Today’s correspondent tells me that:

Fire and Rescue NSW is exploring a Dual Employment Policy (not yet available) allowing permanent (career) firefighters to work as retained (on-call) firefighters in their days off at their local retained station. To be able to work under the two different Awards, it is expected that they would essentially need to have two different employee numbers. One challenge with this is the question of where these people would fit into the existing hierarchy, as retained brigades already have their own Captains and Deputy Captains, but the Fire and Rescue NSW Act 1989 definitions deem that if a permanent firefighter is present, that person is the Officer in Charge and outranks all retained firefighters (regardless of the permanent firefighter’s rank or experience).

My question is – is it possible to ‘pause’ a person’s position, and effectively wear two different hats within the same organisation? Or, even when working under a different Award in a retained firefighter position, would the Act still regard you as a permanent firefighter and therefore in charge?

The Fire and Rescue NSW Act 1989 (NSW) provides for permanent and retained fire brigades (s 8).  A permanent fire brigade is ‘… established and maintained by the Commissioner, the services of whose members are wholly at the disposal of the Commissioner’. A retained fire brigade is ‘an association of persons for which an approval as a retained fire brigade is in force under section 9, but does not include a rural fire brigade’ (s 3).

The ’officer in charge’ means (s 3):

… the Commissioner or, if the Commissioner is absent–

(a) the person for the time being in charge of any members of a permanent fire brigade present at that place, or

(b) if no members of a permanent fire brigade are present, the person for the time being in charge of any members of a retained fire brigade present at that place.

That definition answers the question. My correspondent says ‘if a permanent firefighter is present, that person is the Officer in Charge and outranks all retained firefighters’ but that is not what the definition says. It says the officer in charge is ‘the person for the time being in charge of any members of a permanent fire brigade’.  An off duty permanent fire fighter, or a fire fighter who at the relevant moment is part of a retained fire brigade is not then ‘in charge’ of the members of the permanent fire brigade and is not the ‘officer in charge’.

This blog is made possible with generous financial support from the Australasian College of Paramedicine, the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), Natural Hazards Research Australia, NSW Rural Fire Service Association  and the NSW SES Volunteers Association. I am responsible for the content in this post including any errors or omissions. Any opinions expressed are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or understanding of the donors.