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When disaster strikes at your workplace: Employee rights


Hundreds of residents and several businesses at Wolli Creek have been thrown into turmoil when a large crane collapsed into a residential block in Sydney over the weekend.

More than 160 people have been driven out of their homes with no estimate on when it will be safe to return. Several others have been contained to their apartments while investigations continue.

Shine LawyersEmployment Law experts, Will Barsby and Christie Toy, take a look at what rights you have as a worker if similar disruptions occur at your workplace.

What happens if I've lost income as a result of a disaster?

Say a crane has collapsed on your building, or a similar event has occurred that has damaged your place of work.

Generally, as an employee, you will not have a right to compensation if you are prevented from attending work because of damage to your workplace. At law, an employer can stand down an employee without pay if they cannot meaningfully work, and the reason for this was not the fault of the employer.

This is often seen in the case of natural disasters, such as floods, where buildings are damaged and it is not feasible for employees to attend work. Some businesses may be sympathetic to their employees, and continue to pay them while the building is repaired.

Most larger organisations also have business continuity plans in place, and will relocate their workforce quickly in the event of a disaster or damage to the workplace.

road-closed-sign-flooded-road

What if the employer is a tenant in the damaged building?

As a tenant in the building, the employer has rights to pursue for losses associated with the disruption, if not already covered by insurance.

From an employee's perspective, this means you may receive payments while unable to attend your place of work. The employer may choose to continue to pay workers during building repairs, and claim this back through their insurance policy. The insurance provider would then recover this money from the person who caused the loss or disruption.

Do I have rights to bring a claim?

Surprisingly to many, employees do not have any legal rights to bring forward a claim for loss of income due to disaster or disruption at their place of work. However, non-legal avenues may be available to access financial aid.

State and federal governments often provide emergency aid and funding for those affected by large scale events and disasters that disrupt business and employees. It is always best to check in with your local MP to find out if any disruption benefits are being issued, and whether you are entitled.

 

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Written by Shine Lawyers on August 10, 2017. Last modified: September 6, 2018.

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