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Important Employment Law Update: Change to Clerks Private Sector Award 2010

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event that is increasingly impacting on Australia’s employment landscape. So much so, that it has prompted prominent Employer Associations and leading Unions to make a joint application to the Fair Work Commission requesting to increase the flexibility of the Clerks –Private Sector Award 2010 to assist businesses in saving jobs.

After hearing the parties, the Fair Work Commission has issued the decision this weekend and varied several terms of the Award. These are temporary amendments, which are effective immediately and will operate until 30 June 2020, unless extended.

This follows an earlier decision from the Commission to vary the terms of the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010, which also saw temporary changes to terms of the Award.

The application addressed a number of areas of Award flexibility that both employers and employees view as important to ensure job retention and economic viability in these unprecedented times.

The terms of the Award that will be amended and included are as follows:

  • Employers will be able to direct employees to perform all roles that are within the limits of their skill and competence, even if they are of lesser duties, regardless of the classification of the worker. The employer must ensure it is safe for the employee to perform these duties and that the employee has the necessary qualifications to perform the work requested. The employee must not suffer a reduction in pay due to the direction of the employer.

  • Employers will be able to direct an employee to take annual leave with one weeks’ notice (or any agreed shorter period) and such a direction will not result in the employee having an annual leave balance of less than two weeks.

  • Employees will be able to take annual leave at half pay, extending the duration of the leave period.

  • Where an employer initiates a close-down of all or part of its operations, it is required to provide the employee with at least one weeks’ notice of the requirement to take annual leave during this close-down period. The employee may need to take all of their accrued annual leave entitlement during this close-down period and should that be exhausted the employer will grant the employee unpaid leave for the remainder of the close-down period. Any proposed close-down must not exceed beyond the 30th of June, 2020. This variation will not impact on the stand-down provisions contained in s.524 of the Fair Work Act.

  • The spread of ordinary hours for day workers who are working from home has been varied so that they are now between 6am to 11pm, Monday to Friday, and between 7am to 12:30pm on Saturday.

  • The minimum engagement requirements for part-time and casual employees who are working from home has been shortened so that the minimum engagements for both are now two hours.

  • The ordinary hours of work for full-time and part-time employees may be reduced by agreement between the employer and employees within the workplace, or section of the workplace, subject to a voting process with at least a 75% majority approval of the affected workers. The ordinary hours may be reduced by up to a maximum of 25% but, importantly, the ordinary rate of pay and entitlement accruals must remain as they were prior to the agreement taking place.

  • In order for the vote to be valid, certain steps as outlined within the Award schedule must be followed, including notifying any relevant Union with involvement in the workplace prior to the vote of the proposal and notifying the Fair Work Commission of the proposal including certain relevant details at least 24 hours prior to the proposed vote.

If you are reviewing the impact COVID-19 has had on the size or structure of your workforce, or for any other workplace relations advice or assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Bayside Group Workplace Relations. We can work with you to implement an appropriate strategy that will help lower your cost, keeping as many employees on-board as possible, and ensure your business is ready for when the tide turn