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Employment and Emergency leave in the ACT PS?

By Anon35 23 October 2013 26

I have to be careful what I say here but I am very frustrated right now and want to know if any other RA readers have had a similar experience.

I’m currently an ACTPS employee as well as a volunteer with the Emergency Services Agency, I won’t say which area.  As everyone is aware NSW is experiencing some of the worst fires in recent history.  ACT will probably end up sending more volunteers to the affected areas as numbers on the ground are the biggest asset in these situations.

Employers are not obligated to release staff for emergency duties but most employers are sympathetic and will release staff.  Most Public Service agencies have emergency leave written into their agreements, the ACTPS certainly does.  The ACTPS agreement allows an employee released for duties to take that as Emergency leave so they still get paid & it doesn’t come off annual or personal leave.  NICE

However there is no incentive for an employer to release someone.  Take my manager for example, he is grumpy old pr$%k who won’t release staff for any reason.  I have given up asking to be release for emergency leave, as my manager immediately says no every time.  He always states it is ‘Due to operational demands of the area’ which is cr@p as even when we are not busy and there are plenty of people who can cover my workload he will say the same thing.  There is no incentive to release me so why should he?  I have quietly overheard him talking to another manager where he stated there are always plenty of other volunteers to do the job so why should he have to release me.  He also stated the he would be reluctant to employ any other ESA Volunteers for that reason.

I am seriously thinking of standing down as a volunteer as it’s frustrating putting in the time and effort for training but not been able to provide the support.  My position would probably be better off been taken up by someone who can provide the support.

Has any other RA readers had similar issue with their employer? I would also like to hear how other employers support volunteers? Is private industry better than public? As an employer would someone being a volunteer influence your decision to hire them

Also what more could be done to encourage employers to release volunteers for duty? I understand for small business it can be costly to release staff but for big business & public service it shouldn’t be so difficult.


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26 Responses to
Employment and Emergency leave in the ACT PS?
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JC 9:49 am 24 Oct 13

Lazy I said :

If you’re genuinely passionate about it and want to contribute, take recreation leave or LWOP.

Still has to be approved.

JC 9:46 am 24 Oct 13

dks00k said :

It used to be the case in NSW, and probably still is, that NSW Public Servants were entitled to (a reasonable number) of days emergency services leave per year for such duties. However once a Section 44 was declared, that leave become more or less unlimited and the wrath of the government would fall upon any employer who unreasonably refused such leave.

I’m not sure of the entitlements here in the ACT, but I’m sure your request would be further complicated by the fact that you are an ACTPS and the declared emergency is Interstate…

Going by that response it is obvious you didn’t read the OP’s full post. The issue is he is entitled to the leave, but only with manager approval. The managers approval bit is the sticking point.

OP your only option would be to talk to his boss or even the manager of HR. His attitude certainly needs readjusting. Of course doing so is a risk, so document everything you do and keep a copy.

Anon35 9:30 am 24 Oct 13

First off I am not prepeared to take it higher as I don’t think this will make a difference. First off it will be very easy for the managers to cover their arse and justify the operation requirments, so & so is on leave or sick, the area is bust right now etc. Even if it does result in the manager being obliged to release me, it will not endear me to him and could make the workplace more dfficult, it certainly won’t help carer advancemt within the area.

Eyeofthetiger said :

if I leave it usually either comes out of annual leave or LWOP, which I’m usually happy to do anyway.

Lazy I said :

If you’re genuinely passionate about it and want to contribute, take recreation leave or LWOP.

Best of luck

I’d be more than happy to take it as LWOP or Rec leave however these still need to be approved by the manager. Also deployments usually come at short notice so there would be as much chance of getting that as released for emergency leave. The type of leave is not the issue, it’s simply being out of the workplace that my boss desn’t like.

IrishPete 9:30 am 24 Oct 13

Unless the boss lives in a rural area, his house on fire will be responded to by Fire and Rescue, highly paid highly trained professionals who sit around waiting for emergencies to happen.

I’m not sure that blacklisting him on the secret RFS database (well, it used to be secret until you lot let the cat out of the bag) will be much help if he doesn’t live in a rural area.

Other properties on the secret database include our own over-insured houses which we pray will burn down while we are away protecting yours.

Of course if more of you were members of the RFS and SES, then the load on individual employers would be much much less.

I think I may have got out of the wrong side of the bed today. But I would love to be paid for my “volunteering” and especially for training, as it would mean my Brigade would turn up to training and would be much better trained and much more effective. We shouldn’t be re-learning how to start the pumps every time we have a fire to attend.

But great advice from the HR person – I was not aware of the FairWork provisions. Don’t tell Abbott.


godot64 9:14 pm 23 Oct 13

If you aren’t already doing so, I’d be putting the request for leave in writing each time (through the leave system) perhaps also copied to the appropriate leave person in HR, which will require the subsequent refusal to be recorded also. Grumpy old bastards (particularly the ‘what’s in it for me’ type) don’t necessarily want to be outed as such, and you are entitled to have a record of your leave requests and refusals. Also, if refused, make sure you are asking (still politely, still in writing) what the ‘operational requirements’ are that are so demanding that you can’t be released. It’s important that you understand what they are, obviously, so your manager needs to explain his reasoning. Don’t accept a verbal response. ‘Operational requirements’ is a description, but not a reason in itself and shouldn’t be accepted as such.

Perhaps firstly, though, arrange a time to discuss the issue, having first checked with HR to be sure you thoroughly understand the policy. Then, forearmed, tell him that you have noticed he never approves your requests for emergency service leave and ask directly whether there are ANY circumstances under which he would approve one of your requests. Ask what his view is of ESA Volunteers – does he see any value in your volunteering, or is it just a bloody nuisance as far as he is concerned? Take notes. Take a friend. Take a union delegate (whether you are in a union or not). Whatever seems best.

If none of the above works, ask him for his address; when he asks why, tell him that, since he clearly won’t support emergency services, you’ll see to it that they won’t ever support him if he needs help!

Okay, maybe not that last one. Maybe…

rescuedg 8:32 pm 23 Oct 13

Alright Anon35 hopefully I can give you the full brief. I am a volunteer with the RFS and I work for the ACTPS in Human Resources.

You and anybody else covered by the Fair Work Act have a right to be absent from the workplace to respond to emergencies as a volunteer for an emergency management agency during an emergency see here.

As an ACTPS employee you also have a right to up to four days pay per emergency. Importantly for you it is possible to apply for the leave AFTER you have begun taking it, so long as you would be able to demonstrate you were not reasonably able to pre-notify and your position was not critical to the operation of a function of the ACTPS.

If your boss is telling you that there are ‘operational reasons’ that you cannot be released he/she is required to detail what those reasons are, and they do have to be reasonable. Try and take a step back to see if they are but speaking bluntly most people in the ACTPS who are not in essential front line roles should be able to take time off to volunteer.

As others have said, it is always the best strategy to go back to your manager first. If nothing then there are a number of options for you, escalate one step up, speak to HR or speak to the ESA. I know the ESA and the Agencies within would all be willing to speak up on your behalf.

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