The following article summarises key details about pay and leave options during periods of quarantine and self-isolation due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 continues to impact business operations across the country, which means employers need to stay on top of their leave obligations to their workers.
Unpaid pandemic leave under awards
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fair Work Commission varied 99 awards to include greater flexibility for both employers and employees.
One of the flexibility measures provides employees with access to two weeks (or more by agreement with the employer) of unpaid pandemic leave if they cannot work because:
- they need to self-isolate as per advice from the government or medical authorities, or on the advice of a medical practitioner; or
- because of measures taken by the government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic, such as a lockdown.
Unpaid pandemic leave is immediately available to full-time, part-time and casual employees and does not need to be accrued.
Employees do not have to use all of their other paid leave entitlements before accessing unpaid pandemic leave, and all eligible employees can take the two weeks of leave. The leave is not pro-rated for employees who do not work full-time.
Employers cannot refuse a request to access unpaid pandemic leave or dismiss an employee or take any other adverse action against an employee who seeks to access this entitlement.
Unpaid pandemic leave accounts as service for entitlements under the National Employment Standards (NES), which means that annual leave and personal leave will continue to accrue during a period that an employee is on unpaid pandemic leave.
Employees wanting to access unpaid pandemic leave must comply with notice requirements by informing their employer in writing that they are taking unpaid pandemic leave, including the reason that they are taking the leave (e.g. requirement to self-isolate because of close contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19) and how long they expect to be absent.
Employers can ask employees to provide evidence that shows why they took the leave, such as a doctor’s certificate or receipt of a COVID-19 test.
It is important to note that not all modern awards were varied to include this flexibility measure. For specific advice on the Award which applies to your workers, please call the Ai Group Workplace Advice Line.
Unpaid pandemic leave does not prevent a full-time or part-time employee from accessing their paid personal leave entitlement under the NES, if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 and become unwell.
Employees will still be required to provide notice, and evidence if required by the employer, in order to access their paid personal leave entitlements.
Further advice or assistance
For further advice or assistance on this topic, or any workplace relations matter, contact the Ai Group Workplace Advice Line.
Call 1300 862 217 8.30 – 5.30pm AEDT Monday-Friday