These minimum standards can be improved through state or business agreements and other agreements implemented by private sector employers. In addition, some enterprise agreements may, at the employer`s discretion, use additional paid or unpaid leave. It seems that this is a necessary step to ensure that all members of the community bear the bruising of the bushfire season, which starts earlier and lasts longer than previous years. On December 29, a new federal system followed, whereby NSW volunteers who are self-employed or who work for a small and medium-sized business can claim up to $300 a day for a shortfall – with a total cap of $6,000. Other states may adhere to this scheme. Queensland has already done so. On the other hand, under the Fair Work Act, contractors have the right to hire without pay if work is to be interrupted due to circumstances that are not controlled by the employer, such as the effects of bushfires. These volunteers have minimal rights under the Fair Work Act – they are only allowed to work for a « reasonable » period of time to participate in this type of community service, including appropriate travel time and appropriate rest time after the activity. This is unpaid leave and the length of time an employer allows it is an issue that must be negotiated between the employer and the employee. The Prime Minister also stated that the government « expects [the] largest companies to give their employees 20 days off for emergency services, » although they are still not required to do so and business practices are different. Get in touch with your rural firefighter delegates These federal announcements were followed by information that some volunteer firefighters took advantage of their annual leave to continue to provide emergency assistance.
The main employment problem arising from this national disaster is the position of volunteers, such as firefighters at the NSW Rural Fire Service or Victoria`s Country Fire Authority. Premier Scott Morrison announced on Christmas Eve that volunteer firefighters, who are employed by the federal government, would receive four weeks of paid leave, in addition to any other claims they may have. The bushfire crisis in Australia has highlighted several restrictions in our labour relations, which provide insufficient support to directly affected workers or support to emergency services as volunteers. Australia`s bushfire crisis has shown the limits of our industrial relations laws. Credit: James Brickwood The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) is the world`s largest volunteer firefighter. Staff and volunteers provide fire and rescue services for approximately 95% of NSW. According to our EBA, RMIT University staff are entitled to paid leave for the duration of extinguishment operations or other emergency response. Prime Minister Scott Morrison to meet with NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers in the Blue Mountains on December 23.Credit:Wolter Peeters Some union leaders, such as Godfrey Moase of the Workers` Union, have therefore called for the Fair Labour Act to be amended to ensure that all workers are entitled to paid service leave under national employment standards.