On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) made the decision to vary 99 awards as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The determination inserted a temporary Schedule X into these awards which provided 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave.
For most awards, the entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave ceased on 30 June 2022. However, following on from a decision made by FWC, unpaid pandemic leave will be reinstated into some awards from 15 July 2022 until 31 December 2022. You can refer to the determination here.
The affected awards are:
- Aged Care Award
- Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services Award
- Health Professionals and Support Services Award
- Supported Employment Services Award
- Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award.
What is unpaid pandemic leave?
Employees who are covered under one of the above awards can access up to 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave. Employees may also take more than 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave if their employer agrees.
They are able to access this type of leave if they are unable to work:
- because they are required to self-isolate by government or medical directives, or acting on he advice of a medical practitioner, or
- as a result of an assessment made by government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic (for example, an enforceable government direction imposing limitations to non-essential businesses).
The 2-week unpaid leave entitlement can be accessed in full, immediately to all full-time, part-time, and casual employees (it does not need to be accrued). Employees aren’t required to utilise their annual leave or sick leave prior to accessing unpaid pandemic leave.
Periods of unpaid pandemic leave also counts as service for the purpose of accruing NES entitlements i.e. annual leave and personal/carer’s leave will continue accrue during this time.
Employees must commence their period of unpaid pandemic leave before the date specified within the award (currently 31 December 2022). However, the leave can finish after the award’s cessation date. Employees who commenced their leave prior to the set end date can still request to extend it beyond the 2-week period.
When taking unpaid pandemic leave, employees will need to contact their employer and provide the reason for taking the leave. They should also specify an estimation of when they will be returning and how much time off they will be taking. Employers can request evidence to support the employee’s reason for taking the leave.
What if my award doesn’t have unpaid pandemic leave?
For employees who don’t have access to unpaid pandemic leave but are required to isolate, the appropriate type of leave will be dependent on the situation.
Employees will be able to take personal leave if they are COVID-19 positive and are unable to work. However, if they do not have COVID-19, are otherwise fit to work but are required to isolate, they will likely need to utilise their annual leave to cover the time off work.
Permanent employees who are staying at home to look after an immediate family member or household member who has COVID-19 will be able to access their carer’s leave for this time.
Casual employees may also be able to access up to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave if they are required to provide support or care for an immediate family member who has COVID-19.
About Employment Innovations
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.