Important amendments to Fair Work Act: JobKeeper scheme and unpaid pandemic leave

by Freya Lucas

May 22, 2020

Some recent changes have been made to workplace laws to support employees and employers during the coronavirus pandemic, which early childhood education and care (ECEC) decision makers should be aware of. 

 

Specifically, the Fair Work Act has been amended to support the implementation and operation of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme (JobKeeper scheme) in Australian workplaces. These changes are temporary and will end on 28 September 2020.

 

The changes in relation to JobKeeper give eligible employers the ability to give certain directions to, and make agreements with, their eligible employees (those who are receiving JobKeeper) to help manage their business.

 

Information to support this, including how JobKeeper affects and interacts with Pay and Leave entitlements is available on the Fair Work website.

 

In addition, the Fair Work Commission has added a temporary new schedule into 99 awards, including the Children’s Services Award, to provide greater flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic. The temporary schedule gives employees:

  • 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave
  • the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half their normal pay if their employer agrees.

 

The schedule applies from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 8 April 2020 until 30 June 2020. Find out more by reading this information about unpaid pandemic leave & annual leave changes to awards.

 

In a separate matter, the Fair Work Commission recently indicated that it is in the process of carrying out its annual review of minimum wages. A decision is expected sometime in June. 

 

Information about workplace rights and obligations, including information about:

  • stand downs and reducing hours or changing location of work, including working from home
  • pay and leave entitlements, including if someone is sick with COVID-19
  • entitlements if an employee is stuck overseas or is required to be quarantined or self-isolate
  • ending employment and redundancy entitlements.

Is available here: Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws.

 

Safe Work Australia provides a hub of work health and safety guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to manage health and safety risks related to COVID-19, which includes industry-specific guidance, information about physical distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, workers’ compensation, conducting risk assessments and designing emergency plans, and case studies showing how to manage COVID-19 risks in the workplace. 

 

Find out more on Safe Work Australia’s website COVID-19 Information for workplaces.

 

Whilst the information provided above was correct at time of print, readers are encouraged to cross reference it with the latest information available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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