We are now seeing the loosening of Modern Awards and some legislation to afford Employers more flexibility in responding to the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. This is a small step in the right direction to remove the road blocks currently limiting the ability of Employers to quickly respond to the deteriorated business conditions and will assist in preserving jobs.

Over the past week we have seen urgent changes to the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010, the Long Service Leave Act 1955 (NSW) and now the Clerks (Private Sector) Award 2010. As changes are pushed through, we will update The Workplace Collective Blog.

Clerks (Private Sector) Award 2010

New temporary Schedule 1 to commence from the first full-pay period on or after 28 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, which includes:

Operational Flexibility - Change in Duties

  • Employers can now direct employees to perform any duties within their skill set and competency regardless of their classification (so long as it is safe, and the employee is properly licensed and qualified to perform those duties) without having to pay higher rates of pay.

New Working From Home Arrangements

  • Agreed extended ordinary hours of work for all employees you have agreed can work from home – and you can pay at ordinary rates of pay during those hours:

  • Monday to Friday - 6am and 11pm (expanded from 7am to 7pm); and

  • Saturday - 7am to 12.30pm.

  • 2 hour minimum shift engagements for part-time employees working from home (reduced from 3 hours).

  • 2 hour minimum payment for casual employees working from home (reduced from 3 hours).

Agreed Reduction in Hours and Pay by up to 25% for all Permanent Employees

However, Employers must comply with the required steps:

  • need to agree by vote with at least 75% of the full-time and part-time employees to temporarily reduce ordinary hours and pay by not more than 25%;

  • follow the required process with the relevant union and notify the Fair Work Commission;

  • cannot unreasonably refuse a request for an employee to engage in secondary employment;

  • must consider all reasonable requests for training, professional development and/or study leave; and

  • leave accruals remain unchanged.

Nothing prevents you from making written agreements with individual employees to reduce their ordinary working hours with a commensurate reduction in the minimum weekly wage.

Annual Leave

  • Direction to take Annual Leave – with at least 1 week notice (down from 4 weeks) or a shorter period as agreed, but you must consider the employee’s personal situation, and the employee must be left with no less than 2 weeks accrued Annual Leave.

  • Annual Leave at Half Pay – agreement to take twice as much leave at half the rate of pay for all or part of any accrued Annual leave.

Close Down

  • Close down due to impact of COVID-19 – can now require employees to take annual leave as part of a close-down by giving at least 1 weeks’ notice (down from 4 weeks), or any shorter period as agreed, and if employees do not have sufficient leave, they are granted unpaid leave for the remainder of the close down. Any unpaid leave will count as service for the purpose of relevant Modern Award and NES entitlements.

If you need urgent advice or assistance in managing the impact of COVID-19 in your workplace, please contact IR Legal Solutions to discuss.

This content is not be a substitute for legal advice and is for information only. Employers should obtain advice that is specific to their circumstances and business operations, and not rely on this publication as legal advice.