FWC amends awards for pandemic leave

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The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has updated the Fair Work Act to enable employees to take at least two weeks of unpaid pandemic leave. It also enables employees to take double their annual leave at half their normal pay, if their employer agrees.

Pandemic: FWC temporarily changes some awards
Pandemic: FWC temporarily changes some awards

The temporary change affects 99 awards, including the Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award, the Book Industry Award, and the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award.

According to the FWC, pandemic leave can be accessed if an employee is prevented from working because they have been ordered to self-isolate, or because of other “measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic”, including the restriction of non-essential business activities.

The changes in annual leave essentially double the amount of annual leave an employee can take, in terms of time, but halving the employee’s annual leave pay per day. The leave needs to start before 30 June but can end after that time.

These provisions apply from an employee’s first full pay period after 8 April, through 30 June. The end date may be extended by applying to the FWC.

A full summary of the FWC decision, released on 8 April, can be accessed on the FWC website.

Andrew Macaulay, CEO at Print & Visual Communication Association (PVCA) said the FWC decision would give some employers and employees greater flexibility in the options available to them in managing workplace flexibility.

“The PVCA takes the view that it is better to have more options on the table for SMEs and their employees to discuss employment flexibility, and this would be one of them,” Macaulay said.

“That said, if employees are eligible for the Jobkeeper package, that avenue is better for the employer and employee, because it’s not leave without pay – it’s pay.

“PVCA recommends that members call and discuss their options with our IR hotline before making any decisions. If they are eligible for the Jobkeeper programme, there is money in it for their staff.”

Macaulay said the PVCA is still running its daily webinars to help print industry navigate the issues the pandemic is causing. The FWC decision will be covered in the webinars, as will other pertinent issues. Macaulay said the webinar today has already been oversubscribed, but there are still spaces left for tomorrow and Friday.

To book either the webinar, or talk to the PVCA Legal Services team, email info@pvca.org.au. For the webinar, a link to join will be sent to registrants about 30 minutes before the session is due to take place. Webinar start time is 3pm AEDT each day.

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