Fair Work Award temporary amendments to Clerks Award

Over the weekend we have seen some big amendments to the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010!

On Saturday 28 March 2020, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) made a determination varying the Clerks-Private Sector Award 2010 (Clerks Award) to insert “Schedule I – Award Flexibility during the COVID-19 Pandemic” that will affect the Employers/Employees of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

In short, these Award changes include:

  • Employers ability to direct employees to undertake a change in duties
  • The Minimum engagement (hours) for part time and casual employees working from home
  • The ordinary span of working hours have increased for those working form home
  • Employers can temporarily reduce employee’s hours
  • Employers can direct employees to take leave during a closure of business

There are specific conditions that apply to these changes so please read more below.

Change in duties

Employers can tell their employees to do any tasks that they have the skill and competency for, even if those tasks aren’t in their usual classification or normal work, as long as they have the appropriate licences / qualifications if they are required for the job.

If an employee is told to work above their usual classification for more than one day, the employer needs to pay them at the higher rate.

Employees who do tasks below their usual classification are still paid at their usual pay rate.

Working from Home: Minimum engagement/pay for part-time and casual employees

Part-time employees who have agreed with their employer to work from home can have their minimum engagement per day reduced from 3 hours per shift to 2 hours per shift.

Casual employees who have agreed with their employer to work from home must be paid for a minimum of 2 hours’ work per shift (rather than 3).

Working from Home: Ordinary span of hours extension

Employees who have agreed with their employer to work from home can make an agreement with their employer to change their span of hours to allow them to work between:

  • 6am and 11pm, Monday to Friday
  • 7am and 12.30pm, Saturday.

Employers don’t need to agree with a majority of their employees to make these changes.

Day workers won’t be considered shiftworkers for entitlements under the Clerks Award while these arrangements are in place.

Hours of work (full time and part-timers): Reduction in hours

Employers and employees can now agree to temporarily reduce ordinary work hours for a specified period.  This is limited to a 25% reduction and can for the entire or part of the workplace.

If an employer wants to reduce their employees’ hours, the employees will need to vote in favour of the reduction of hours. At least 75% of the full-time and part-time employees in the business or section of the business must approve the temporary reduction.

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.

To understand the steps the employer needs to follow for a group vote to be valid download our Clerks Award: Work Hours Reduction Step Sheet here

Annual leave and close down of business

Employers can direct an employee to take annual leave under Schedule I by giving their employees at least 1 week’s notice (or any shorter period of notice that is agreed).

 If the annual leave is because the business is closing down for a period due to coronavirus and an employee doesn’t have enough paid annual leave to cover the whole period, the employer can direct them to take unpaid leave. The period of unpaid leave counts as service for entitlements under the:

  • Clerks Award
  • National Employment Standards.

If the business isn’t closing, the employer can only direct an employee to take annual leave if the:

  • employee still has at least 2 weeks of leave left after the direction
  • employer considers the employee’s personal situation.

Employees can take up to twice as much annual leave at a proportionally reduced rate if their employer agrees.

Employees and employers can still agree to take annual leave at any time.

Any close-down of operations must not extend beyond 30 June 2020. However, these amendments to the Award do not impact upon the operation of section 524 of the Fair Work Act 2009 where an employee stands down employees for reasons beyond the control of the employer where there is a stoppage of work

We also encourage you to sign up to our HR Coronavirus MAILING LIST so we can provide you with any updates in regards to employer obligations. We will also be offering free templates such as working from home policies and safety checklists.