Close sidebar

Unions lose final appeal in Qantas sick pay case

written by Adam Thorn | May 21, 2021
TWU Michael Kaine 1
The TWU’s national secretary, Michael Kaine

A consortium of unions have lost their final legal bid to allow Qantas workers, including a 30-year veteran undergoing cancer treatment, to claim sick leave while stood down.

On Friday, the High Court, Australia’s most senior court, turned down an application to hear an appeal to the earlier Federal Court ruling.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said he was disappointed by the decision, which he said was made on “legal and technical” grounds.


“It is a disgrace that sick workers have had to battle Qantas through the courts to use their leave while the federal government continues to pump $2 billion of taxpayers’ money into Qantas with no conditions on how it treats its workforce,” said Kane.

“There is a pattern of behaviour by Qantas management whereby it is acting immorally outside the law or on the edge of it. It is has denied sick workers their leave, misused Jobkeeper and outsourced its entire ground crew, and it has goaded workers that if they don’t like it they should take them on in the courts.

“Neither the federal government nor the Qantas board are standing up to management but workers are and they will continue to fight for their rights.”

Qantas has consistently defended its position, arguing that employees stood down do have access to JobKeeper, annual leave and long service leave.


“COVID-19 and border restrictions have meant the majority of our employees have had no work for months,” it said in a statement when the Federal Court reached its earlier decision. “The company has taken on more than $2 billion dollars in debt as revenue has collapsed. It’s been an incredibly difficult time for everyone.”

The original ruling, in the federal court in May 2020, effectively stated employees can’t claim sick pay while being stood down because there is no work for them to be absent from.

“It is the very characterisation of the leave entitlement conferred by s 96 as a ‘form of income protection’, which presupposes that an employee is in receipt of income,” read the ruling. “As Qantas has repeatedly submitted, and correctly so, ‘income’ is not being protected if there is no available or required work from which to derive income in the first place.”

A later appeal in November also failed, as Federal Court Justice Steven Rares and Justice Craig Colvin agreed with an earlier ruling and said it would be “paradoxical” to allow employees to claim time off work during a period when no work was able to be carried out.

Steer your own in-flight experience – available on print and digital Whether our classic glossy magazine in your letterbox, daily news updates in your inbox, peeling back a few layers in the podcast or our monthly current affair reports, you can count on us to keep you up to date. Sign up today for just $99.95 for more exclusive offers here. Subscribe now at


  • Mitchell


    Yet another huge waste of money by unions’.

    Maybe the ALP would be wiser to be saving their pennies’ towards the next Federal Election, instead of possibly the constant ‘donations’ to TWU, & the rest of ‘em.

    That’s at least FOUR Court cases’ the TWU has brought against QANTAS since September 2020, & they’ve LOST each one of them.
    They’re so stupid they don’t learn by their mistakes’, but suppose they don’t have to, as long as their funds get topped up regularly by Members’ subscriptions’, & others’.

    • Grahm Haxell


      I take it that you are not one of those employees? Without a doubt it’s shameful the way these and other employees are treated as a result of COVID19 – just how many in management have departed?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year