Are Awards being relaxed in response to the disruptions caused by COVID-19?

Mid-last week a modern award was varied for the first time in the Fair Work Commission in response to the disruptions experienced by business owners and workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Hotels Association supported by the United Workers Union sought the addition of a special COVID-19 flexibility schedule into the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010.

Under this flexibility schedule, business owners are able to direct their workers as follows:

  • To perform any duties within their skills, licences and qualifications and competencies regardless of their classifications. Workers will be paid in accordance with the higher duties provisions of the Award should workers perform at a higher classification level.
  • For full-time workers, to work an average between 22.8 and 38 ordinary hours per week, paid (including overtime) on a pro-rata basis.
  • For part-time workers, to work an average of between 60% and 100% of their guaranteed hours per week or an average per week over the roster cycle.

Of course business owners must comply with the consultation provisions, and additionally for workers who are union members, they must notify the United Workers Union before making these changes.

Note however that when flexible arrangements are entered into, workers continue to accrue their annual leave and personal leave entitlements, and can take leave based on the worker’s original ordinary hours of work.

Only 24 hours’ notice is required for the business owner to direct the worker to take annual leave, but this notice must be exercised reasonably. Workers can also take twice as much annual leave at half the pay.

The changes expire on 30 June 2020, with the possibility of further extension, but is a good indicator of further flexibility and other Awards following suit which is a positive step for business owners and workers.

Business owners operating under enterprise agreements may see similar variations taking place under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).  

We are able to provide advice and support to business owners and workers navigating the changes to relevant Awards and enterprise agreements. We tailor advice that best suits your needs. Contact us today.

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