Unpaid pandemic leave

This page is for: 
Employee / workerEmployer

This information is only relevant to employers and employees in the WA state industrial relations system – sole traders, unincorporated partnerships, unincorporated trusts and some incorporated or not for profit organisations. Find out more on the Guide to who is in the WA state system page.

If you operate or are employed by a Pty Ltd business – you can find information on this topic on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

In April 2020, the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission issued the COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order to assist private sector employers and employees address the impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on their workplaces. 

The COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order provided for unpaid pandemic leave and annual leave flexibilities for private sector state system employees.

The COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order ceased to have effect on 31 March 2021. 

Although the COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order no longer applies, employers and employees are still able to agree that an employee will take a period of unpaid leave. 

Unpaid pandemic leave and leave entitlements

Unpaid pandemic leave taken in accordance with the COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order did not affect any other paid or unpaid leave entitlement of an employee and counted as service for the purposes of entitlements.

The General Order overrides any WA award clause that is less beneficial. This means that even if an applicable award states that unpaid leave does not count as service, unpaid leave taken in accordance with the COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order will be counted as service.

Unpaid pandemic leave and long service leave accrual

To be entitled to long service leave under the Long Service Leave Act 1958, an employee’s employment with their employer must be continuous. The amount of long service leave is determined by the employee’s period of continuous employment.

Under the Long Service Leave Act, there are some types of absences that do not break an employee’s continuous employment, but do not count towards an employee’s period of employment for the purposes of accruing long service leave. 

For employees in the state system, the effect of unpaid pandemic leave on long service leave accrual will depend on whether a WA award applies, and if so, the nature of any long service leave provisions in the applicable award. More detail is provided below.

Award free employees

Unpaid pandemic leave taken by private sector award free employees in accordance with the COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order provisions did not count towards an employee’s period of employment for accruing long service leave but did not break the employee’s continuous employment.

WA award employees

For private sector WA award employees, whether unpaid pandemic leave taken in accordance with the COVID-19 Flexible Leave Arrangements General Order provisions counted towards an employee’s period of continuous employment for accruing long service leave depends on the provisions of the relevant WA award.

  • If the WA award contains a long service leave clause which specifies that an employee is entitled to long service leave in accordance with the Long Service Leave Act, the Long Service Leave General Order (which applied to WA award employees prior to 2006), or some other arrangement, then a period of unpaid pandemic leave does count towards an employee’s period of employment for accruing long service leave.
  • If the relevant WA award does not contain a long service leave clause, then a period of unpaid pandemic leave does not count towards an employee’s period of employment for accruing long service leave but did not break the employee’s continuous employment.

All WA awards are available on the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission website at www.wairc.wa.gov.au or you can contact Wageline on 1300 655 266 for award specific information.

 

Share this page:

Last modified: