In the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, many employers have been trying to come to sensible arrangements with their staff, to deploy them in a different capacity, or with a variety of more flexible measures, only to realise they would be breaking Modern Award conditions for them to do so.

To help resolve this challenge, the Fair Work Commission is currently fast-tracking changes to increase award flexibility across a number of awards, having already made updates to the:

Restaurant Industry Award (link to FairWork update)

The new Schedule I adds award flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak for:

  • employees’ classifications and duties
  • full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work
  • directions to take annual leave.

Clerks Award (link to FairWork update)

Schedule I adds award flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak for:

  • employees’ classifications and duties
  • minimum engagement/pay for part-time and casual employees
  • span of hours changes while working at home
  • full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work
  • directions to take annual leave.

Hospitality Award (link to FairWork update) 

Schedule L adds award flexibility during the outbreak of coronavirus for:

  • employees’ classifications and duties
  • full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work
  • directions to take annual leave.

In these awards, a new, temporary schedule has been inserted which will apply from the first full pay period from 31 March 2020, until 30 June 2020. It is possible that this new schedule will be extended past the current end date.

FairWork.gov.au gives the following examples as to how these changes could apply in Australian workplaces for the Restaurant Industry (the examples in the other industry summaries are very similar).

Restaurant Industry Award Examples

Example: Employee directed to do tasks at a higher level

Lindsay works part-time at a local toastie and coffee bar. They’re a food and beverage attendant grade 1. With further social distancing rules in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, their employer has had to cancel several casual employees’ shifts due to a drop in trade.

Lindsay’s employer has asked them to pick up some of the extra work, including making the coffees.

Lindsay is happy to do this, as they’ve recently completed a course to become a barista. They work as a barista for 3 hours a day.

Lindsay is paid as a food and beverage attendant grade 2 for their entire shift when they work as a barista.

and

Example: reduction of hours

Harrison runs a Chinese restaurant in a beach side town and employs 8 staff who are employed under the Restaurant Award.

Due to an enforceable government direction, Harrison is only allowed to sell takeaway food. This means he doesn’t have enough work for all his staff and needs to reduce the hours of his full-time and part-time employees.

Some of Harrison’s employees are members of the United Workers Union. Harrison invites his employees and their United Workers Union organiser to an online meeting. During the meeting, they work through the award consultation clause, and after hearing the employees’ views, Harrison explains that all the full-time and part-time employees’ hours will need to be reduced.

Harrison’s employees will work 15% less hours per week until 30 May 2020, when they’ll reassess the situation.

In May, one of Harrison’s full-time employees gets sick and takes two weeks of paid sick leave while they’re unwell. Harrison pays that employee for 38 hours each week while they’re on sick leave because this is what their ordinary hours were before the reduction.

There will likely be changes to multiple awards in the upcoming days and weeks. If you’re unsure about the changes you need to make to your business, give our Workplace Partners a call on 1300 766 380. We’re here to help.

 

*This is general information only and doesn’t take your specific circumstances into account.