Pandemic leave approved for printing industry awards

The Fair Work Commission has agreed to vary 99 employment awards, including the Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010, which means employees can take two weeks unpaid pandemic leave or leave at half pay should they be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days due to COVID-19.

The ruling applies to full-time, part-time and casual employees up until June 30, 2020. A summary of the decision can be viewed here. The full decision is located here.

It also states that employees can only use this leave once so will not be covered if they are required to self-isolate twice. The provision means workers will not have to exhaust their other leave options (annual leave or sick leave) if they are required to self-isolate.

The FWC handed down its decision last night to approve the insertion of a new schedule, named Schedule X, into a number of awards that apply to sectors that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, including the Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010 and the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2010.

A number of industry bodies made submissions to the FWC about the award variation, including The Real Media Collective (TRMC), which represents businesses of all sizes across the printing, publishing, paper and distribution sectors.

“TRMC supported the amendments put forward by the Fair Work Commission, we wanted to submit an independent submission to ensure our members were represented directly should there be any further discussions or additional clarifications required,” TRMC chief executive officer Kellie Northwood told Sprinter.

“I’m really thankful to the members who provided input into our decision to support as it is important that we understand what will and won’t work for businesses and industry.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ACTU and Ai Group also made submissions to the commission.

In essence the FWC proposed to insert 2 clauses into those Awards, which were essentially:

Clause 1

Unpaid Pandemic Leave – an employee may elect to take 2 weeks unpaid leave is the employee is required by government or medical advice to self-isolate. Employee must give notice and provide evidence if required. Available for F/T, P/T and casual. Relevant employees will not need to exhaust paid leave entitlements before accessing this unpaid leave. Available until June 30, 2020.

Clause 2

Annual leave at half pay – an employee and employer would be able to agree to the employee taking twice as much leave, but on half pay. Essentially if the employee applies for one weeks leave, but paid/spread across two weeks off This too should be until 30 June 2020, but was not clearly stated in the proposed clause.

In handing down its decision the Fair Work Commission said: “We note here that no party contested our provisional view that the terms proposed to be included in Schedule X may be included in a modern award. Further, no party contested the Commission’s power to make the variations proposed on the Commission’s own initiative pursuant to s.157 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the Act).”

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