We’ve sourced this update from FairWork.gov.au to share with our network, regarding the determinations to insert a new temporary schedule into 99 Modern Awards, for unpaid pandemic leave. The full details from FairWork have been provided below.

Published 8 April 2020 on FairWork.gov.au

On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made determinations varying 99 awards. The determinations inserted a temporary new schedule into these awards. The schedule provides employees with:

  • 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave
  • the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half their normal pay if their employer agrees.

The schedule in each award applies from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 8 April 2020 until 30 June 2020. This end date can be extended by application to the Commission.

The Commission may vary more awards to include similar provisions. We’ll update this information if that happens.

Read more about:

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 30 June 2020, but can finish after that date.

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 counts as service for entitlements under:

  • awards
  • 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 must not dismiss the 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.

Example: Taking unpaid pandemic leave

Gerson is a casual shop assistant employed under the Retail Award. He’s received advice from a doctor that he needs to self-isolate because he was in close contact with a confirmed case.

He calls his employer to let them know his situation.

Gerson’s employer discusses the different kinds of leave options he has while he’s away from work. After talking about it, Gerson decides he’ll take unpaid pandemic leave. On his employer’s request, Gerson emails his employer his medical certificate. 

Annual leave

Under the new schedule, employees can take their annual leave at half pay, and double their time off work, if their employer agrees. This means an employee gets 1 weeks’ annual leave payment (including annual leave loading if applicable) for every 2 weeks of annual leave they take.

The agreement must be in writing and the employer needs to keep it as a record.

The leave needs to start before 30 June 2020, but can finish after that date.

Teachers employed under the Teachers Award (except teachers employed in early childhood services that operate for at least 48 weeks a year) can’t take annual leave at half pay.

Example: Annual leave at half pay

Leah is a coxswain employed under the Marine Tourism and Charter Vessels Award. Her employer has had to stop operating their party boat because of an enforceable government direction in response to coronavirus.

After talking with her employer about the situation, Leah decides to take some of her annual leave. She currently has 6 weeks of annual leave.

Instead of taking 6 weeks at normal pay, Leah asks her employer if she can take 12 weeks’ annual leave at half pay.

Leah’s employer is happy with this and records the agreement in writing.

Further award flexibility during coronavirus

The Commission recently varied some awards to provide flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak. The following awards have already been varied in relation to taking annual leave:

  • Hospitality Award
  • Clerks Award
  • Restaurant Award.

More information:

Affected awards

The following awards have been updated with the new schedule. Not sure which award applies? Use Find my award to see which award applies to you.

  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award
  • Aged Care Award
  • Air Pilots Award
  • Aircraft Cabin Crew Award
  • Airline Operations-Ground Staff Award
  • Airport Employees Award
  • Alpine Resorts Award
  • Aluminium Industry Award
  • Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award
  • Amusement, Events and Recreation Award
  • Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award
  • Aquaculture Industry Award
  • Architects Award
  • Asphalt Industry Award
  • Banking, Finance and Insurance Award
  • Book Industry Award
  • Broadcasting, Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award
  • Business Equipment Award
  • Car Parking Award
  • Cement, Lime and Quarrying Award
  • Cemetery Industry Award
  • Children’s Services Award
  • Cleaning Services Award
  • Clerks – Private Sector Award
  • Commercial Sales Award
  • Concrete Products Award
  • Contract Call Centres Award
  • Corrections and Detention (Private Sector) Award
  • Cotton Ginning Award
  • Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award
  • Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award
  • Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award
  • Educational Services (Teachers) Award
  • Fast Food Industry Award
  • Fitness Industry Award
  • Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award
  • Funeral Industry Award
  • Gardening and Landscaping Services Award
  • General Retail Industry Award
  • Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award
  • Hair and Beauty Industry Award
  • Health Professionals and Support Services Award
  • Higher Education Industry-Academic Staff-Award
  • Higher Education Industry-General Staff-Award
  • Horse and Greyhound Training Award
  • Horticulture Award
  • Hospitality Industry (General) Award
  • Journalists Published Media Award
  • Labour Market Assistance Industry Award
  • Legal Services Award
  • Live Performance Award
  • Local Government Industry Award
  • Mannequins and Models Award
  • Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award
  • Marine Tourism and Charter Vessels Award
  • Market and Social Research Award
  • Meat Industry Award
  • Medical Practitioners Award
  • Miscellaneous Award
  • Nursery Award
  • Nurses Award
  • Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award
  • Pastoral Award
  • Pest Control Industry Award
  • Pharmaceutical Industry Award
  • Pharmacy Industry Award
  • Poultry Processing Award
  • Premixed Concrete Award
  • Professional Diving Industry (Recreational) Award
  • Professional Employees Award
  • Racing Clubs Events Award
  • Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award
  • Rail Industry Award
  • Real Estate Industry Award
  • Registered and Licensed Clubs Award
  • Restaurant Industry Award
  • Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award
  • Road Transport and Distribution Award
  • Salt Industry Award
  • Seafood Processing Award
  • Security Services Industry Award
  • Silviculture Award
  • Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award
  • Sporting Organisations Award
  • State Government Agencies Award
  • Storage Services and Wholesale Award
  • Sugar Industry Award
  • Supported Employment Services Award
  • Surveying Award
  • Telecommunications Services Award
  • Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award
  • Timber Industry Award
  • Transport (Cash in Transit) Award
  • Travelling Shows Award
  • Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award
  • Waste Management Award
  • Water Industry Award
  • Wine Industry Award
  • Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award.


© Fair Work Ombudsman www.fairwork.gov.au