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Industrial Relations Report By Alan Hollway

 

Severe Weather Conditions:

 

As everybody in Tasmania knows, the weather conditions can not only be cold in winter but also sometimes dangerous and this is what we are experiencing right now, severe weather with potential risk to people and businesses.

The mere act of getting to work could be fraught with danger and sometimes roads can be blocked due to water or debris. Nobody wants people to risk their lives in such conditions.

The best way to avoid disaster is to tune into emergency services and police to discuss and be updated about not only weather conditions but also road conditions. With high winds and floods, many roads can become impassable and drivers caught in flash floods can often perish.

Which comes to an employment question what to do about employees affected by such weather. The many factors which have to be included and given regard to include:-

 

  1. Safe Work Tasmania – Is the work capable of being performed safely. This includes the act of getting to work, and returning home. Employers are reminded that whilst journey to work is not included as paid working time, it still is regarded as being covered by workers compensation.

In addition, if the worker arrives at the business, and floods occur which put employees in danger, then there is a risk that the employer could be prosecuted.

 

  1. Can workers pay be suspended during such periods?

The answer is yes if employees are paid under Awards. The FWC through the FW ACT provides for circumstances which is beyond the control of the employer. This includes industrial action, break down of machinery or things out of the control of the employer which causes work to be suspended.

The exceptions to this rule are where employees are engaged under an  Enteprise Agreement or Contract of Employment.

  1. Contracts of Employment

Due you have any provisions in the contracts to stand employees down? If there are no stand down provisions in your contracts then it makes it more difficult. Award paid employees can be stood down but where you have people above award on salaries or contract, then they cannot be stood down.

  1. Enterprise Agreements

If a business has an enterprise agreement or Individual flexibility agreement, and there is no reference to a standown provision, then employees cannot be stood down.

SUMMARY

People’s lives are worth more than money, if it is risky for workers to come to work, employers should encourage their employees to stay home. The employer should endeavour to pay the employee if they have annual leave or carers leave available to them. Remember an employee is permitted to claim carers leave in such situations where family is at home in potentially dangerous situations.

If the mere act of not paying an employee is sufficient to force and employee to come to  work, then an unsafe situation is being created to which the employer could be liable. I do not encourage this.

The employer business or venues are much better off to manage the situation. Either by standing those eligible employees down or by offering payment through leave facilities.

Consult with your staff and make your plans ahead of time if possible and establish a policy that is clear for all employees.

Best wishes

Alan Hollway

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