Employment & IR
30 March - Jade Bond
Temporary variation to Clerks - Private Sector Award 2010
On 28 March 2020, the Fair Work Commission varied the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the variations only apply to employees and their employers to whom this award applies.
In response to growing economic concerns, a temporary schedule was inserted into the Clerks – Private Sector Award to:
Increase operational flexibility by allowing an employer to direct an employee (where necessary) to ‘perform all duties that are within their skill and competency regardless of their classification’;
Allow an employer to require an employee to take paid annual leave as part of a close down with just one week’s notice (or shorter, by agreement) (and to exhaust that leave before any absence then becomes unpaid);
Permit full-time and part-time employees to collectively agree to temporarily reduce their ordinary hours (noting the reduced hours must not be less than 75% of the current hours); and
Permit agreements between employees and employers to allow employees take a reduced rate of annual leave (i.e. take up to double the length of leave at half pay).
The close down provision is different to the stand down provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 which can only be accessed when there is a stoppage of work.
Further, nothing in the new schedule prevents an employer and an individual employee separately agreeing between themselves as to a reduction in hours or other agreed changes in work arrangements (provided it is not less than what is provided by the Award).
The variations take effect from the start of the first full pay period that starts on or after 28 March 2020. As previously mentioned, these variations will be temporary and will only have effect until 30 June 2020.
26 March - Ryan Murphy & Jade Bond
19 March 2020 - James Mattson
In these difficult times, employers have to carefully manage employment and IR obligations, along with work health and safety duties.
Working arrangements, such as working from home, requires careful planning to ensure safety; and not just physical safety from injuries in the “home”. Isolation may also impact on an employee’s psychological wellbeing in this already stressful time. Are you checking in? What’s your system for managing work in this new flexible world? How are you measuring productivity and keeping track of utilisation?
As business revenue is challenged over the coming months, alternative working conditions may need to be explored to protect the viability of the business. Restructure and redundancy may not be the first port of call. Alternatives could include looking at leave – with or without pay, reducing working hours and or pay. Difficult discussions requiring a careful touch may be needed to avoid the loss of employee goodwill and unintended legal exposure. Remember, you cannot unilaterally change an employee’s terms and conditions of employment.
Industrial issues remain relevant. If you have banned visitors on your premises, can a union exercise a right of entry? Award and legislation compliance remains critical and unionised workplaces will experience pressure to provide special leave, particularly for more vulnerable staff. In times of disconnection, how will you performance manage remote staff and handle complaints? ER and IR is facing a brave new world.
And what happens with a lockdown? Navigating these unseen times will require patience and planning, and perhaps some advice and support from our Workplace Law & Culture team.