Covid-19 Update: FWC expands paid pandemic leave until late March

The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) announced that the paid pandemic leave provisions within the three awards applying to aged care workers (the Aged Care Award, the Nurses Award and the HPSS Award) will have their operation extended to 29 March 2021. In it’s decision the FWC noted the recent Covid-19 improvement recently in it’s decision: “The COVID-19 pandemic is returning to a controlled status in Australia. However, these significant improvements have only occurred over approximately the last 6 weeks, and it is too early to say that it will be sustained having regard to the rapidity in which further waves of infection may spread. Further, the statistics above clearly demonstrate the vulnerability of the aged care sector to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Certainly the risk we identified in the July decision in the aged care sector remains, and it is premature to say that this risk will cease to manifest itself in the future.” The Full Bench noted that this aligned with the position for unpaid pandemic leave in a number of modern awards. Information on unpaid pandemic leave including which awards are covered can be found here. What is paid pandemic leave? Throughout the Coronavirus outbreak in Australia there has been the issue of people turning up to work while displaying symptoms. Paid pandemic leave allows workers to still be paid whilst sick and not to risk turning up to work whilst sick. Will other sectors be included? Paid pandemic leave has only been implemented into the aged care sector as the problem is obviously most acute in aged care. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that separately from the FWC, he had instructed Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter to discuss extending leave to other workers with employers and unions. However, no immediate implementation of this in other sectors is clear. Health Sector Awards – Pandemic Leave [2020] FWCFB 5768 (29 October 2020) If you have any questions in relation to the above please do not hesitate to contact contact Nick StevensLuke Maroney or Bernard Cheng.

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