplace is affected by storm damage.

Wind gusts equivalent to a Category 2 cyclone and heavy rain have hit the Newcastle, Hunter Valley and Central Coast region overnight and many members have contacted the Union this morning to find out their rights in this difficult situation.

 

PAID AND UNPAID PERSONAL LEAVE

Widespread school closures have been announced which means many employees won’t be attending work because you have caring responsibilities for members of your immediate family or other members of your household.

Award covered permanent workers are entitled to paid time off in accordance with the National Employment Standards:

Section 97 of the Fair Work Act 2009 provides:

Taking paid personal/carer’s leave

“An employee may take paid personal/carer’s leave if the leave is taken: …

(b)          to provide care or support to a member of the employee’s immediate family, or a member of the employee’s household, who requires care or support because of: …

(ii)           an unexpected emergency affecting the member.”

And if you are an Award covered casual (or a permanent worker who has used all their accrued paid personal leave), you are entitled to unpaid time off in accordance with the National Employment Standards:

Section 102 of the Fair Work Act 2009 provides:

Entitlement to unpaid carer’s leave

“An employee is entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave for each occasion (a permissible occasion) when a member of the employee’s immediate family, or a member of the employee’s household, requires care or support because of: …

(b) an unexpected emergency affecting the member.”

Employees covered by Enterprise Agreements are entitled to no less than the above minimum standards and some Agreements provide for more generous entitlements. Please check your Enterprise Agreement or contact your workplace Delegate or the Branch office for more details.

 

OTHER LEAVE

There will also be many employees who unfortunately cannot attend work today because roads are cut off, local flooding, storm damage to your home or premises and/or generally unsafe driving conditions.

As at 9:42am this morning the message from emergency services in the local region was:

“The message is still clear - avoid driving or travelling unless absolutely necessary.”http://www.theherald.com.au/story/3024770/live-blog-wild-weather-lashes-the-hunter-live-blog/?cs=303

There is no specific leave entitlement for Award covered workers under the National Employment Standards which covers this specific situation but the Union would encourage you to speak to your employer about paid time off (consistent with other workers with caring responsibilities), or accessing other leave, e.g. accrued annual leave, days in lieu etc., or unpaid leave.

If your employer declines to work with you to find a suitable outcome, please contact your workplace Delegate or the Branch office for further advice.

Many Enterprise Agreements negotiated by the SDA provide for paid leave in these situations. These clauses are commonly described as Natural Disaster Leave and, subject to meeting the relevant criteria, these clauses provide for paid leave and/or access to other accrued leave entitlements.

It is important that you check your Enterprise Agreement or contact your workplace Delegate or the Branch office for more details.

 

COMMUNITY SERVICE LEAVE / EMERGENCY SERVICE LEAVE

Please note however that if you are an Award covered worker engaged in a voluntary emergency management activity (e.g. SES) today to assist in emergency relief then unpaid leave under the National Employment Standards may apply in accordance with those provisions.

Employees covered by Enterprise Agreements are entitled to no less than the above minimum standards and some Agreements provide for more generous entitlements, e.g. paid leave. Please check your Enterprise Agreement or contact your workplace Delegate or the Branch office for more details.

 

STORM DAMAGE TO WORKPLACE AND ELECTRICITY BLACKOUTS

Some other employees will report to work today and discover that their workplace has suffered storm related damage or there is no power due to a blackout. Damage or a blackout may also occur during your shift.  And keep in mind that for some employees their workplace is on the road, which has been decidedly hazardous today.

The first priority must be your personal safety.

No work should be performed if it poses a risk to your health and safety.

Under NSW health and safety laws your employer has a primary duty of care to ensure workers and others are not exposed to a risk to their health and safety.

If no suitable work is available for you to perform, your employer must continue to pay you in accordance with your contract of employment.

Your employer, however, may be entitled to exercise stand down rights under federal legislation or the relevant Enterprise Agreement.  Those rights can only be exercised in accordance with the provision(s) and the Union considers them to be rights of last resort.

The Union encourages you to work with your employer to complete a comprehensive risk assessment before any work is performed.  Work on the premises or in your workplace should only proceed in accordance with the risk assessment.

If you disagree with the assessment and genuinely believe that the location or type of work you have been directed to perform is unsafe due to the weather or damage, please contact your workplace Delegate or the Branch office immediately to discuss your situation.

 

STAY SAFE

The Union’s primary concern on a day like today is your safety and welfare.

Please stay safe, dry (if possible) and don’t hesitate to give us a call if you need advice.

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