On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) issued a decision to temporarily vary 99 modern awards by inserting a new Schedule X - Additional measures during the COVID-19 pandemic (Schedule).
The Schedule provides for employees to take unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave at half pay.
It commenced operation on 8 April 2020 and will do so until 30 June 2020, unless extended by application.
Set out below are the key elements of each type of leave introduced by the Schedule.
Unpaid Pandemic Leave
- An employee can take up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave if the employee is required, by government or medical authorities or acting on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate and is consequently prevented from working, or is otherwise prevented from working by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- An employer may also request an employee to provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the leave is taken for a reason set out in the above point.
- Any other paid or unpaid leave entitlements of the employee are not affected.
- Any leave taken counts as service for the purposes of entitlements under modern awards and the National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act
- An employer and an employee may agree for the employee to take more than 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave.
Annual Leave at Half Pay
- An employee and their employer may agree to the employee taking twice as much annual leave on half pay. For example, where an employee takes 2 weeks annual leave but is paid for 1 week, 1 week of leave is deducted from the employee’s annual leave accrual.
- Any agreement to take twice as much annual leave at half pay must be recorded in writing and retained as an employee record.
What Awards are varied by the Schedule?
The Schedule does not apply to awards in the construction, maritime, mining and resource industries.
The FWC has prioritised to vary the awards in industries which have a significant proportion of award-reliant employees and cover a high proportion of small businesses. A list of the awards that are varied by the Schedule are set out at Attachment A of the FWC’s decision found here.
Please contact our Workplace Relations Team should you require assistance in respect of these award changes or any other queries arising from the impact of Coronavirus on your workplace and its employees.