State of Emergency - Obligations to Employees

31 January 2023

First and foremost, this is a time to demonstrate you care for your people.  As a good employer that’s the compassionate approach if your business circumstances permit, but it will also demonstrate your commitment to your people and provide them with a very good reason to remain with your business in a tight labour market.

Your people need to know that you care and are supportive of their situation.  Regular check- ins and other forms of support will be important.  Some may have faced catastrophic loss which in some cases may not be covered by insurance, so it's a very worrying time for them. In addition to moral support, they may need time off to attend to the clean up process; and they may need short term financial assistance to purchase food and clothing; and household items while waiting for an insurance payout.

There will be many reasons why people are unable to work which require careful consideration.

As to the clinical legal position, short of having a Force Majeure or Business Interruption clause in the applicable employment agreements:

Business Premises Unavailable:

  • If your premises can’t operate due to flood damage etc, you have an obligation to pay your people who are otherwise ready, willing and able to work. 

  • Those who can still work remotely are obligated to do so, but this won’t be a one size fits all situation, because some people may have been displaced from their homes and not able to work remotely.

Business Premises Open and Available:

  • Employees who can’t get to work are not entitled to be paid.

  • Those who can effectively work remotely, should be allowed to do so, and be paid.

In any situation where people are unable to work, whether due to their own default or the closure of your business premises, consider offering the option of taking annual holidays or other forms of leave they may have avilable.