With the recent severe weather and many volunteers responding to help their community, the NSW Premier made a declaration under Part 3A of the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW). You can read the declaration on the NSW Legislation website.
Section 60B of the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1999 (NSW) says:
An employer must not victimise an employee of the employer for being absent if the absence was due to the employee taking part in emergency operations as a member of an emergency services organisation and the absence occurred while this Part applied to the operations (pursuant to an order of the Premier under this Part).
Victimise means much more than just dismiss. According to s 60C:
An employer victimises an employee if the employer:
(a) dismisses the employee from employment with the employer or terminates the engagement of the employee by the employer, or
(b) alters the employee’s position in his or her employment with the employer, or alters the circumstances of the employee’s engagement by the employer, to the employee’s prejudice, or
(c) otherwise injures the employee in his or her employment with, or engagement by, the employer.
In other words it is unlawful, in NSW to sack or otherwise adversely alter the terms of a person’s employment because they were on emergency service duty.
With the declaration in place (and it remains in place for 30 days), any employer who victimises an emergency service volunteer commits a criminal offence (s 60B) with a maximum penalty of $3300 (s 60B and Crimes (Sentencing Procedures) Act 1999 (NSW) s 17, which provides that in NSW a penalty unit is worth $110). If the employer is convicted the Court may also order the payment of compensation, that the employee is reinstated and various other remedial orders (see s 60F). I have not heard of any NSW employees being victimised because of their decision to help the community as volunteers, but at least those that are responding to the current emergency have, with the Premier’s declaration, added legal protection.