The Fair Work Commission (FWC) announced on 1 April 2020, that it intends to temporarily amend 103 modern awards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This amendment is set to operate until 30 June 2020. The FWC has confirmed that this initiative is intended to provide protection from dismissals for employees. This amendment is intended to provide employers and employees with additional flexibility amid COVID-19. In this article, we outline the temporary variations and what they mean for the impacted awards.

What are the temporary variations?

The FWC has proposed to temporarily vary 103 modern awards to:

  1. provide employees that are affected by COVID-19 (including full-time, part-time and casual employees) with an option to take 2 weeks unpaid pandemic leave; and
  2. Offer for employees, through agreement with their employer, to take twice as much annual leave at half the rate of pay.

Some examples of the impacted modern awards are the Aged Care Award 2010, Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2010 and the Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2010.

A full list of the 103 awards can be found here on the FWC Statement, page 28.

Unpaid Pandemic Leave

The first proposed amendment would allow employees to elect to take up to 2 weeks unpaid leave. This is only available if the employee is “required, by government or medical authorities or acting on medical advice, to self-isolate or is otherwise prevented from working by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in circumstances where the employee is required to work at premises operated by an employer.”

Employees do not have to use any paid leave before accessing the unpaid pandemic leave, however they must provide reasonable evidence of the need to take unpaid pandemic leave.

Annual leave at Half the Rate

The proposed amendment also provides that an employer and employee may come to an agreement where the employee can elect to take up to twice as much annual leave at half the rate of usual pay.  Additionally, the deduction from an employee’s leave loading balance must only be what would have been subtracted for half the period at full pay. For example, if an employee takes two weeks leave at half pay, only one week’s leave is to be deducted from their leave loading balance. It isimportant to note that any agreement between an employee and employer in relation to this scheme should be properly recorded in writing and retained on the employee’s record.

Further Information

With so many changes happening in the legal sector at the moment due to COVID-19 it is important to be fully aware of your rights and obligations as an employee or an employer. If you would like more information on how we can assist you with your matter, do not hesitate to contact us on 9963 9800 or at [email protected].

Check out our blog here for further information and analysis on the restrictions and rules in place during COVID-19.