As fires raged across parts of Australia this summer employees took leave from their work to fight them in volunteer fire brigades.

Unless they had an agreement with their employers this leave would have been unpaid.

What does taking unpaid leave mean for the concept of “continuous service” which is the basis for many rights and entitlements otherwise accruing to employees under the Fair Work Act?

For example, for employees to be entitled to parental leave they must have completed at least twelve months continuous service.

For employees to be entitled to the payment of redundancy on the termination of employment they must have completed at least twelve months continuous service.

For employees to be protected from unfair dismissal they must have completed at least six months continuous service or twelve months continuous service if the employer is a small business employer.

Unpaid leave generally means a break in continuous service for the calculation of benefits and entitlements under the Fair Work Act.

The one exception is community service leave, which is meant to cover volunteer firefighters.

If you would like advice about unpaid leave and continuous service and their application to your circumstances, please contact our experienced Workplace Relations team on (03) 9614 7111.