Queensland and New South Wales floods
Published 28 February 2022 | Updated 4 March 2022
Many workplaces and individuals are currently affected by the flooding across Queensland and New South Wales.
There are several workplace rights and entitlements for employers and employees affected by natural disasters or seeking to access leave, and different places you can get help.
On this page:
We will continue to update the information on our website as needed.
There are several paid and unpaid leave entitlements employees may be able to access if they are affected by the floods or to assist with emergency management activities. These include:
Minimum entitlements to annual leave, sick and carer’s leave and community service leave come from the National Employment Standards (NES). Awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements can't offer less than the minimums in the NES but they can provide more.
Annual leave can be taken at any time an employer and employee agree. An employer can only refuse a request for annual leave if the refusal is reasonable.
In some cases, an employer may be able to direct an employee to take annual leave - these rules are set out in awards and registered agreements.
For more information about taking annual leave and directing an employee to take leave, see Annual leave.
Employees (other than casual employees) affected by a natural disaster or emergency may be entitled to take paid sick and carer’s leave.
An employee can take paid sick leave when they can't work because of a personal illness or injury.
For example, an employee injured during a flood may be entitled to sick leave.
Example: Taking sick leave during a flood
Shannon, an engineer, injured her foot in the floodwaters. She can’t work until her foot heals. She takes sick leave to cover this period.
When her employer asked her for evidence, she provided them with a medical certificate from her doctor.
An employee can take paid carer's leave to care for or support a member of their immediate family or household who is sick, injured or has an unexpected emergency. For example, an employee may be able to take carer’s leave if their child’s school closes unexpectedly due to a flood.
Full-time and part-time employees who have used all of their paid sick and carer’s leave, and casual employees, are entitled to 2 days unpaid carer's leave per occasion to provide care and support to a family or household member due to illness, injury or in the event of an unexpected emergency.
An employee has to let their employer know that they are taking sick or carer’s leave and they may need to provide evidence.
Find out more about:
- Paid sick and carer's leave
- Payment for sick and carer's leave
- Unpaid carer's leave
- Notice and medical certificates.
All employees, including casuals, are entitled to take community service leave for certain voluntary emergency management activities if what they are doing fits the definition of a voluntary emergency management activity. This leave applies to the activity and reasonable travel and rest time.
Community service leave is unpaid.
There is no limit on the amount of community service leave an employee can take.
For more information, including what counts as voluntary emergency management activities and how employees can access the leave entitlement, see Community service leave.
Example: Taking community service leave to help with the floods
Shona is a registered volunteer for the Queensland State Emergency Service (SES) and has been requested to volunteer for one week in response to a flood. Shona would like to help but wants to know whether she can take time off work and whether she’s entitled to any income.
Because the SES is a recognised emergency management body, and Shona is a volunteer engaged in SES emergency management activity during a natural disaster or emergency, she is entitled to unpaid community service leave.
Shona emails her employer, Eva, telling her that she will be taking community service leave and expects to be back in 7 days. After further discussion, Eva asks Shona to provide her with a letter from the SES for evidence of the reason for her absence. Shona does this and takes leave to assist with the flood recovery.
Defence Reservists may be called to help with the floods. In addition to the NES and any entitlements under an award or agreement, Defence Reservists have rights and protections under the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 when they are absent from work on defence service leave. This includes the right to be released from work while undertaking defence service and to continue to be employed on their return.
For more information, read our fact sheet on Defence reservists - rights and responsibilities at work.
Floods may affect whether some workplaces can stay open.
If a business can’t open or needs to temporarily close, employers may be able to stand down an employee in some circumstances. This includes when an employee can't do useful work because of:
- equipment breakdown if the employer isn't responsible for it
- stoppage of work for which the employer can't be held responsible, including severe and inclement weather or natural disasters (such as floods).
During a stand down period, an employee:
- doesn't need to be paid
- accrues leave in the usual way.
Some awards, agreements and contracts have extra rules about when an employer can stand down an employee without pay.
For more information, see Pay during severe weather and stand down.
If you have one, check your agreement or workplace contract for further information.
Example: Stand down and annual leave when a business can’t operate
Anthony’s cafe has been damaged by a flood and can’t open.
Anthony’s not sure what to do about paying his 3 employees. He finds that the award covering his cafe doesn’t talk about businesses shutting down due to natural disasters. This means the Fair Work Act 2009 allows Anthony to stand down his employees with or without pay since he can’t be held responsible for the flood and there’s no useful work for them to do.
Anthony would like to make sure his employees are still paid during the stand down, so he checks their current leave entitlements. He finds that all of them have annual leave available.
Anthony contacts each one to tell them the business can’t remain open because of the floods and he can’t provide them with useful employment at this stage. He also tells them that the Fair Work Act allows him to stand them down without pay until the business can re-open. As an alternative, he gives them the option of using their paid leave entitlements. Anthony makes it clear there’s no obligation to take this leave.
Two employees choose to take paid leave, and one decides to hold on to their leave for a future holiday.
Anthony emails his employees to confirm the arrangements they discussed and gives them his contact details. He advises the employees that he will be in regular contact throughout the closure period and notify them when the business is up and running again.
Some work sites may currently be unsafe due to the floods.
For information about health and safety in the workplace, please contact your state or territory workplace health and safety authority:
Some employers and employees may wish to negotiate ways to make their workplace more flexible to help navigate the challenges of the floods. For example, employers and employees can discuss changing what hours they work and where they perform their work.
To find out about the formal ways employers and employees can make their workplace more flexible, see Flexibility in the workplace.
Example: Working from home
Vijay runs an accountancy business in a town surrounded by floodwaters. One of his employees, Sandra, lives out of town and road closures mean she can’t get into work. Sandra would prefer to keep working instead of taking leave, so she talks to Vijay about her options. Vijay agrees to flexible working arrangements and tells Sandra she can work from home until the roads re-open.
In case of an emergency, call 000.
Visit Current ABC Emergency Coverage page for alerts and warnings summaries.
For information on current floods and warnings, please visit:
If you have been affected by the floods and need financial or welfare support or assistance, please visit:
- Australian Government Disaster Assist – financial assistance for individuals.
- Services Australia – support for people directly affected by floods in disaster declared areas
- Disaster Health Care Assistance Scheme – for help with health-related out of pocket expenses resulting from a natural disaster
- Lifeline or call 13 11 14.