Following the recent spate of lockdowns across the country, The Real Media Collective (TRMC) has called on the Fair Work Commission to reinstate Schedule X across the Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award to provide greater support for businesses.
Schedule X was originally inserted into most industry and profession Awards, including the industry’s Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award, in April 2020. The Schedule was initially installed as a temporary provision to navigate the COVID-19 period until June 30 last year, but got reinstated until 29 March this year following a push from TRMC.
The Schedule covered the providing of unpaid pandemic leave of up to two weeks for an employee required to self-isolate for COVID related reasons; and the permission for an employer and employee to agree to an employee taking double the period of annual leave at the half-pay.
At the time, the Fair Work Commission reinstated the Schedule as it felt that given the impact of COVID-19 on employers and employees, such terms were necessary that to do otherwise would result in a regulatory gap compared to health directions.
It also said that interleaving Schedule X would offer flexibility, encourage employees to self-isolate when required to do so, limit the potential for a spreading event in workplaces, and allow businesses to continue to operate.
“After several extensions to the operative date of the Schedule during 2020, it expired as at 29 March this year. However, when the Victorian lockdown conditions were triggered earlier this year and Federal government implemented individual support, TRMC felt immediate requirement to call on Fair Work to reinstate the Schedule,” TRMC CEO Kellie Northwood said.
“It must also be noted that this clause will not preclude the parties agreeing additional or alternative pandemic related employment arrangements, rather offers supportive options.”
Given the recent COVID related lockdowns across various states and the ongoing state of heightened alert for all states and territories, along with the mixed business outcomes for members during those periods, she added that it has evidenced the further need for both employers and employees to have access to flexible and supportive employment terms for those situations.
“Despite the national COVID-19 vaccination program being underway, and which appears critical in reducing further outbreaks of the virus, there is a strong basis to believe at this time the program will not reach crucially relevant levels until at least the last quarter of 2021. This means society and our industry have not yet left potentially dangerous waters,” Northwood mentioned.
“State and federal governments have accepted TRMC’s consistent advice over both the importance and preparedness of our industry over the last year which resulted in the industry being able to stay open for onsite work during the various lockdowns.
“Nonetheless, the recent and ongoing lockdown periods have created mixed results and outcomes for businesses within the industry as well as their employees, and evidenced the ongoing need for flexible workplace arrangements.”
The matter is expected to be determined by the Commission in the coming weeks.
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