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The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has extended COVID-19 flexibility clauses in 74 modern awards until the end of March, while employers are proposing to follow the same path for the clerical award in the face of union opposition.

In a statement issued yesterday, a six-member full bench led by President Iain Ross confirmed its provisional view that the “Schedule X” clauses generally set to expire late this month should apply until March 29, aligning them with the JobKeeper extension.

Schedule X in temporarily gave about 4.4 million workers covered by 99 awards access to two weeks unpaid “pandemic leave” and enabled them to take annual leave at half pay (see Related Article).

The schedule initially applied until the end of June, but the Commission then extended the provisions in most of the awards until the end of this month.

The bench – Justice Ross, vice presidents Adam Hatcher and Joseph Catanzariti, deputy presidents Ingrid Asbury and Richard Clancy, and Commissioner Paula Spencer – said it had received four submissions relating to three awards that supported its provisional view and no objections.

It said the observations in the April 8 decision inserting Schedule X in 99 awards “remain apposite”.

“In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress and without the continued operation of Schedule X there would be a ‘regulatory gap’ in the award safety net concerning employees who are required to self-isolate.

“Continuing access to unpaid pandemic leave will enable more people to remain in employment and will support the important public policy objective of encouraging those who should self-isolate to do so, thereby limiting the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces and allowing businesses to continue to operate,” the bench said.

The bench in a statement last week set out its provisional view favouring the extension of the flexibility provisions in 71 awards, but later added three awards it had left out (see Related Article).

The statement appends a list of the 74 varied awards.

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