Under the National Employment Standards (NES), employees are entitled to different types of leave, depending on their employment status. These are annual leave, parental leave, personal or carer’s leave, community service leave and long service leave.

An employee who engages in an eligible community service activity is entitled to be absent from her or his employment for a period of time. The period of time is not specified (compare this with compassionate leave, which is limited to two days for each occasion it is required) and is not restricted to permanent employees.

The question is whether an employee can access community service leave to participate in a charitable pursuit – walking 100km for charity as part of the OXFAM Trailwalker and participating in the City2Surf to raise funds for breast cancer for example. Participating in these events is often the culmination of months of preparation, extensive fundraising and employees appreciate receiving an employer’s support (whether financial or otherwise). However, the question is whether the Fair Work Act 2009 includes these kinds of activities in the definition of ‘community service’.

What is an ‘eligible community service activity’?

To be eligible for community service leave, an employee must be participating in an ‘eligible community service activity’.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) defines eligible community service activity to include only a few activities. These include:

  • jury service (including attendance for jury selection) required by a Commonwealth or State or Territory law; or
  • a voluntary emergency management activity.

So, for participation in an event, such as the OXFAM trailwalker, to allow an employee to be eligible for community service leave, it must be either jury service or a voluntary emergency management activity. Jury service is clearly out.

Is walking 100km for charity a ‘voluntary emergency management activity’?

The Fair Work Act defines this kind of activity as an activity that involves dealing with an emergency or a natural disaster. An employee must be engaging in the activity on a voluntary basis and the employee must also be a member of an organisation which is a recognised emergency management body (such as the SES).

On this basis, walking 100km for charity would be unlikely to fall under the definition of a ‘voluntary emergency management activity’ by any objective standards. However, this conclusion may change if there is a donut or block of chocolate waiting at the end of 100km, in which case reaching these essential items would become an emergency matter.

Conclusion

Perhaps it’s best to consider that your participation in this kind of event is an achievement in itself and if your employer is supporting you financially, you should be grateful they’re facilitating your participation. If you need more advice on the various forms of leave and whether you are entitled to take advantage of them, get in touch with the employment lawyers here at LegalVision.

Chloe Sevil

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