News Article

latest news in employment law

Emergency closures. Who pays?

Published 01 Mar 2018

Generally, wages are payable if employees are ready, willing and able to work. However, what happens in the situation of natural disasters such as the recent ex-tropical cyclone Gita causing businesses to close their doors due to flooding and safety reasons?

When natural disasters strike, your workplace may become unsafe for operation. Local authorities may also instruct a business to cease operation in these circumstances. In these instances, generally the Employer is liable for the hours which would have been worked for the first day of business closure as a minimum. After which there are other options available.

The first thing to do is check your Employment Agreements or Company policies on this. If anything else is in place or has been agreed to it must be followed. If your policies and Agreements are silent then it is up to both parties to consult in good faith and agree what the time away from work will be classed as. Options include alternative duties, work at other unaffected sites, working from home, annual holidays;accrued or in advance or unpaid leave.

Employees can also be required to take annual holidays, although 14 days' notice must be given, but only from annual leave already accrued. If your employee refuses to take annual holidays with less than 14 days' notice you cannot force them.

Under the Health & Safety at Work 2015 a worker has the right to stop or refuse work if they think that the task poses a serious risk to  the health or safety of themselves or others. Furthermore, a trained health and safety representative on your staff may also direct fellow workers to stop work which they deem hazardous.

"Rain offs" or cancellations of shift are slightly different in nature but similar in effect and you should have clauses in your Agreements which specify compensation payments in such event.