Defence force volunteers

An employer has to let employees take leave and must keep their job open while doing training or service for the Armed Forces.

Under the Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973, an employer has to let employees take leave while they do Armed Forces’:

  • full-time or part-time voluntary training or service (unpaid) and/or
  • active operational service, if they are called up or volunteer in a ‘Situation of National Interest’, war or emergency.

Employers must hold an employees job open and protect their entitlements but don’t have to pay employees for any period while on leave.

Protected voluntary service

The Act protects employees’ jobs during military training and/or service when they’re away from their normal employment for training service or operational service. Employers have the right to apply to postpone an employee’s service or training if the employee’s absence will cause them undue hardship. If an employer gets notice that their employee will be taking time off work for voluntary service or training, or war/emergency service, or situation of national interest service, they need to respond to their employee in writing within 21 days. 

Employment agreements

If an employee’s comprehensive employment agreement or arrangement says that the employee has volunteer’s leave rights and benefits that are overall the same or better than those under the law then these apply. An employment agreement is comprehensive if it addresses all of the following:

  • conditions of eligibility for volunteers’ leave for all relevant types
  • duration of volunteers’ leave for all relevant types
  • protection for the employee’s job during and after leave
  • whether or not the employer has to pay for the leave
  • procedures for leave.

Unless it contains all of the above, none of the provisions relating to volunteers leave service in the employment agreement or arrangement apply. The provisions of the Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973 relating to protection, remedies and miscellaneous provisions apply in all cases.

The Defence Force website (external link)  has more information for employers and employees.

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