Unpaid pandemic leave & annual leave changes to awards

JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act

On 9 April 2020, the Fair Work Act was amended to support the implementation and operation of the JobKeeper scheme in Australian workplaces.

For information about the changes and how they apply, go to JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

We will continue to update our information and encourage you to check our website regularly for updates. You can also sign up for email updates and we’ll email you when more information is available.

Published 8 April 2020 | Updated 12 May 2020

On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made determinations external-icon.png 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 doesn’t affect other paid or unpaid leave entitlements and 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. 

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 changes to the Fair Work Act.

Annual leave

JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act – annual leave

Under the JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act, qualifying employers can:

  • request an eligible employee to take paid annual leave (as long as the employee keeps a balance of at least 2 weeks paid annual leave)
  • agree in writing with that employee for them to take annual leave at half their usual pay (including annual leave loading if it applies) for twice the length of time.

The employee has to consider the employer’s request to take annual leave and can’t unreasonably refuse it.

If an agreement is made under the JobKeeper provisions then it applies instead of the employee's usual terms and conditions about taking annual leave.

See JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act.

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.

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.

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
  • Vehicle Award
  • Fast Food Award.

More information:

Affected awards 

Read about unpaid pandemic leave and award flexibility in the Western Australia state system.

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.

Go to: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award [MA000115] external-icon.png  

Aged Care Award [MA000018] external-icon.png

Air Pilots Award [MA000046] external-icon.png

Aircraft Cabin Crew Award [MA000047] external-icon.png

Airline Operations - Ground Staff Award [MA000048] external-icon.png

Airport Employees Award [MA000049] external-icon.png

Alpine Resorts Award [MA000092] external-icon.png

Aluminium Industry Award [MA000060] external-icon.png

Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award [MA000098] external-icon.png

Amusement, Events and Recreation Award [MA000080] external-icon.png

Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award [MA000118] external-icon.png

Aquaculture Industry Award [MA000114] external-icon.png

Architects Award [MA000079] external-icon.png

Asphalt Industry Award [MA000054] external-icon.png

B

Banking, Finance and Insurance Award [MA000019] external-icon.png

Book Industry Award [MA000078] external-icon.png

Broadcasting, Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award [MA000091] external-icon.png

Business Equipment Award [MA000021] external-icon.png

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C

Car Parking Award [MA000095] external-icon.png

Cement, Lime and Quarrying Award [MA000055] external-icon.png

Cemetery Industry Award [MA000070] external-icon.png

Children's Services Award [MA000120] external-icon.png

Cleaning Services Award [MA000022] external-icon.png

Clerks - Private Sector Award [MA000002] external-icon.png

Commercial Sales Award [MA000083] external-icon.png

Concrete Products Award [MA000056] external-icon.png

Contract Call Centres Award [MA000023] external-icon.png

Corrections and Detention (Private Sector) Award [MA000110] external-icon.png

Cotton Ginning Award [MA000024] external-icon.png

D

Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award [MA000096] external-icon.png

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E

Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award [MA000075] external-icon.png

Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award [MA000076] external-icon.png

Educational Services (Teachers) Award [MA000077] external-icon.png

F

Fast Food Industry Award [MA000003] external-icon.png

Fitness Industry Award [MA000094] external-icon.png

Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award [MA000073] external-icon.png

Funeral Industry Award [MA000105] external-icon.png

G

Gardening and Landscaping Services Award [MA000101] external-icon.png

General Retail Industry Award [MA000004] external-icon.png

Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award [MA000026] external-icon.png

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H

Hair and Beauty Industry Award [MA000005] external-icon.png

Health Professionals and Support Services Award [MA000027] external-icon.png

Higher Education Industry - Academic Staff - Award [MA000006] external-icon.png

Higher Education Industry - General Staff - Award [MA000007] external-icon.png

Horse and Greyhound Training Award [MA000008] external-icon.png

Horticulture Award [MA000028] external-icon.png

Hospitality Industry (General) Award [MA000009] external-icon.png

J

Journalists Published Media Award [MA000067] external-icon.png

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L

Labour Market Assistance Industry Award [MA000099] external-icon.png

Legal Services Award [MA000116] external-icon.png

Live Performance Award [MA000081] external-icon.png

Local Government Industry Award [MA000112] external-icon.png

M

Mannequins and Models Award [MA000117] external-icon.png

Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award [MA000010] external-icon.png

Marine Tourism and Charter Vessels Award [MA000093] external-icon.png

Market and Social Research Award [MA000030] external-icon.png

Meat Industry Award [MA000059] external-icon.png

Medical Practitioners Award [MA000031] external-icon.png

Miscellaneous Award [MA000104] external-icon.png

N

Nursery Award [MA000033] external-icon.png

Nurses Award [MA000034] external-icon.png

O

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P

Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award [MA000063] external-icon.png

Pastoral Award [MA000035] external-icon.png

Pest Control Industry Award [MA000097] external-icon.png

Pharmaceutical Industry Award [MA000069] external-icon.png

Pharmacy Industry Award [MA000012] external-icon.png

Poultry Processing Award [MA000074] external-icon.png

Premixed Concrete Award [MA000057] external-icon.png

Professional Diving Industry (Recreational) Award [MA000109] external-icon.png

Professional Employees Award [MA000065] external-icon.png

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R

Racing Clubs Events Award [MA000013] external-icon.png

Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award [MA000014] external-icon.png

Rail Industry Award [MA000015] external-icon.png

Real Estate Industry Award [MA000106] external-icon.png

Registered and Licensed Clubs Award [MA000058] external-icon.png

Restaurant Industry Award [MA000119] external-icon.png

Road Transport and Distribution Award [MA000038] external-icon.png

Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award [MA000039] external-icon.png

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S

Salt Industry Award [MA000107] external-icon.png

Seafood Processing Award [MA000068] external-icon.png

Security Services Industry Award [MA000016] external-icon.png

Silviculture Award [MA000040] external-icon.png

Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award [MA000100] external-icon.png

Sporting Organisations Award [MA000082] external-icon.png

State Government Agencies Award [MA000121] external-icon.png

Storage Services and Wholesale Award [MA000084] external-icon.png

Sugar Industry Award [MA000087] external-icon.png

Supported Employment Services Award [MA000103] external-icon.png

Surveying Award [MA000066] external-icon.png

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T

Telecommunications Services Award [MA000041] external-icon.png

Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award [MA000017] external-icon.png

Timber Industry Award [MA000071] external-icon.png

Transport (Cash in Transit) Award [MA000042] external-icon.png

Travelling Shows Award [MA000102] external-icon.png

V

Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award [MA000089] external-icon.png

W

Waste Management Award [MA000043] external-icon.png

Water Industry Award [MA000113] external-icon.png

Wine Industry Award [MA000090] external-icon.png

Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award [MA000044] external-icon.png

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. Contact 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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