The full bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) handed down a decision on Friday 15 July 2022 confirming that it will extend the unpaid pandemic leave provisions (Schedule X provisions) in certain modern awards.

Essentially, this means that employees covered under the following modern awards will continue to have access to 2 weeks' unpaid pandemic leave if they're unable to work because of COVID-19 (i.e. are required to self-isolate), until 31 December 2022:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award 2020;
  • Aged Care Award 2010;
  • Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award 2020;
  • Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2020;
  • Supported Employment Services Award 2020; and
  • Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010.

Extending the Schedule X provisions in the above modern awards addresses the "most at-risk and vulnerable sectors, namely the health care, aged care and other care sectors", as stated by the full bench of the FWC.

This decision stands in the face of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the Australian community, in which the full bench of the FWC noted that there is "an estimated 316,789 current active cases, which means that the number of close contacts will be correspondingly high."

Ultimately, time-limited Schedule X provisions in any other modern awards ceased operation on 30 June 2022, meaning that employees covered under those modern awards do not have access to unpaid pandemic leave.

While the extended Schedule X provisions provide an unpaid entitlement, the Albanese Government has confirmed that the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will be reinstated. Further information regarding this payment can be found on the Services Australia website.

COVID-19 Award Flexibility - applications to vary Schedule X [2022] FWCFB 130

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