Bushfires: What Employment Conditions Apply?


16 Dec, 2019

Right now it appears as if half of Australia is on fire or covered in choking smoke. It can be challenging finding out what entitlements should be paid to employees and volunteer firefighters.

Here is a quick list of resources:

Fair Work Australia – Fact Sheet on Employment Conditions During Natural Disasters and Emergencies.

This is a great resource and covers:

  • What you need to know if you need to have to close your business temporarily.
  • What are your options instead of standing down employees?
  • Leave options for your employees caring for themselves, their properties and their families.
  • Community Service Leave (e.g. volunteer firefighters, SES, volunteer RSPCA)

Fair Work Australia – Defence Reservists

This resource covers off the entitlements of defence reservists called to assist fighting the fires and the recovery efforts.

SafeWork NSW – Bushfire Smoke

This resource covers how to reduce the WHS risks for your employees who are impacted by bushfire smoke.

SafeWork NSW – Property Hazards Following Bushfires

If your business has been burned during bushfires, there are many WHS risks you need to be aware of for you and your employees. This resource covers some of the potential risks and ways to mitigate the risks.

Disaster Assist

A central government portal with information about managing and recovering from natural disasters.



Some other ways you can help your employees affected by bushfires

  • Not insisting an employee turn up for work if their travel access is limited or cut off by fires, or likely to be cut off. Safety is more important than anything else!
  • Allowing employees to leave work early if it is likely that they won’t be able to get home because of fires.
  • Being flexible in terms of granting leave – understanding that medical certificates may be hard to come by in fire-affected areas due to many doctors surgeries being closed.
  • Granting paid special leave over and above regular leave entitlements on an ex-gratia (one-off) basis for people directly affected or volunteering.
  • Helping employees to work from home or other safe location where possible.
  • Granting advances on pay.
  • Providing Employee Assistance Counselling services to all employees who may be directly or indirectly affected by the fires. Mental health issues often start to appear weeks after the initial trauma event and during recovery.
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Ingrid: Lead Author, Australian Employee Manual

HR Author and Lecturer with over 25 years' experience in human resources and workplace relations in Australia. Lead Author of Instant HR Policies & Procedures, NDIS Direct Employment HR Manual, and Employee Performance Reviews: Tips, Templates and Tactics.

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