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Community service leave: what is it and when does it apply?

Community service leave: what is it and when does it apply?

24 January 2024

Community service leave: what is it and when does it apply?

Did you know that in some circumstances, your employees are entitled to community service leave? This leave type provides an entitlement to be absent from work when participating in a specified community service activity.

Australia has its fair share of natural disasters, and in these times, we rely heavily on our communities to recoup and recover. The recent floods in QLD are just another example of the ordinary Aussie stepping up and helping those doing it tough. During these events, It’s so important as businesses and individuals, to do our part to serve the community no matter what the emergency is. So, what is this leave type and when can employees actually take it?

The basics of community service leave

Community Service Leave is an entitlement under the National Employment Standards (NES). A person is entitled to be absent from the workplace when they’re engaged in either:

  1. jury service, including attendance for jury selection, that is required by or under a Commonwealth, State or Territory law;
  2. a voluntary emergency management activity; or
  3. an activity prescribed in specified regulations.

A voluntary emergency management activity is defined as when an employee:

  • engages in an activity that involves dealing with an emergency or natural disaster; and
  • they engage in this activity on a voluntary basis; and
  • they’re a member or associated with a recognised emergency management body; and
  • they were requested by the body to engage in the activity, or it would be reasonable for the body to have requested them if circumstances permitted.

An employee is entitled to take community service leave for the time they are:

  • engaged in the activity;
  • reasonable travel time associated with the activity; or
  • reasonable rest time immediately following the activity.

There is no limit on the amount of community service leave an employee can take. It’s an unpaid entitlement (except for jury duty).

Notice and evidence requirements

An employee who intends to take community service leave must notify you of the expected period of their absence as soon as practicable. They must also provide evidence to prove that the reason for the absence is to engage in an eligible community service activity.

Payment for community service leave:

Jury duty is the one type of community service leave that attracts payment for your employees (other than a casual employee, however, be mindful that State and Territory legislation may provide for a paid entitlement).

Employees who are required to attend jury service or jury selection are entitled to be paid make-up pay for the first 10 days of jury selection and jury duty.

Make-up pay is the difference between the amount the employee receives from the Court, and the employee’s base rate of pay they would’ve received for the ordinary hours they would’ve normally worked, had they not been absent due to jury duty, excluding expense-related allowances.

As an employer, you’re entitled to ask the employee to provide evidence of any payment they received from the Court before you pay them any make-up pay. If your employee fails to provide evidence, they aren’t entitled to receive payment from you.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that if State and Territory laws provide for a better entitlement than the NES, then these will apply instead. For example, if a State or Territory law provides that a casual employee should receive payment for jury service, this would apply.

What happens if my employee is required to attend court as a witness?

Interestingly, employees who are required to attend court as witnesses aren’t entitled to community service leave. An employee who is required to attend court for a reason other than jury service may take paid annual leave by agreement or request unpaid leave for the period they will be away from work.

How enableHR can help?

You don’t have to spend weeks studying the legislation. Call enableHR today and ask us if your HR platform is set up for you to comply with new requirements.

We believe HR should be simple. Simple enough for you to run your business confidently. Inside enableHR is everything you need to manage the entire employee lifecycle, from recruitment and onboarding to managing your people and termination. If you’d like to see enableHR in action, contact us to learn more about how we can help your business.