LEGAL ALERT: Employers in health sector may be required to provide paid ‘pandemic leave’ from 29 July

Despite rejecting applications to vary modern awards to include paid pandemic leave for employees affected by COVID-19 earlier this year, on 27 July 2020, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (Commission) determined to amend certain modern awards to provide paid pandemic leave.

The following modern awards will be amended from 29 July 2020:

  • Aged Care Award 2010;
  • Health Professional and Support Services Award 2020 (limited to those engaged in the aged care industry); and
  • Nurses Award 2010 (limited to those engaged in the aged care industry).

Employees will be entitled to paid pandemic leave from 29 July 2020 and until 29 October 2020, although the leave may be taken beyond that date provided it commences before 29 October.

The amendments apply to permanent employees and casuals engaged on a regular and systematic basis.

Subject to compliance with notice and evidence requirements, employees will be entitled to up to two (2) weeks paid pandemic leave per occasion where the employee is prevented from working (including working from home) because:

  • the employee is required by government or medical authorities to self isolate or quarantine;
  • the employee is required by their employer to self isolate or quarantine;
  • the employee is required on the advice of a medical practitioner to self isolate or quarantine because they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or are suspected to have come into contact with a person suspected of having contracted COVID-19;
  • the employee is in isolation or quarantine while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test; or
  • of measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, an employee is not entitled to take paid pandemic leave under the amendments if the employee could otherwise take paid personal/carer’s leave or if the employee is in receipt of workers compensation benefits from contracting COVID-19.

Draft determinations are available on the Commission’s website:
https://www.fwc.gov.au/cases-decisions-orders/major-cases/health-sector-awards-pandemic-leave/determinations-health-sector

Employers operating in the health sector are encouraged to take note of these amendments. EMA Legal is able to assist employers with these changes and any other employment related matters.


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