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Further changes to Modern Awards in light of COVID-19 pandemic


In an earlier blog we outlined changes which had been made to three Modern Awards , which were intended to provide flexibility to deal with the circumstances caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic.  Those three awards were:

  • Clerks Private Sector Award
  • Hospitality (General) Industry Award
  • Restaurant Industry Award

Since that time, a specially convened Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has – on its own initiative – varied a large number of other Modern Awards for the same purpose.

The FWC has pointed out that these changes do not prevent unions or employer organisations applying to it to make further variations to Modern Awards to provide additional measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The FWC encouraged all relevant industrial parties to engage in discussions with a view to doing such.

When will the changes to the Modern Awards come into effect?

The new changes will come into effect from 8 April 2020 and will apply until 30 June 2020, but may be extended.

A list of the modern awards to which these changes apply is contained below.  Some modern awards that apply in industries which have not yet been adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic were not included.  However, this exercise has demonstrated that the FWC and various industrial stakeholders (unions and employer associations) have the ability to act quickly to achieve changes required to cope with the current exceptional circumstances.  Accordingly, if it becomes necessary for further changes to be made, we can expect to see those changes introduced and implemented promptly.

How have the Modern Awards been amended? 

The FWC has provided that a new Schedule – “Schedule X” - is to be inserted into the modern awards in question.

Schedule X provides for the following additional measures during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Unpaid Pandemic Leave

An employee who is prevented from working because they are required to self isolate due to advice from government or medical authorities, or on medical advice, or is otherwise prevented from working due to measures taken by government or medical authorities, can take up to two weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave.

Any such leave must commence before 30 June 2020.*

This leave does not affect the worker’s other entitlements to other paid or unpaid leave, and the time spent on this leave counts as “service” for the purpose of National Employment Standard (NES) entitlements  (e.g. notice, redundancy pay, personal (sick and carers) leave and annual leave). 

A worker intending to take unpaid pandemic leave must notify their employer as soon as possible of the leave and the reasons for such leave and, if requested, must provide evidence to support their need to take the leave. Note that “as soon as possible” can be after the leave has commenced.

Employees can, by agreement with their employer, take longer than 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave. 

  1. Annual Leave at half pay

An employee covered by one of the amended modern awards can, by agreement with their employer, take twice as much leave on half pay.  Any such agreement must be recorded in writing and maintained as an employee record.

In such cases, the employee would receive, for two weeks’ leave, the pay they would normally receive for one weeks’ leave – including leave loading -  and only one weeks’ leave will be deducted from their accrued leave balance.

Any such leave must commence before 30 June 2020.*

*  It is anticipated that, if these amendments are extended -  as is likely if the Coronavirus pandemic is still causing significant disruption to business and the economy beyond 30 June 20210 -  this time limit will be extended as well.

 The FWC has considered whether it should include a broader range of measure to provide greater flexibility – such as those introduced in the three Modern Awards referred to in our earlier blog.  Such broader measures might include, for example, the ability for employers to direct employees to take annual leave, or to allow reduction in the working hours of permanent staff.

However, ultimately, the FWC decided not to do so as it felt that it was more important at this stage, to act quickly and to attract broad support for the measures introduced.  It also noted that most Modern Awards either allow, or do not prohibit, employers and employees reaching agreement to reduce hours of work.  Hopefully, such measures will not become necessary but, if they do, we anticipate that many employees would choose to agree to reduced hours if the alternative was redundancy.

What Modern Awards are affected?

·      Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award 2010 ·      Journalists Published Media Award 2010
·      Aged Care Award 2010 ·      Labour Market Assistance Industry Award 2010
·      Air Pilots Award 2010 ·      Legal Services Award 2020
·      Aircraft Cabin Crew Award 2010 ·      Live Performance Award 2010
·      Airline Operations-Ground Staff Award 2010 ·      Local Government Industry Award 2010
·      Airport Employees Award 2010 ·      Mannequins and Models Award 2010
·      Alpine Resorts Award 2010 ·      Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010
·      Aluminium Industry Award 2020 ·      Marine Tourism and Charter Vessels Award 2010
·      Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award 2020 ·      Market and Social Research Award 2020
·      Amusement, Events and Recreation Award 2010 ·      Meat Industry Award 2010
·      Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 2020 ·      Medical Practitioners Award 2020
·      Aquaculture Industry Award 2020 ·      Miscellaneous Award 2010
·      Architects Award 2010 ·      Nursery Award 2020
·      Asphalt Industry Award 2010 ·      Nurses Award 2010
·      Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2020 ·      Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award 2010
·      Book Industry Award 2020 ·      Pastoral Award 2010
·      Broadcasting, Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award 2010 ·      Pest Control Industry Award 2010
·      Business Equipment Award 2010 ·      Pharmaceutical Industry Award 2010
·      Car Parking Award 2020 ·      Pharmacy Industry Award 2010
·      Cement, Lime and Quarrying Award 2010 ·      Poultry Processing Award 2010
·      Cemetery Industry Award 2020 ·      Premixed Concrete Award 2020
·      Children’s Services Award 2010 ·      Professional Diving Industry (Recreational) Award 2010
·      Cleaning Services Award 2010 ·      Professional Employees Award 2010
·      Clerks - Private Sector Award 2010 ·      Racing Clubs Events Award 2010
·      Commercial Sales Award 2010 ·      Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award 2020
·      Concrete Products Award 2010 ·      Rail Industry Award 2010
·      Contract Call Centres Award 2010 ·      Real Estate Industry Award 2020
·      Corrections and Detention (Private Sector) Award 2020 ·      Registered and Licensed Clubs Award 2010
·      Cotton Ginning Award 2020 ·      Restaurant Industry Award 2010
·      Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award 2010 ·      Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2010
·      Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2010 ·      Road Transport and Distribution Award 2010
·      Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award 2010 ·      Salt Industry Award 2010
·      Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2010 ·      Seafood Processing Award 2020
·      Fast Food Industry Award 2010 ·      Security Services Industry Award 2010
·      Fitness Industry Award 2010 ·      Silviculture Award 2020
·      Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 2010 ·      Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010
·      Funeral Industry Award 2010 ·      Sporting Organisations Award 2020
·      Gardening and Landscaping Services Award 2020 ·      State Government Agencies Award 2020
·      General Retail Industry Award 2010 ·      Storage Services and Wholesale Award 2010
·      Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010 ·      Sugar Industry Award 2010
·      Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010 ·      Supported Employment Services Award 2010
·      Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010 ·      Surveying Award 2020
·      Higher Education Industry-Academic Staff-Award 2010 ·      Telecommunications Services Award 2010
·      Higher Education Industry-General Staff-Award 2010 ·      Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 2010
·      Horse and Greyhound Training Award 2010 ·      Timber Industry Award 2010
·      Horticulture Award 2010 ·      Transport (Cash in Transit) Award 2010
·      Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 ·      Travelling Shows Award 2020


Do you have any questions about Modern Awards or any other aspects of employment?  Whether COVID-19 related or not, please contact Margaret, Anthony or Carly from Andersons Workplace Law Team.

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Get in touch with today's blog writer:
Margaret Kaukas

Special Counsel in Employment Law

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal and South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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