Unpaid pandemic leave & annual leave changes to awards

Extension of unpaid pandemic leave in some awards

The Fair Work Commission has extended unpaid pandemic leave in some awards. There are different end dates for Schedule X (which has the unpaid pandemic leave provisions) in each award.

We’ve updated this page to reflect the changes.

Published 8 April 2020 | Updated 3 July 2020

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 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.

We’ve updated this page with the new end dates for each award. 

Read more about:

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 that Schedule X no longer applies to.

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. 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.

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. 

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.

For more information about the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, see JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

Annual leave at half pay

JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act – annual leave

Employers in the JobKeeper scheme can agree with an employee to take annual leave at half their usual pay for twice the length of time.

These provisions are separate to the Schedule X provisions which operate in some awards.

For more information see JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme external-icon.png.

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.  

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.

Further award flexibility during coronavirus

The Commission recently varied some awards to provide flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak. Find out more:  

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 Schedule X has stopped applying.

31 July 2020

Award Schedule X end date
Fast Food Industry Award 31 July 2020
Hair and Beauty Industry Award 31 July 2020
General Retail Industry Award 31 July 2020
Storage Services and Wholesale Award 31 July 2020

30 September 2020

Award Schedule X end date
Airline Operations - Ground Staff Award 30 September 2020
Airport Employees Award 30 September 2020
Alpine Resorts Award 30 September 2020
Aluminium Industry Award 30 September 2020
Amusement, Events and Recreation Award 30 September 2020
Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 30 September 2020
Aquaculture Industry Award 30 September 2020
Architects Award 30 September 2020
Asphalt Industry Award 30 September 2020
Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 30 September 2020
Broadcasting, Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award 30 September 2020
Business Equipment Award 30 September 2020
Car Parking Award 30 September 2020
Cement, Lime and Quarrying Award 30 September 2020
Cemetery Industry Award 30 September 2020
Children's Services Award 30 September 2020
Cleaning Services Award 30 September 2020
Commercial Sales Award 30 September 2020
Contract Call Centres Award 30 September 2020
Corrections and Detention (Private Sector) Award 30 September 2020
Cotton Ginning Award 30 September 2020
Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award 30 September 2020
Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 30 September 2020
Fitness Industry Award 30 September 2020
Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 30 September 2020
Funeral Industry Award 30 September 2020
Gardening and Landscaping Services Award 30 September 2020
Higher Education Industry – General Staff – Award 30 September 2020
Horse and Greyhound Training Award 30 September 2020
Hospitality Industry (General) Award 30 September 2020
Horticulture Award 30 September 2020
Journalists Published Media Award 30 September 2020
Labour Market Assistance Award 30 September 2020
Legal Services Award 30 September 2020
Local Government Industry Award 30 September 2020
Meat Industry Award 30 September 2020
Miscellaneous Award 30 September 2020
Nursery Award 30 September 2020
Pastoral Award 30 September 2020
Pest Control Industry Award 30 September 2020
Pharmaceutical Industry Award 30 September 2020
Poultry Processing Award 30 September 2020
Premixed Concrete Award 30 September 2020
Professional Diving Industry (Recreational) Award 30 September 2020
Professional Employees Award 30 September 2020
Racing Clubs Events Award 30 September 2020
Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award 30 September 2020
Rail Industry Award 30 September 2020
Registered and Licensed Clubs Award 30 September 2020
Restaurant Industry Award 30 September 2020
Salt Industry Award 30 September 2020
Seafood Processing Award 30 September 2020
Security Services Industry Award 30 September 2020
Silviculture Award 30 September 2020
State Government Agencies Award 30 September 2020
Sugar Industry Award 30 September 2020
Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 30 September 2020
Timber Industry Award 30 September 2020
Vehicle Repair, Service and Retail Award 30 September 2020
Waste Management Award 30 September 2020
Water Industry Award 30 September 2020
Wine Industry Award 30 September 2020
Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award 30 September 2020

31 December 2020

Award Schedule X end date
Air Pilots Award 31 December 2020

30 June 2021

Award Schedule X end date
Live Performance Award 30 June 2021

Until further order of the Fair Work Commission

Schedule X will continue to apply in these awards until a further order is issued by the Fair Work Commission, which may include a decision in the proceedings AM2020/13: Health sector awards – pandemic leave.

Any leave taken under Schedule X needs to start by 31 July 2020.

Award Schedule X end date
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award Until further order of the Commission
Aged Care Award Until further order of the Commission
Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award Until further order of the Commission
Health Professionals and Support Services Award Until further order of the Commission
Medical Practitioners Award Until further order of the Commission
Nurses Award Until further order of the Commission
Pharmacy Industry Award Until further order of the Commission
Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award Until further order of the Commission
Supported Employment Services Award Until further order of the Commission

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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