On 7 January 2022, the Fair Work Commission announced that it had extended certain employee’s entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave from 31 December 2021 until 30 June 2022.
An employee’s entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave is contained in Schedule X of many modern awards, which was first enacted in April 2020.
In particular, the Hospitality Industry (General) Award, Health Professionals and Support Services Award, Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award, Legal Services Award, Pharmacy Industry Award and Banking, Finance and Insurance Award are all affected by Schedule X.
A list of the awards which were but are no longer affected by Schedule X is available here (including the Vehicle Repair, Services and Retail Award).
If you are unsure if your employees are covered by modern award (and in particular these provisions) please contact us.
What does this mean?
An employee who is prevented from working:
- as a result of being required to self-isolate by government or medical authorities, or acting on the advice of a medical practitioner, or
- by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic (for example, an enforceable government direction restricting non-essential businesses),
may access up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave (or more by agreement with their employer), if they are covered by one of the modern awards affected.
What type of employees are covered?
All employees under relevant awards, including full time, part time and casual employees are entitled to the leave.
Is it pro-rata?
No, all affected employees have an immediate entitlement to 2 weeks leave.
Must the employee use their sick or annual leave first?
Unpaid pandemic leave doesn’t affect other paid or unpaid leave entitlements. It counts as service for other entitlements that accrue under awards and the National Employment Standards (e.g. Long Service leave accrual).
May an employer request evidence of why the leave was taken?
Yes, an employer may ask an employee to provide evidence that shows why the leave was taken e.g. a positive COVID test.
What notice must be given?
An employee must let their employer know that they intend to take unpaid pandemic leave and the reason for taking that leave as soon as possible (which may be after the leave has started). Employees should also let their employer know how long they intend or anticipate that they are absent from the workplace.
If you would like to discuss this article or your circumstances, you are invited to contact the team at Long Saad Woodbridge Lawyers.
Important Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.