Paid Pandemic Leave is Here... For Some
Employees covered by the Nurses Award 2010, Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2020 and Aged Care Award 2010 who are employed by residential aged care providers or are required to work in residential aged care facilities are now entitled to two weeks’ paid pandemic leave following a recent announcement from the Fair Work Commission.
What is the Entitlement?
Permanent and casual employees engaged on a regular and systematic basis under the aforementioned modern awards are now entitled to take up to two weeks’ paid pandemic leave on each occasion they are prevented from working when:
- the employee is required to self-isolate or quarantine by government or medical authorities or their employer;
- the employee is required to self-isolate or quarantine following receipt of medical advice because they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have come into contact with a person suspected of contracting COVID-19;
- the employee is isolating while they await their tests results;
- because of measures taken by the government or medical authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Are There Exclusions?
Yes, employees will not be entitled to access paid pandemic leave if:
- they are not covered by the aforementioned awards;
- they are able to work from home or remotely;
- circumstances dictate that they should access personal/carer’s leave (for example, if the employee was actually unwell, they would be entitled to personal leave);
- they are covered by an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement that does not expressly incorporate the aforementioned awards.
Importantly, the leave is conditional on employees taking a COVID-19 test at the earliest opportunity.
Employees requesting pandemic leave are also required to: · provide their employer with notice and the reason why they are taking the leave, as soon as practicable; and if required · provide evidence that would satisfy ‘a reasonable person’ that the leave is being taken for one of the specified reasons; and produce a medical certificate.
Employees are still entitled to workers’ compensation if they test positive for COVID-19 and their paid pandemic leave ceases, provided COVID-19 was contracted during their employment.
What About Other Industries?
At this point in time it is uncertain whether or not this entitlement will be broadened to other modern awards and employers in other industries are understandably curious and nervous. The Fair Work Commission, in their statement, confirmed that the paid pandemic leave is in response to “The seriousness of the position in the aged care sector”, however time will tell if this will broaden further in the rapid changing times.
If you have any questions or need any support with your workplace during these times, do not hesitate to contact EL's Principal Legal Advisor – Workplace Relations, Amie Mish-Wills: