Other Recent Covid-19 Changes to Modern Awards

The content of this publication has been prepared based on material available to date (27 July 2020). The material in this guide is of a general nature and should not be regarded as legal advice or relied on for assistance in any particular circumstance or situation. In any important matter, you should seek appropriate independent professional advice in relation to your own circumstances. Master Builders Australia or any of its State or Territory Association Members (collectively ‘Master Builders’) accepts no responsibility or liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the reliance on information contained in this guide.

I understand that the Fair Work Commission has also made some COVID-19 changes to Modern Awards – what are they?

The Fair Work Commission has made temporary changes to almost 100 Modern Awards, creating two new types of leave arrangements as a means to help employers and employees respond to COVID-19 challenges. The new leave arrangements involve an ‘Unpaid Pandemic Leave’ and a flexible approach to annual leave.

  • Unpaid pandemic leave will be 2 weeks unpaid leave if an employee is required, by government or medical authorities or acting on the advice of a medical practitioner, to self-isolate and is consequently prevented from working, or is otherwise prevented from working by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Annual leave changes mean instead of an employee taking paid annual leave on full pay, the employee and their employer may agree to the employee taking twice as much leave on half pay.

Do the COVID-19 changes apply to all awards? Have construction Awards changed?

The FWC COVID-19 changes do not apply to all awards and the major Construction Awards have not changed at this time.

Instead, Master Builders and other employer groups have filed an application to temporarily vary the Construction Awards to address issues arising from COVID-19.  As at the time of publication a decision has yet to be handed down.  A copy of the application can be viewed here.

Where can I find out which awards have had the COVID-19 changes applied?

A summary of the FWC decision and changes can be found here including a list of Awards that have been changed. Specific variations for each Modern Award can be found here. Although those changes were due to cease on 30 June 2020, the FWC is currently considering applications for the temporary provisions to be extended in a number of Modern Awards.  More information can be viewed here.

Do the COVID-19 Modern Award changes apply to my business if I am not eligible for JobKeeper?

The COVID-19 Modern Award changes will apply to all workplaces if they are covered by the Award (and there are no other arrangements in place, such as an EBA) and the Award has been varied.

Note: An EBA may operate to override or vary Modern Award leave provisions, so the COVID-19 Modern Award changes may be impacted by your EBA. Call your local Master Builders for specific advice.

I am eligible for JobKeeper so the Fair Work Act JobKeeper changes apply to me, and I also use a Modern Award which has been varied to include the COVID-19 Modern Award changes – which one applies?

The Fair Work Act JobKeeper changes operate to the exclusion of any other applicable instrument or arrangement, so they will always override the Modern Award.

Where can I find further information?

Please contact your local State or Territory Master Builders office with any questions or for further information.