March 27, 2020

COVID-19 Australia: Employment changes to long service leave

In the last few days, Australia has seen the Federal, State and Territory governments ramp up their response to the ongoing global pandemic. In recent days, the Federal, State and Territory governments have passed a suite of legislation which aims at alleviating the strain on employers and employees, who are now required to find alternative arrangements amidst disruption to ordinary business.

In this article, we identify the changes which commenced on 25 March 2020 with regard to long service leave in New South Wales, as a way to provide additional flexibility to employers and employees.

COVID-19's Impact on Industry

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on industry as a result of the ensuing restrictions surrounding the movement of persons, and their access to public places.

Should Australia follow the same route as its neighbours, such as New Zealand,[1] in shutting down all but essential services, then many other industries will also be faced with a dire need to find alternative employment arrangements. Despite the implementation of remote working across many industries, including professional services, this may not be possible for many workers who perform more physical trades. Further, those who are able to work remotely may find that there is a present lack of available work.  

Changes to Long Service Leave

On 24 March 2020, the NSW Parliament passed the Treasury Legislation Amendment (COVID-19) Bill 2020 (Bill). The Bill created the Treasury Legislation Amendment (COVID-19) Act 2020 (NSW) (Amendment Act).

The Amendment Act amends:

  1. The Long Service Leave Act 1955 (NSW) (LSL Act); and

  2. The Payroll Tax Act 2007 (NSW).

Under the LSL Act, an employer and worker were previously able to agree for a worker to take a minimum of one month of long service leave, when the worker became entitled to it.[2] An employer was required to give the worker one month's notice regarding long service leave.[3]

The Amendment Act inserts section 15A ("COVID-19 – special provisions) into the LSL Act to allow for a worker to take less than one month long service leave, if both agree. Further, an employer can give less than one month's notice for a worker's proposed long service leave. This is also subject to an agreement between the employer and the employee.

These amendments to the LSL Act will be in force for at least 6 months, from 25 March 2020. Given the uncertainty over how long the situation will persist, Parliament has incorporated an option for the amendments to apply for a further six months (for a total of 12 months).

For more information on the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit Clyde & Co's COVID-19 information hub here: https://www.clydeco.com/sectors/coronavirus-information-hub.


[1] New Zealand moved to a Stage 4 Alert level at 11:59PM on Wednesday 25 March 2020.

[2] LSL Act, section 4(3A).

[3] LSL Act, section 4(10).