Award flexibility and unpaid pandemic leave during COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

COVID award flexibility

** Due to constantly changing legislation during COVID-19, we will be regularly updating this blog to ensure the latest changes and KeyPay updates apply. Last update: 9 April 2020 **

We’re experiencing extremely trying times with COVID-19 disrupting the way we’re working, and even our ability to work, causing uncertainty for businesses and employees.

Due to the impacts the Coronavirus is having on workplaces, a number of unions and employer associations are applying to the Fair Work Commission to increase award flexibility.

We will be continually updating this blog to show the latest awards that apply for increased flexibility, but you can keep updated on which awards apply via the Fair Work website.

Which awards are impacted by Commission determinations?

So far, the below awards have been impacted:

Restaurant Industry Award 2010

Amendments have been made to provide flexibility during the outbreak of Coronavirus for:

  • employees’ classifications and duties
  • full-time and part-time employees' hours of work
  • directions to take annual leave.

See more for the latest updates.

Clerks Private Sector Award 2010

Amendments have been made to provide flexibility during the outbreak of Coronavirus for:

  • employees’ classifications and duties
  • minimum engagement/pay for part-time and casual employees
  • span of hours changes while working at home
  • full-time and part-time employees' hours of work
  • directions to take annual leave

See more for the latest updates.

Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010

Amendments have been made to provide flexibility during the outbreak of Coronavirus for:

  • employees’ classifications and duties
  • full-time and part-time employees' hours of work
  • directions to take annual leave

See more for the latest updates.

What does this mean for payroll?

These amendments to awards mean payroll administrators will have to take the new rules into consideration when processing payroll.

To avoid inevitable human error and payroll frustration, payroll admins should be sourcing a cloud payroll software which automates complex pay rates. KeyPay offers award interpretation for an extensive list of pre-built Modern Awards in the system, so you will always be compliant with payroll.

KeyPay’s award interpreter interprets employee timesheets or clock in/out data, calculating their costs at any time using its built-in rule tester. Whether it’s calculating overtime, wage rates, penalties or allowances, or adjusting birthdays automatically, you don’t have to worry about any manual processes. Our awards are always kept up to date automatically, without the need to install any updates.

Does KeyPay cover the awards that have increased flexibility?

Yes, KeyPay covers the awards noted above and we can confirm that the increased flexibility has been configured and updated to comply with Fair Work. Awards are changing all the time, and we’re constantly updating them in our system to ensure compliance.

For the latest updates on award flexibility during Coronavirus, see the Fair Work website.

Update: 9 April 2020: unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave at half pay

On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission made determinations that varied 99 awards. The determinations provided temporary updates to these awards, providing employees with:

  • 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave
  • the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half their normal pay if their employer agrees

These variations apply from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 8 April 2020 until 30 June 2020. This end date may be extended by application to the Fair Work Commission. We’ll provide updates on other awards that may vary, when we hear more.

Which awards are affected by the April 8 determinations?

For up to date info on the affected awards, see the Fair Work website. A number of these awards are available in KeyPay, and we're happy to announce that they've all been updated according to the new determinations. These are as follows:

  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award 2010 (MA000115)
  • Aged Care Award 2010 (MA000018)
  • Amusement, Events and Recreation Award 2010 (MA000080)
  • Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 2010 (MA000118)
  • Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2010 (MA000019)
  • Business Equipment Award 2010 (MA000021)
  • Children's Services Award 2010 (MA000120)
  • Cleaning Services Award 2010 (MA000022)
  • Clerks Private Sector Award 2010 (MA000002)
  • Education Services (Teachers) Award 2010 (MA000077)
  • Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010 (MA000025)
  • Fast Food Industry Award 2010 (MA000003)
  • Fitness Industry Award 2010 (MA000094)
  • Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 2010 (MA000073)
  • Gardening and Landscaping Services Award 2010 (MA000101)
  • General Retail Industry Award 2010 (MA000004)
  • Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010 (MA000026)
  • Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010 (MA000005)
  • Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010 (MA000027)
  • Horticultural Award (MA000028)
  • Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 (MA000009)
  • Live Performance Award 2010 [MA000081]
  • Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010 (MA000010)
  • Meat Industry Award (MA000059)
  • Miscellaneous Award 2010 (MA000104)
  • Nurses Award 2010 (MA000034)
  • Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award 2010 (MA000063)
  • Pastoral Award 2010 (MA000035)
  • Pharmacy Industry Award 2010 (MA000012)
  • Professional Employees Award 2010 (MA000065)
  • Racing Clubs Events Award 2010 (MA000013)
  • Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award 2010 (MA000014)
  • Real Estate
  • Registered and Licensed Clubs Award 2010 (MA000058)
  • Restaurant Industry Award 2010 (MA000119)
  • Road Transport and Distribution Award 2010 (MA000038) and Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2010 (MA000039)
  • Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010 (MA000100)
  • Storage Services and Wholesale Award 2010 (MA000084)
  • Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 2010 [MA000017]
  • Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award 2010 [MA000089]
  • Wine Industry Award 2010 (MA000090)

Update 14 April: We're pleased to announce that all awards affected in KeyPay have now been updated for the pandemic leave determinations!

An overview of Unpaid Pandemic Leave

Employees who are employed under one of the affected awards can access up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave (or more by agreement with their employer) if they're prevented from working:

  • as a result of being required to self-isolate by government or medical authorities, or acting on the advice of a medical practitioner, or
  • by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic (for example, an enforceable government direction restricting non-essential businesses).
  • The leave is available in full immediately to full-time, part-time and casual employees – they don’t have to accrue it.

Employees don’t have to use all their paid leave before accessing unpaid pandemic leave. All eligible employees can take the 2 weeks’ leave. It is not pro-rated for employees who don't work full-time.

Notice and evidence

  • An employee has to let their employer know that they’re going to take unpaid pandemic leave and the reason for taking the leave. This has to be done as soon as possible and can be after the leave has started. They should also say how long they'll be off or expect to be off work.
  • An employer can ask an employee to give evidence that shows why they took the leave.
  • An employer must not dismiss the employee or take any other adverse action against an employee because the employee is entitled to unpaid pandemic leave.

An overview of annual leave at half pay

Employees under the varied awards can take their annual leave at half pay, and double their time off work, if their employer agrees. This means an employee gets 1 weeks' annual leave payment (including annual leave loading if applicable) for every 2 weeks of annual leave they take.

  • The agreement must be in writing and the employer needs to keep it as a record.
  • The leave needs to start before 30 June 2020, but can finish after that date.
  • Teachers employed under the Teachers Award (except teachers employed in early childhood services that operate for at least 48 weeks a year) can’t take annual leave at half pay.

If you're looking for a more detailed overview of the varied awards, check out the blog by our friends at Workplace Law. For the latest Government information on varied awards during COVID-19, see here.

Kate Brown

Marketing Manager at KeyPay

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