Today (29 July 2020) paid pandemic leave entitlements were added into three health sector awards, being:
- the Aged Care Award 2010;
- the Nurses Award 2010; and
- the Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2020.
The new insertions to the awards require employers to pay up to 14 days leave on each occasion an employee is required to self isolate. An employee will be considered ‘required to self isolate’ if they have COVID symptoms, or having been in contact with a potential or confirmed COVID case.
We’ve provided some background and answers to recently asked questions from our aged care clients on this new leave below.
Why has Paid Pandemic Leave been introduced?
In these challenging times, many Australian workers, including healthcare and aged care workers, have been hesitant to forfeit their pay to self isolate away from their role.
The Fair Work Commission introduced paid pandemic leave to remove the financial strain on employees of self isolation to encourage all employees to isolate when necessary.
When are my employees entitled to the paid pandemic leave?
An employee will be entitled to two weeks paid pandemic leave if the employee:
- is employed under one of the above mentioned awards;
- has been directed to self isolate by government medical authority, medical practitioner or their employer because they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case; and
- meets the conditions, including that they are over 17 years old, likely to have worked during the self-isolation period, and are not receiving any income during their isolation period (i.e. not receiving JobKeeper or other leave payments)
If an employee is on sick leave, must I transfer them to paid pandemic leave instead?
If an employee is sick and has paid sick/personal leave entitlements, then they are required to exhaust these paid leave entitlements before being entitled to paid pandemic leave.
If you would like further tips from us on managing employee leave entitlements, see here.
Can employees that are working remotely from home claim paid pandemic leave?
No. Employees who are able to work at home or remotely during their self isolation period (e.g. some reception or admin staff) are not entitled to paid pandemic leave.
Are casual employees entitled to paid pandemic leave?
A Casual employee may be entitled to paid pandemic leave if they are a regular and systematic employee of the employer.
A casual employee’s pay during paid pandemic leave will be calculated as an average of their earnings over the previous 6 weeks.
What if an employee tests positive, will they still remain on Pandemic Leave?
If your employee tests positive to COVID-19, the employee may be entitled to transfer from paid pandemic leave onto workers compensation benefits. We advise you to seek specific advice on this.
Can I require my employee to be tested?
The Fair Work Ombudsman has ruled that paid pandemic leave can be conditional on an employee undertaking a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. Accordingly, if your employee refuses to take the COVID test, you may refuse to provide pandemic leave.
What if the employee claims that their doctor told them to isolate, can I request proof?
If a direction to self-isolate has come from a medical practitioner, rather than the Government or yourself, you may require an employee to provide a medical certificate supporting the recommendation to self-isolate.
Need further assistance?
If you have any further questions, feel free to contact our workplace relations consultant Elise Jasper on 0424013551 to discuss.