In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Fair Work Commission has made a determination to make temporary variations to 99 Awards. The changes come in response to the Fair Work Commission identifying a regulatory gap between COVID-19 public health and government directives and the protections an employee has under the Fair Work Act.
The variations cover two key areas; unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave at half pay. These changes are outlined below.
Full-time, part-time and casual employees are entitled to two weeks of unpaid pandemic leave if they are prevented from working as a result of being directed to self isolate by government or medical authorities, or on the advice of a medical practitioner, or by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to COVID-19 (i.e. an enforceable government direction restricting non-essential businesses).
There is no requirement to accrue this leave, it is available immediately in full and there is no requirement for employees to use their paid leave prior to accessing pandemic leave.
Any pandemic leave must start before 30 June 2020. This leave continues to act as service for any entitlements owed under an Award or the National Employment Standards.
An employee must advise their employer as soon as possible that they are going to take unpaid pandemic leave, the reason for the leave and how long they expect to be off work. An employer may request evidence, such as a medical certificate.
Employees are protected against any adverse action taken against them (including dismissal) by an employer as a result of their entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave.
The changes allow an employer and employee to agree to the taking of annual leave at half pay. This means an employee can essentially double their time off (i.e. an employee may take 2 weeks off and receive the equivalent of 1 week annual leave payment).
Click here to see the 99 awards impacted by this change.
As with all of the changes we are seeing come through, as a result of COVID-19, it is imperative that you familiarise yourself with the provisions of the Awards that impact your business. For help in understanding these new changes please contact Employee Matters on (02) 8021 4206 – or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.