By Key Business Advisors
COVID 19 News

The Fair Work Commission has handed down a decision on the 28th March 2020 to include flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak for 1 million+ clerical workers in Australia.

The key changes are included in Schedule I of the award and are effective from an employee’s full pay period on or after 28 March 2020 (immediately) until 30 June 2020 (unless extended) and revolve around:

  1. employees’ classifications and duties
  2. minimum engagement/pay for part-time and casual employees and span of hours for full-time employees while working at home
  3. full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work – temporary reduction of hours
  4. directions to take annual leave.


Operational flexibility/change of duties

This change allows employees to be directed to perform all duties that are within the employees’ skill and competency (even if they are lesser duties) even if those tasks aren’t in their usual classification or normal work, as long as the duties are safe and the employee is qualified to perform them, without the reduction of pay.

Employees who do tasks below their usual classification should be paid at their usual pay rate, and employee who work above their usual classification for more than one day will be paid at a higher rate.


Working from home – the span of hours and minimum engagement for PT and casuals

Employees who have agreed to work from home can also agree to expand the spread of hours:

  • Full-time employees: 6 am-11 pm Monday-Friday and 7 am-12.30 pm on Saturday.
  • Part-time employees: Are required to be rostered for a minimum of two hours (instead of 3) working from home and become entitled to overtime rates worked in excess of 38 hours per week, or an average of 38 hours per week on a roster system.
  • Casual employees: May be engaged for a newly reduced minimum of two hours of work (instead of 3) when working from home.


Temporary reduction of hours

Employers can agree with their employees to temporarily reduce ordinary hours for a specified period by a 75% majority vote by employees. The employees must vote on whether to reduce hours or not. Additionally, the FWC must be notified of the vote pursuant to the process outlined in the Schedule to the Award. If any employee is a member of a union, the union must be notified.

The reduction in working hours is limited to a 25% reduction or less.

For example, An employee who is employed for five days per week can have their days of work reduced to four days per week pursuant to this clause. For a part-time employee working four days per week, they could have their days reduced to three days per week.

This is also possible if the business has separate areas, for example, office staff and call centre staff. The employees can vote to reduce hours in the office section but not the call centre section.

Where hours are reduced, the employee’s ordinary hourly rate will stay the same. The employee will still continue to accrue entitlements at their ordinary hours of work prior to the agreement to reduce hours.

An employer can’t unreasonably refuse an employee’s request to find other work. An employer must also consider all reasonable requests for training, professional development or study leave.

It is still possible for an employer and employee to agree to reduce hours or to have an employee move temporarily from full-time to part-time hours of work, with the corresponding reduction in the weekly wage.

Annual Leave

Employers and employees may agree to the taking of up to twice as much annual leave at a proportionately reduced rate, including during any close-down.

An employer may direct an employee to take any accrued annual leave, by giving at least one week’s notice, or any shorter period as agreed. A direction to take annual leave shall not result in an employee having less than two weeks of accrued annual leave remaining.

Where an employee is required to take annual leave during a close-down of operations, the employer must give at least one week’s notice.

During a close-down, an employee can take all of their annual leave and then will be given leave without pay for the remainder of the shutdown.

For more information, please contact the team at KBA.

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