Leave is time away from work that can be taken for a number of reasons, such as caring for sick family members or going on a holiday. Minimum leave entitlements are included in the National Employment Standards.
Your award, enterprise agreement, registered agreement, or contract of employment may include extra leave entitlements. However, in response to COVID-19 pandemic, there have been some changes to leave entitlements.
Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
If you need to take time off work to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.
Funded by the Commonwealth, the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is a $1500 lump sum payment for each 14-day period a worker needs to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone.
The payment is available to workers in all states and territories who have been directed by a health official to self-isolate or quarantine for 14 days and who meet the following criteria:
- You have coronavirus (COVID-19)
- You have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19
- You care for a child, 16 years or under, who has COVID-19
- You care for a child, 16 years or under, who’s been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19
- You may also be eligible if you're caring for someone who has COVID-19.
To receive the payment, you must also meet all of the following:
- You are at least 17 years old and live in a state or territory
- You are an Australian resident or hold a visa that gives you the right to work in Australia
- You are unable to go to work and earn an income
- You have no appropriate leave entitlements, including pandemic sick leave, personal leave or leave to care for another person
- Your period of quarantine is after 5 July 2020 (Victoria), 22 August 2020 (Tasmania), 11 September 2020 (Western Australia) or 17 September 2020 (New South Wales)
Contact Centrelink directly to claim the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.
If you are unsure what support is available to you during the pandemic, contact your union for advice or the Australian Unions Support Centre for more information.
You can now be asked to use some of your annual leave if your employer is taking part in the JobKeeper scheme. This is a temporary change made to workers’ rights in response to COVID-19. Under the Fair Work Commission, employers using the JobKeeper scheme can now:
- Request an eligible employee to take paid annual leave (as long as a balance of at least 2 weeks paid annual leave is left)
- Agree in writing that an employee can take annual leave at half their usual pay (including annual leave loading if it applies) for twice the length in time.
Under these changes, you have to consider the request and you can only refuse on reasonable grounds.
These changes replace any annual leave rules in your existing award or agreement, but they are temporary. After 28 September 2020, annual leave rules go back to what they were before JobKeeper. This means, your employer will only be able to direct you to take annual leave if your award or registered agreement allows it and the request is reasonable. Examples of reasonable requests include:
- You have an excessive annual leave balance
- Your workplace is shutting down for a period such as between Christmas and New Year
Contact your union for advice if you have been asked to take your leave but think you have reasonable grounds to refuse.
Funding for this factsheet was provided by:
- the Victorian Government as part of the uTech project; and
- the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Please note that the information given here is general information only and is not legal advice. For further assistance, it is recommended you speak to your union.