FWC COVID-19 Decision 1 April 2020

Unpaid Pandemic Leave

On 1 April 2020, the full bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) made a decision to make additional temporary variations to 103 modern awards. In a statement released yesterday, the full bench outlined the introduction of two weeks’ unpaid “pandemic leave” that will apply to millions of award covered workers until June 30.

The changes aim to cover workers who perhaps are not showing symptoms or have not tested positive to COVID-19 but are nonetheless required to self-isolate or are unable to attend work due to government measures rolled out in response to the virus. The unpaid leave will provide coverage to a wider range of workers who otherwise may not have other leave entitlements available.

The unpaid pandemic leave will:

  • Be available immediately and not require accrual over a year’s service;
  • Be available to full-time, part-time and casual employees (not pro-rated); and
  • Provide workers with the option of opting to take the unpaid pandemic leave even if their paid leave entitlements have not been exhausted.

Proposed Annual Leave Variations

The FWC’s statement also outlines a proposed new model term for annual leave that enables further flexibility by allowing an employee to take double the amount of annual leave at half the rate of pay.

The model term, subject to agreement between employer and employee, has already been inserted as a variation in the Hospitality Award, the Clerks – Private Sector Award and the Restaurant Award.

The FWC full bench provided the proposed model term under Schedule X of decision statement:

X.2.2 Annual leave at half pay [2020] FWCFB 1760


  1. Instead of an employee taking paid annual leave on full pay, the employee and their employer may agree to the employee taking twice as much leave on half pay.
  2. Any agreement to take twice as much annual leave at half pay must be recorded in writing and retained as an employee record.

EXAMPLE: Instead of an employee taking one week’s annual leave on full pay, the employee and their employer may agree to the employee taking 2 weeks’ annual leave on half pay. In this example:

  • the employee’s full pay for the 2 weeks’ leave is the same as the pay the employee would have been entitled to for 1 weeks’ leave on full pay (including leave loading under the Annual Leave clause of this award); and
  • one week of leave is deducted from the employee’s annual leave accrual.

The FWC have called for anyone who would like to provide feedback to file a submission by 4:00 pm AEST, Monday 6 April 2020. Submissions will be given consideration at the hearing set down for Wednesday 8 April 2020.

If you have any questions in relation to the new unpaid pandemic leave or proposed variations to annual please do not hesitate to contact Nick Stevens, Jane Murray or Angharad Owens-Strauss.

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