Prime Minister Scott Morrison says volunteer firefighters with public sector jobs will get four weeks’ paid leave
Volunteer firefighters who are also Federal Government employees will be given four weeks’ paid leave in addition to existing entitlements to help contain the nation’s bushfire catastrophe.
The announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison follows weeks of intense fires burning across the country, and escalating calls for additional support for volunteer firefighters.
“With bushfire seasons starting earlier, one of the things I’ve heard on the ground is that some people are dipping into their other leave entitlements to stay out there battling blazes,” Mr Morrison said.
“Today’s announcement is about ensuring our volunteer firefighters can keep focused on the job at hand.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese welcomed the decision but called for more financial support for firefighters.
“It’s good that federal public servants will receive the same conditions currently enjoyed by Army reservists, but many volunteer firefighters will not be assisted by this decision,” he said.
“Many private sector workers, self-employed workers, contractors and family business owners have been fighting fires, not just for days or weeks, but for months.
Some state public sector employees also have extended entitlements for volunteer leave. For example, South Australian public sector workers already have 15 days’ leave.
The Prime Minister noted some Federal Government employees already had volunteer leave entitlements, but that four weeks was the new minimum standard across all agencies.
Alistair Waters, acting national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, welcomed the move to support firefighters working in the public sector.
“It shows that the way the Government manages the public sector has important ripple effects for the whole community,” he said.
How leave works for ‘firies’
Leave from work is negotiated by each volunteer and different workplaces may have different rules.
Volunteer Firefighters Association president Mick Holton said last week that government agencies and larger companies were typically more able and willing to afford to lose staff for days at a time.
But he said smaller businesses often struggled to pay staff who were volunteering — and it was not fair to expect them to.
One volunteer firefighter contacted the ABC this week to say many firefighters would use annual leave while fighting fires to ensure they still kept an income coming in.
Mr Morrison hoped this announcement would set the standard for other employers, particularly large employers.
“We call on other large employers to follow our lead and we commend those who have already put in place more generous volunteer leave arrangements,” he said.
“We know this does not address the situation for self-employed and small businesses directly, but it does mean those working for larger organisations can step in and take some of the load from those volunteers who work for themselves or small businesses.”
ANZ announced on Monday that employees could take paid leave for any time they were away volunteering in emergency services.
Previously, ANZ employees could access five days of paid leave for volunteering.
A spokesperson for NBN Co confirmed it would provide any employee who was a volunteer firefighter with four weeks’ paid leave.
“All volunteers are critical in helping to fight the current bushfires and we are fully supportive of any employee actively involved in these efforts,” they said.
Mr Morrison also said additional volunteer leave beyond the four weeks would also be available where needed.
He claimed the measure would have no impact on the Budget, which is struggling to deliver the Government’s promised surplus due to slow economic growth.
The announcement brings leave arrangements for volunteer firefighters into line with those for Defence Force reservists.
This content was originally published here.