Modern awards amended to respond to COVID 19

14 April 2020

On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (Commission) made temporary changes to 99 modern awards via the insertion of a new Schedule, which provides employees with:

  1. an entitlement to take unpaid ‘pandemic leave’; and
  2. the ability to take annual leave at half pay.

These changes apply until 30 June 2020 (unless extended).

Unpaid pandemic leave

Employees who are covered by one of the amended modern awards are entitled to take two weeks of unpaid ‘pandemic leave’ if the employee if required by government or medical authorities (or acting on the advice of a medical practitioner), to self-isolate and is consequently prevented from working.

Employees must provide employers with as much notice as is reasonably practicable, and an employer may request evidence to satisfy the employee’s taking of unpaid pandemic leave.

Unpaid pandemic leave does not affect other paid or unpaid leave entitlements.

Annual leave at half pay

The changes also allow an employer to reach agreement with an employee to take twice as much annual leave on half pay. Any agreement to this effect must be in writing and retained as an employee record.

The Commission’s decision (which contains a list of the 99 modern awards amended), can be accessed here:

As outlined in our 2 April 2020 Alert, employers should also note that the Commission has made other temporary amendments to the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010, the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 and the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

EMA Legal can provide advice in respect of these changes and any other employment law related matters.

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This Newsletter is made available to our clients and interested parties to provide immediate access to information about important changes and developments relevant to employers. The information contained in this publication should not be relied on as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for detailed advice that takes into account particular situations and the particular circumstances of your business.