Melbourne is notorious for delighting the population with all four seasons within the space of a few hours, so we know to take a sunhat and a raincoat whenever we leave the house. But as summer slowly comes to an end and autumn starts showing herself, much of Australia’s outdoor based workforce will experience the same erratic weather patterns. So it’s timely to have a look at the laws about working in storms and heat…..
Now some of us may delight in seeing Mother Nature turn it on but hail, high winds, severe dust storms and extreme cold or heat but in some industries, this can result in you not being able to send your workforce out to get the job done. Under a Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement, this is generally labelled inclement weather and can be deemed unsafe or unreasonable for your team to work because of severity of the conditions.
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs
So, if you can’t ask your employees to start or continue working if it unreasonable or unsafe to do so, what can you do? Firstly, look at whether you have work that can be continued indoors or if you have other job sites that are not being affected by the weather and then you can simply redeploy your team. Another option many of our clients use is training time. Prepare in advance with a range of brief and relevant training subjects and information on topics such as OHS, technical skills or even soft skills such as time management. When inclement hits, boom, the team come into the office or warehouse for a training session. If redeployment or training is not an option, your only choice may be to send your employees home and you will be required to pay them for a full day based on their normal hours.
To Pay or not to Pay
Inclement weather does not allow you to stand down your workforce. A natural disaster such as a floods, bushfires or cyclones allow for a stand down to occur which means you are not required to pay your people for the period they can not work. However, they can request taking a period of paid leave based on their accrued time or you can place them at another location where they can continue to work (e.g. from home or a safe and unaffected work site). It’s something that’s worth considering if it is a viable option for your business.
Award or Enterprise Agreement – do you know where to look?
So, back to Mother Nature and her vengeful ways. What actually constitutes inclement weather in your industry? That’s information that will be covered in the Award or Enterprise Agreement under which your employees are covered and given it can vary between industries are categories of employees, you need to ensure you know what your employer obligations as well as the rights and obligations of your employees.
Outside of the Award/EA, it is worth considering establishing an extreme weather policy that clearly outlines how your business will plan and respond to an extraordinary weather condition. Outside of your legislative obligations, it will ensure you and your team operate more effectively and with best practice always at the forefront.
Naturally, if you need guidance, the team at HR Staff n’ Stuff can ensure you are adhering to the correct legislation or assist in establishing a best practice policy so that you are protecting both your people and your business.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!