Sweeping Changes to Industry Awards by the Fair Work Commission

15 APR 2020


The Fair Work Commission has recently made sweeping changes to over 100 different Industry Awards to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential strain placed on both employers and employees.

The three main changes covered by the Commission are:

  1. the introduction of COVID-19 pandemic leave;
  2. the change to annual leave and how employees can use their annual leave; and
  3. additional flexible working agreements.

The changes in select Industry Awards are only in effect until 30 June 2020, however, the Commission has the power to extend that deadline.

Some (not all) Industry Awards have been updated, with their own unique updates.

Pandemic leave

The introduction of pandemic leave entitles employees to two weeks’ unpaid annual leave if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, or are forced to self-isolate as a result of a direction from the Government or a medical practitioner.

This change adds in a safety net for a number of employees who previously had no protection if they were forced to self-isolate.

Employees are required to notify their manager as soon as practicable if they intend to use pandemic leave.

Annual leave

The Commission has also introduced the ability for employees to double the duration of their annual leave balance by taking the leave at half pay.

By agreement between an employer and employee, employees will be able to elect to take their annual leave at half pay, which will double the duration of their annual leave.

This has been introduced primarily for employees who are forced to take extended leave due to COVID-19. By having this feature, employees won’t be forced to use all their annual leave entitlement due to the prolonged pandemic.

The annual leave does not need to be taken in full by 30 June 2020, but the period of annual leave must have commenced prior to the 30 June 2020 deadline.

Flexible working agreements

Changes have been implemented to specific Industry Awards (not all) to allow for employers and employees to negotiate flexible working arrangements.

By written agreement, an employee and employer can agree to a change to working times, place of work and/or amount of work.

An agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties. It is best practice to get legal advice before creating and signing any agreement.

What does this mean for your business?

To discuss what Industry Award changes applies to your business, please contact Aaran Johnson on ajohnson@marsdens.net.au or Simon Kumar on skumar@marsdens.net.au or by phoning 02 4626 5077 to discuss your business’ needs.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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