Employers of volunteers play an important role. It would be extremely difficult for many volunteers to attend fire calls and related incidents without the support of their employers by providing time during working hours to attend emergencies.
Employers who take a socially responsible approach to volunteers also contribute to the fabric and resilience of their communities. At their own cost, businesses release their staff, and self-employed volunteers forgo personal income and time. Hence the role of a volunteer's employer, or a self-employed volunteer, is of paramount importance to CFA, for without tolerance, understanding and support, CFA as an organisation would not be able to function as effectively as it does.
How can a CFA volunteer benefit the workplace?
Volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and work in a range of professions, jobs and industries. Many are self-employed.
To be a CFA volunteer requires commitment, the ability to cope in an emergency and being able to work under pressure. Often the work of a volunteer is challenging, both physically and psychologically. Volunteers are usually driven by an ethos of helping others.
Our volunteers, particularly those in active firefighting roles, are highly trained and participate in many varied activities. They often gain additional training in areas such as leadership, teamwork, communication, emergency management, first aid, diversity and equal opportunity.
All skills learnt as a volunteer transfer to the employment environment. Skills gained with CFA have assisted many employees in their business and/or working lives.
Fiscal benefits of employing a volunteer
The Federal Government provides a payroll tax exemption for wages paid to employees attending emergencies or incidents during working hours.
For more information, employers should go to the State Revenue Office website or call 132 161.
Employee leave agreements
You make a significant contribution to your community when you release a CFA volunteer from work responsibilities to respond to emergencies. CFA encourages all its volunteers to negotiate with their employer suitable leave arrangements early in their employment relationship, prior to the need to attend an emergency. These arrangements may be informal, such as a verbal agreement.
Many employers choose to have a more formal arrangement, putting the agreement into writing (a sample clause is given below). As with any formal employment agreement, it is wise to seek independent legal advice prior to making any commitment. Notwithstanding legislative requirements in the National Employment Standards and the Fair Work Act, the decision as to how leave will be processed is at the discretion of the employer. Options may include leave without pay, time in lieu, fully or partly paid leave.
Reasonable circumstances for leave
Factors that may be considered in determining what is reasonable in the circumstances will include:
- the duration of the absence
- the nature of the emergency or natural disaster
- the employer's business needs
- the size of the employer's business
To be entitled to community service leave, an employee must advise their employer, as soon as practicable, notice of the expected period of absence for the community service activity. However, the entitlement of the employee to be absent must still be reasonable in all the circumstances.
Examples of what is NOT considered reasonable:
- You are one of only a few employees of a business and have been rostered on. Finding a replacement would be difficult and put strain on the remaining few employees in the timeframe available.
- You are the employee of a small business and your absence will impact on the businesses bottom line.
- Your role on reception requires constant coverage – it is not reasonable for you to leave with minimal notice as it is unlikely you can be replaced.
- You have a meeting scheduled or work deadlines to meet. The business, whether large or small, is counting on you being at that meeting or achieving your deadline.
- You are the sole truck driver of a small business that relies on you delivering their products.
- You are an expert in your field and your employer, whether a large or small business, would struggle to backfill your position.
Sample leave agreement
Full time and part time employees involved in recognised volunteer emergency services shall be entitled to paid leave at ordinary time rate of pay to attend emergency situations. It shall be the responsibility of the employee to keep the company informed about the time off needed to attend to emergency duties. To receive authorisation of this leave, an employee shall provide the company with notice and proof of attendance at the emergency situation, as soon as practicable.
Injury and liability
While performing their CFA role, volunteers are fully covered by the CFA Volunteer Compensation Scheme. This includes loss of earnings and all medical costs.
Volunteers are also protected from legal liability as a result of their actions, either by the CFA Act or CFA's insurance policies.
CFA has a commitment to recognising employers who support CFA by releasing their employees, where possible, to respond to emergencies.
Volunteer Friendly Employer StickerEmployers are often recognised with Certificates of Appreciation and/or acknowledgement stickers that can be displayed at their place of business to let the public know they support CFA volunteers.
Employers can be nominated to receive a Certificate of Appreciation and/or stickers.
By encouraging employees to volunteer for CFA, you will not only be contributing to the vital work carried out by CFA, you will also be helping your community.
If you would like to display a Volunteer Friendly Employer sticker, please contact CFA's Member Services on 1800 232 636.
For assistance, clarification or support in relation to employing a CFA volunteer please call CFA Member Services on 1800 232 636