Unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave changes to awards

Published 8 April 2020 | Updated 8 April 2021

Extension of unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibility in some awards

The Fair Work Commission has extended unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibility in some awards until 31 December 2021. It was previously due to end on 29 March 2021.

The extension applies to 9 health awards and 57 other awards. Eligible employees covered by these awards can continue to access 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibility.

See our updated information below.

On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made determinations external-icon.png varying 99 awards, adding unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibility.

The determinations inserted a temporary new Schedule X into these 99 awards, which provide 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 extended Schedule X in many awards, with the provisions ending in most awards from 31 December 2021. Check the list below to see if your award is affected.

Use Find my award if you’re not sure which award applies to you.

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. 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.

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. 

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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.

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.  

Example: Annual leave at half pay

Leah is an usher at a concert hall employed under the Live Performance Award. Her employer can’t engage all of its ushers, including Leah, because of an enforceable government direction in response to coronavirus that restricts the number of people attending the concert hall.

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.

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Awards with unpaid pandemic leave – new end dates

The tables below outline the awards that still have Schedule X as well as its new end date in each award. If your award isn’t listed here, go to List of awards where unpaid pandemic leave (Schedule X) no longer applies.

30 June 2021

Award Schedule X end date
Live Performance Award 30 June 2021

31 December 2021 – Health awards

Schedule X applies in health awards until 31 December 2021.

Note: Paid pandemic leave stopped applying from 30 March 2021 for employees in residential aged care under the Aged Care Award, the Nurses Award and the Health Services Award. Go to Paid pandemic leave in some awards for more information.

Award Schedule X end date
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award 31 December 2021
Aged Care Award 31 December 2021
Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award 31 December 2021
Health Professionals and Support Services Award 31 December 2021
Medical Practitioners Award 31 December 2021
Nurses Award 31 December 2021
Pharmacy Industry Award 31 December 2021
Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 31 December 2021
Supported Employment Services Award 31 December 2021

31 December 2021 – Other awards

Award Schedule X end date
Airline Operations - Ground Staff Award 31 December 2021
Airport Award 31 December 2021
Alpine Resorts Award 31 December 2021
Aluminium Industry Award 31 December 2021
Amusement, Events and Recreation Award 31 December 2021
Aquaculture Industry Award 31 December 2021
Architects Award 31 December 2021
Asphalt Industry Award 31 December 2021
Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 31 December 2021
Business Equipment Award 31 December 2021
Car Parking Award 31 December 2021
Cement, Lime and Quarrying Award 31 December 2021
Cemetery Industry Award 31 December 2021
Children's Services Award 31 December 2021
Cleaning Services Award 31 December 2021
Contract Call Centres Award 31 December 2021
Corrections and Detention (Private Sector) Award 31 December 2021
Cotton Ginning Award 31 December 2021
Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award 31 December 2021
Fast Food Industry Award 31 December 2021
Fitness Industry Award 31 December 2021
Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 31 December 2021
Funeral Industry Award 31 December 2021
Gardening and Landscaping Services Award 31 December 2021
Hair and Beauty Industry Award 31 December 2021
Horse and Greyhound Training Award 31 December 2021
Horticulture Award 31 December 2021
Hospitality Industry (General) Award 31 December 2021
Joinery Award 31 December 2021
Labour Market Assistance Award 31 December 2021
Legal Services Award 31 December 2021
Local Government Industry Award 31 December 2021
Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 31 December 2021
Meat Industry Award 31 December 2021
Nursery Award 31 December 2021
Pastoral Award 31 December 2021
Pest Control Industry Award 31 December 2021
Pharmaceutical Industry Award 31 December 2021
Poultry Processing Award 31 December 2021
Premixed Concrete Award 31 December 2021
Professional Award 31 December 2021
Professional Diving Industry (Recreational) Award 31 December 2021
Racing Clubs Events Award 31 December 2021
Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award 31 December 2021
Registered and Licensed Clubs Award 31 December 2021
Restaurant Industry Award 31 December 2021
General Retail Industry Award 31 December 2021
Salt Industry Award 31 December 2021
Seafood Processing Award 31 December 2021
Security Services Industry Award 31 December 2021
Silviculture Award 31 December 2021
State Government Agencies Award 31 December 2021
Storage Services and Wholesale Award 31 December 2021
Sugar Industry Award 31 December 2021
Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 31 December 2021
Timber Industry Award 31 December 2021
Waste Management Award 31 December 2021
Water Industry Award 31 December 2021
Wine Industry Award 31 December 2021
Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award 31 December 2021

To find out which awards used to have Schedule X but don’t any more, and when it stopped applying in those awards, see List of awards where unpaid pandemic leave (Schedule X) no longer applies.

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Western Australia state system

As some businesses in WA are not covered by the national system, the WA Industrial Relations Commission has announced unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibilities for state system employers and employees.

Our Fair Work system page has information about who isn’t covered by the national system.

Visit WA Labour Relations for detailed information for state system employers and employees on employment obligations and entitlements during coronavirus external-icon.png.

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