On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made determinations varying 99 awards, adding unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibility.
The determinations inserted a temporary new Schedule X into these 99 awards, which provided 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave and the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half their normal pay if their employer agreed.
The Commission has now extended Schedule X in many awards. There are different end dates for the extended unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave provisions in each award.
Unpaid pandemic leave
Employees who are employed under one of the affected awards can access up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave (or more by agreement with their employer) if they’re 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).
The leave is available in full immediately to full-time, part-time and casual employees – they don’t have to accrue it.
Employees don’t have to use all their paid leave before accessing unpaid pandemic leave.
The leave needs to start before, but can finish after, the date when the unpaid pandemic leave provisions in the relevant award stop applying. If Schedule X doesn’t have a set end date in an award, the leave needs to start before 31 July 2020. Check your award in the table below to see when Schedule X stops operating.
All eligible employees can take the 2 weeks’ leave. It is not pro-rated for employees who don’t work full-time.
Unpaid pandemic leave doesn’t affect other paid or unpaid leave entitlements and counts as service for entitlements under awards and the National Employment Standards.
Notice and evidence
An employee has to let their employer know that they’re going to take unpaid pandemic leave and the reason for taking the leave. This has to be done as soon as possible and can be after the leave has started. They should also say how long they’ll be off or expect to be off work.
An employer can ask an employee to give evidence that shows why they took the leave.
An employer can’t dismiss an employee or take any other adverse action against an employee because the employee is entitled to unpaid pandemic leave. Find out more about protections at work.
JobKeeper wage subsidy and unpaid pandemic leave
An employee receiving JobKeeper payments from their employer can still take unpaid pandemic leave under their award at the same time as receiving the JobKeeper payment.
Annual leave at half pay
Under Schedule X, employees can take their annual leave at half pay, and double their time off work, if their employer agrees. This means an employee can get 1 week of annual leave (including annual leave loading if applicable) for every 2 weeks of annual leave they take.
The agreement has to be in writing and the employer needs to keep it as a record.
The leave needs to start before the date Schedule X stops operating in the relevant award, but can finish after that date. If Schedule X doesn’t have a set end date in an award, the leave needs to start before 31 July 2020.
An employee on leave at half pay accumulates annual leave and sick and carer’s leave as if they were on leave at full pay.