Pay during inclement or severe weather and natural disasters

Employees working outdoors may be exposed to severe weather conditions. Awards and agreements can include rules about working in inclement weather or severe weather.

When there is a natural disaster, such as a bushfire or flood, other rules under the Fair Work Act may apply.

On this page, find information about pay and entitlements during inclement weather or a natural disaster.

Meaning of severe and inclement weather

Inclement weather is when it’s unsafe or unreasonable for an employee to work because of severe weather conditions. Examples include:

  • heavy rain and storms
  • extreme heat or cold
  • hail or high winds.

If you are concerned about workplace health and safety during severe weather, contact your local state or territory body for help and advice.

Working during inclement and severe weather

Employees may be directed by their employer not to attend or to stop work due to inclement and severe weather.

Some awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements include rules that deal with inclement weather.

Employers and employees need to check these documents to read the inclement weather rules. They will set out what:

  • inclement weather includes
  • employees and employers need to do when there is inclement weather
  • employees need to be paid.

Find information about inclement weather in your award by selecting from the list below:

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Can't find your award? Check our List of awards.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters can cause devastation to communities, businesses and individuals. They are more serious and widespread than severe or inclement weather. They can include:

  • bushfires
  • floods
  • cyclones.

An employee may have entitlements under their award or agreement that are relevant if they can’t attend work because of an emergency or natural disaster.

If a workplace is affected by a natural disaster, employers may need to stand their employees down without pay under the Fair Work Act. The Fair Work Act stand down provisions only apply when an employee’s enterprise agreement or employment contract doesn’t have similar stand down provisions. You can check if you’re covered by an agreement using the Fair Work Commission – Find an agreement database.

Under the Fair Work Act, employers can stand down employees without pay where they can’t be usefully employed in certain circumstances. This includes where there is a stoppage of work caused by natural disasters, such as bushfires or floods.

Employers can't stand an employee down just because the business is quiet or there isn't enough work due to bad weather. Find out more about what rules and responsibilities apply at Stand downs.

Alternatives to standing down employees during a natural disaster

Before standing down an employee under the Fair Work Act, employers should consider all other options available. These can include:

  • inviting employees to take a period of accrued paid leave (for example, annual leave)
  • requiring employees to take annual leave if their award or agreement allows it, or if the employee isn’t covered by an award or agreement (and the requirement is reasonable)
  • if there are multiple worksites and not all sites are affected, consider voluntary work sharing arrangements (for example, employees working at sites that aren’t affected by the natural disaster may offer to take paid leave while their position is temporarily filled by someone from an affected site)
  • flexible working arrangements, like working from home.

Any arrangement to change an employee’s working patterns needs to be made in accordance with the Fair Work Act and the requirements in any award or agreement that applies.

Understand stands down at work by going to Stand downs.

Employees wanting to help with disaster-relief

Employees may want to volunteer to help their community with disaster relief and recovery activities through recognised emergency management bodies. For example, the State Emergency Service (SES) or Country Fire Authority (CFA).

Find out about community service leave options available for employees at Community service leave.

Workplace health and safety

Each state and territory has a workplace health and safety authority that can give advice to workplaces experiencing severe and inclement weather. If you must work during these conditions, get advice about preventing incidents and illnesses from your local workplace health and safety body.

Help if you’re affected by a natural disaster

For advice and assistance on workplace rights and obligations like pay and leave, please contact us.

Access government support and state or territory emergency effort information at:

Anyone seeking mental health support can contact:

  • Beyond Blue helps anyone experiencing anxiety and depression at any time.
  • Lifeline provides support to anyone experiencing a personal crisis. You can call them free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere in Australia on 131 114.
  • Head to Health (by the Australian Government) service offers free online mental health resources from trusted mental health service providers.

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