A new type of unpaid leave will be introduced by the national workplace relations tribunal so that millions of people can keep their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Fair Work Commission plans to create unpaid ‘pandemic leave’ as well as introduce annual leave flexibility which includes two weeks of annual leave at half pay, Fairfax Media has reported.
The new leave is designed to address gaps in current laws which mean some employees don’t have legal entitlements to self-isolate for two weeks if their employer doesn’t permit them to, and protects them from dismissal from their boss.
Changes to 104 of 122 industry awards are being proposed that would afford full-time, part-time and casual workers time off work without requiring their boss’ permission. Workers from fast food, to aviation to meat to journalism would be covered.
Bosses who don’t consent to employees taking leave could put them in the unenviable position of either contravening public health orders, or putting their own employment in jeopardy, the Commission said in a statement according to The Age.
"By addressing the ‘regulatory gap’ the new entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave will enable more people to remain in employment," the Commission said.
This ‘pandemic leave’ would last until 30 June at the minimum. However, only those required to isolate by the government or on medical advice will be given access to it.
The Commission is also proposing to allow businesses to offer employees double the amount of annual leave at half the rate of normal pay.
But bosses would have to ask workers if they want to take annual leave at half pay, rather than telling people to take leave.
Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter said the proposed changes would cover nearly 20 per cent of the workforce, and potentially more in indirect ways.
“This reflects a key change already endorsed across key industry sector awards including restaurants, hospitality and the clerks – private sector awards,” he said.
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