Understanding employee payments options for the Greater Sydney lockdown

As you are now aware, the NSW Government has introduced new restrictions for Greater Sydney and surrounds to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) from 26th June 2021. Some of the restrictions affect workplaces.

Find out more at NSW Government – New Covid-19 restrictions for Greater Sydney.

For information on workplace rights and obligations during this time, see:

Working from home

Changes in working hours and duties

Health and safety in the workplace

There has been no announcement of further government support for small businesses in NSW at this point, however, there is some financial support for individuals and households, via the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment
The Australian Government’s Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is a lump sum payment to help you during the 14 days you need to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone. If you need longer-term help, you may be eligible for other payments.

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is for people living in NSW who can’t earn an income because they must self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone who has COVID-19.

To be eligible, you must be directed to self-isolate or quarantine by NSW Health.

Apply for the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment.

Unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave changes to awards
On 8 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made determinations  varying 99 awards, adding unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibility.

The determinations inserted a temporary new Schedule X into these 99 awards, which provide 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave and the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half their normal pay if their employer agreed.

The Commission has extended Schedule X in many awards, with the provisions ending in most awards from 31 December 2021.

Unpaid Pandemic Leave
Employees who are employed under one of the affected awards can access up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave (or more by agreement with their employer) if they’re prevented from working:

  • as a result of being required to self-isolate by government or medical authorities, or acting on the advice of a medical practitioner, or
  • by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the pandemic (for example, an enforceable government direction restricting non-essential businesses).

The leave is available in full immediately to full-time, part-time and casual employees – they don’t have to accrue it.

Employees don’t have to use all their paid leave before accessing unpaid pandemic leave.

The leave needs to start before, but can finish after, the date when the unpaid pandemic leave provisions in the relevant award stop applying. Check your award in the table to see when Schedule X stops operating.

All eligible employees can take the 2 weeks’ leave. It is not pro-rated for employees who don’t work full-time.

Unpaid pandemic leave doesn’t affect other paid or unpaid leave entitlements and counts as service for entitlements under awards and the National Employment Standards.

Annual leave at half pay
Under Schedule X, employees can take their annual leave at half pay, and double their time off work, if their employer agrees. This means an employee can get 1 week of annual leave (including annual leave loading if applicable) for every 2 weeks of annual leave they take.

The agreement has to be in writing and the employer needs to keep it as a record.

The leave needs to start before the date Schedule X stops operating in the relevant award, but can finish after that date.

An employee on leave at half pay accumulates annual leave and sick and carer’s leave as if they were on leave at full pay.

Casual employees are not entitled to any annual leave or personal leave payments.

Click here to access the Awards that still have Schedule X and their end dates

(all of which seem to be 31st December 2021)

Also see List of awards where unpaid pandemic leave (Schedule X) no longer applies

More information can be found on the Fair Work website, at: When workplaces shut quickly because of a lockdown