Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Ask RiotACT

Charity and fundraising auctions for the Canberra community

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.

 Thoughts?

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
26 Responses to
Employment and Emergency leave in the ACT PS?
Eyeofthetiger 6:20 pm 23 Oct 13

I know exactly how you feel.
I am also a volunteer in the ACTESA. Quite a few people in my unit are PS employees and are often released from work should there be a callout. However I have noticed that this is alot to do with their position/level in the PS, although still seems that often they are released.
I work for a private company, employing about 40 staff at my branch and whether I am released or not is entirely dependant on our workload. I also find that the severity of the incident in which I am going to depends on how easy it is for me to be released (if that makes sense)…
From my experience it seems that PS employees are able to be released easier and more often than privately employed volunteers, especially given there is the clause written in there for emergency/community leave, where as I do not have that, if I leave it usually either comes out of annual leave or LWOP, which I’m usually happy to do anyway.
It seems to me you have a bit of an xyz of a boss, I’d be looking at taking it higher, explain that the ‘plenty of other volunteers’ theory is far from the truth, we often struggle to field a crew due to attitudes like this. Pitch it to him with the ‘how would you feel if your house was burning and no one came because they couldn’t field a crew’.
Best of luck

Genie 5:05 pm 23 Oct 13

Sounds like you have an extremely unreasonable boss.

I have friends who volunteer for the RFS and always get their time off when unfortunate situations like this occur.

Take it over their head, approach your Band 1 or go straight to HR.

If you’re prepared to, you can even take it further and make a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman if you feel you’re not getting a fair go.

“Subject to operational requirements” can be interpreted 100 different ways. If you are the only person who can do your job, then yeah, I guess it would be hard to give you the time off. But if you feel that there are other people in the office who can easily manage your workload, definitely take it above their head as they are being unreasonable.

Tecko12 4:31 pm 23 Oct 13

I am also from an ESA ACT service, i have had a discussion with my employer, and they are more than happy to allow me to go on deployments. As well as alot of other members i know of. I think its just your boss. 🙁

Anon35 1:42 pm 23 Oct 13

The agreement is fairly standard

Entitlement
Eligible employees are entitled to be absent on unpaid leave to engage in a voluntary emergency management activities, subject to operational requirements in the workplace.
Eligible employees, other than casual employees, are eligible for up to four days paid community service leave for voluntary emergency management per emergency.
Community service leave for voluntary emergency management is non-cumulative.

So it’s 4 days paid leave per emergency event, But the key wording here is “subject to operational requirements in the workplace” Which is exactly what my manger states when asked, even though it could be eaisly managed if I was away. I don’t know how my employer manages to cope when i’m sick or on annual leave. The place must go into meltdown without me.

Anon35 1:20 pm 23 Oct 13

Ghettosmurf87 said :

I wouldn’t tar the whole PS (both ACT & FED) just because one particular supervisor is a tight-a$$ who can’t be bothered juggling a few responsibilities while one of their staff goes out and helps save lives/communities/etc.

Agreed, I know many volunteers who are both ACT & Fed PS and have supportive employers. I didn’t mean to insuate that it was endemic.

Ghettosmurf87 said :

Looks like you just got unlucky and are saddled with a prick 🙁

You said it not me 🙂

Anon35 1:12 pm 23 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…

I think the entitlement is still for unlimited leave, if not a more than generous amount, the issue is still that the individual manager is not under any obligation to release you, so why would they. When their major bureaucratic roles is to justify their staffing levels via statistics, it doesn’t offer any encouragement for them to release you.

It shouldn’t matter that the emergency is interstate. Has 2003 been so long forgotten? Without interstate assistance things would have been worse. Also my employer won’t release me for state emergencies so the fact it’s interstate is irrelevant in this case.

For some of the reasons mentioned by others I don’t want to go above the managers head. In my experience I also don’t think it will have positive result.

The only solution I can see is to change job.

steveu 12:56 pm 23 Oct 13

Anon35 said :

steveu said :

I would be careful putting anything online about your employer, particularly if you are a public servant…

Hence my initial stament and the fact I posted this anonymously and didn’t mention the directorate I work for 🙂

I would like to see something similar to the Army Reserve where you get one week are year where your employer is obliged to release you for duties.

Unfortunately the Army Reserve is Federal Gov where as Emergency Services are State run so it would be up to the individual States to implement something.

My previous employer was with a large private company who were more than helpful with my volunteer work and would actively encourage me to do things like interstate task forces. They said they would even release me for non-operational duties such as interstate training activities (although I never put this into practise).

It’s frustrating to see that private employers have more civic responsibility than the PS. I don’t want to give up being a volunteer as it’s very rewarding and I gain a lot personally from it, however if my training is not being put to use I feel I’m taking up an operational role that could be better utilised by someone more able. Not to mention the time and physical effort in my training

Canberra is a small town, and I think that people who work around you probably know who you are and have read this. Just saying…

Im pretty sure there wouldnt be much stopping the Federal govt legislating to support this. And the constitution is something that gets raised only when we choose to ignore it….

If the PM can take some time off to fight the fires, you would expect public servants shouldn’t have to argue the case to do their bit, whether it be state/local council or federal.

Ghettosmurf87 12:55 pm 23 Oct 13

Anon35 said :

steveu said :

I would be careful putting anything online about your employer, particularly if you are a public servant…

Hence my initial stament and the fact I posted this anonymously and didn’t mention the directorate I work for 🙂

I would like to see something similar to the Army Reserve where you get one week are year where your employer is obliged to release you for duties.

Unfortunately the Army Reserve is Federal Gov where as Emergency Services are State run so it would be up to the individual States to implement something.

My previous employer was with a large private company who were more than helpful with my volunteer work and would actively encourage me to do things like interstate task forces. They said they would even release me for non-operational duties such as interstate training activities (although I never put this into practise).

It’s frustrating to see that private employers have more civic responsibility than the PS. I don’t want to give up being a volunteer as it’s very rewarding and I gain a lot personally from it, however if my training is not being put to use I feel I’m taking up an operational role that could be better utilised by someone more able. Not to mention the time and physical effort in my training

I wouldn’t tar the whole PS (both ACT & FED) just because one particular supervisor is a tight-a$$ who can’t be bothered juggling a few responsibilities while one of their staff goes out and helps save lives/communities/etc.

I certainly know the Directors and Branch Head in my area of the PS wouldn’t hesitate to release staff for such volunteer work.

Looks like you just got unlucky and are saddled with a prick 🙁

Thumper 12:52 pm 23 Oct 13

Also, check your workplace agreement. There is probably something in there does let you attend emergencies.

Anon35 12:49 pm 23 Oct 13

steveu said :

I would be careful putting anything online about your employer, particularly if you are a public servant…

Hence my initial stament and the fact I posted this anonymously and didn’t mention the directorate I work for 🙂

I would like to see something similar to the Army Reserve where you get one week are year where your employer is obliged to release you for duties.

Unfortunately the Army Reserve is Federal Gov where as Emergency Services are State run so it would be up to the individual States to implement something.

My previous employer was with a large private company who were more than helpful with my volunteer work and would actively encourage me to do things like interstate task forces. They said they would even release me for non-operational duties such as interstate training activities (although I never put this into practise).

It’s frustrating to see that private employers have more civic responsibility than the PS. I don’t want to give up being a volunteer as it’s very rewarding and I gain a lot personally from it, however if my training is not being put to use I feel I’m taking up an operational role that could be better utilised by someone more able. Not to mention the time and physical effort in my training

peitab 12:02 pm 23 Oct 13

Firstly, thank you for your ongoing volunteering efforts with the ESA.

While I agree with steveu that this is important enough to write to your agency head (or similar), I have two words of caution. Some managers can get their nose out of joint when the people they supervise are seen to be going over their heads. Be careful that you don’t make your everyday working life more difficult if you do write that letter/email.

Also, you mentioned that you’ve stopped asking to be released for emergency leave as you feel it’s now futile. It’s entirely possible that the agency head will direct you back to your manager to address the matter with them. Before you write, make sure you’ve already asked your direct manager. You don’t want to give the agency head (or whoever) a legitimate reason to dismiss your request.

dks00k 12:02 pm 23 Oct 13

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…

Thumper 11:39 am 23 Oct 13

Take it higher. Branch manager or whatever.

Proboscus 11:31 am 23 Oct 13

Burn down his house.

steveu 11:26 am 23 Oct 13

I would be careful putting anything online about your employer, particularly if you are a public servant…

…but I would be tempted to write to the agency head (or preferably up lines of accountability) and express your concerns.

Your claims are valid and arguments sound. I personally think there should be a federal act of parliament to cover everyone. ESA type volunteer roles are a vital service, and should be covered by significant legislation to ensure these roles remain viable for people.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site