The ACTU has welcomed the Fair Work Commission decision to improve the safety net and provide greater job security for working people during the corona virus pandemic.

The Fair Work Commission has altered 99 awards to put in place a minimum standard of two weeks unpaid pandemic leave for all workers covered by the awards and will allow workers to chose to take twice their annual leave at half their usual rate of pay.

This will ensure that substantial penalties can be imposed on employers who act against or unfairly dismiss employees who are required to take leave due to the pandemic.

The union movement has already successfully negotiated in many workplaces for paid pandemic leave to apply. The Fair Work Commission has agreed to establish an additional process to look at awards that cover health and community workers. The union movement is arguing that these workers urgently need paid pandemic leave on multiple occasions due to the critical role they play in protecting public health in the pandemic.

Quotes attributable to Michele O’Neil:

“These changes add to the safety net for millions of workers and protect workers against unfair treatment or dismissal if they are needing to self isolate due to the pandemic. They also give options by agreement for how workers use their accrued annual leave.

“Many workers through their unions are winning paid pandemic leave in their workplaces by standing together and negotiating with their employer. This new safety net entitlement in Awards provides a minimum of 2 weeks unpaid pandemic leave and protects workers from being sacked unfairly. Where workers are entitled to the JobKeeper payment it will still apply.

“Where a worker and their employers agree to extend annual leave arrangements so that the worker can take twice the time off at half the pay this will provide working people with options about how they use their leave.

“We are now looking for further changes as it is vital that health and community workers are able to access paid pandemic leave on multiple occasions if they need to do so. These workers are at the very frontline of protecting everyone and we know that they are at greater risk, so we need to put in place greater protections for both their health and for the public’s health.