103 Modern Awards Proposed to be Varied in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

103 Modern Awards Proposed to be Varied in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Fair Work Commission has released a statement expressing its provisional views to insert a new “Schedule X” into 103 modern awards.  The Fair Work Commission are proposing to insert into Schedule X the entitlement for employees to take:

1. two weeks’ unpaid “pandemic leave”; and

2. twice the amount of annual leave at half pay.

Attorney-General Christian Porter has labelled these proposed amendments to the modern awards as “incredibly important changes that could save tens and thousands of jobs” and has noted that “those common-sense changes would allow the flexibility in a number of businesses which flexibility could well make the difference between survival of the business and the preservation of the jobs or the failure of the business and the loss of the jobs”.


The introduction of pandemic leave would allow employees to take two weeks’ unpaid leave in circumstances for instance, where an employee may be required to self-isolate for two weeks’ or in response to a Government or medical authority directive that prevents them from working.

At this stage, the Fair Work Commission are proposing that the pandemic leave will apply to all full-time, part-time and casual employees and will not be pro-rated based on the number of ordinary hours worked.  Employees will not be required to accrue the pandemic leave and they will be able to take it without having to exhaust any of their accrued paid annual leave or personal leave entitlements prior.


The Fair Work Commission is also proposing to include a model term in Schedule X which allows the employer and employee to reach an agreement to take up to twice as much annual leave at half the rate of pay.  For example, rather than taking one week’s annual leave on full pay, the employee may take two weeks’ annual leave on half pay.  In circumstances where this form of agreement is reached, leave loading would be payable as per the annual leave loading clause under the modern award and only one week’s leave would be deducted from the employee’s annual leave accrual.


The Fair Work Commission have invited any interested parties to make submissions on the proposed changes by emailing a statement to chambers.ross.j@fwc.gov.au by 4.00pm on Monday 6 April 2020.  If any submissions are received opposing the proposed changes, a hearing will take place at 2.00pm on Wednesday 8 April 2020.

For assistance drafting any submissions or for more information on how these changes may affect your business, please contact our office.

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