Many employers are experiencing the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which in turn is affecting their workforce. Some businesses are seeing a significant decline in revenue including due to government bans on non-essential services; others are managing employees who now work exclusively from home. 

To address these challenges, the Fair Work Commission has introduced changes to the Clerks – Private Sector Award and the Hospitality Industry (General) Award. This article explains what changes apply to:

  • the Hospitality Award;
  • the Clerk Award; 
  • to both the Clerk and Hospitality Awards; and.
  • the period that these changes apply.

When Do The Changes Apply?

The changes apply to the:

  • Hospitality Award from 24 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.
  • Clerks Award from 28 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

What Key Changes Apply to Both the Clerks and Hospitality Awards?

There are two key changes that apply to both awards:

1. Flexibility of Classifications:

The changes allow you to direct employees to perform duties which fall within their skills and competency even if they sit outside their ordinary classification. For example, under the Hospitality Award, you may direct an employee whose duties typically fall within those of a Cook Grade 2 to perform those of a Kitchen Attendant Grade 2. 

You should consider whether the employee’s duties fit into a classification which requires a higher rate of pay. Similarly, the Clerks Award specifies that you cannot reduce an employee’s pay if they are directed to perform duties which fall within a lower classification.

2. Spreading Out Annual Leave:

Employers and employees can agree to spread out an employee’s annual leave over a longer period of time. For example, if an employee has six days of leave, they may choose to spread it out over two weeks rather than taking those days consecutively at the one time.

What Key Changes Apply to the Hospitality Award?

In addition to those changes outlined above, the Hospitality Award has also introduced the following two changes:

1. Direction to Reduce Hours: 

Ordinarily, you cannot direct an employee to work reduced hours; employee hours can only be varied by agreement. However, subject to certain conditions, the new changes allow you to direct:

  • full-time employees to work reduced hours of at least 22.8 hours per week on average; and/or
  • part-time employees to work reduced hours of at least 60% of their guaranteed hours of work per week, or average roster cycle.

2. Direction to Take Annual Leave:

Normally, you can only direct employees to take annual leave if requirements set out in the award are met. The new amendments allow you to do so with 24 hours’ notice, subject to considering the employee’s personal circumstances.

What Key Changes Apply to The Clerks Award?

In addition to those changes outlined above, the Clerks Award has also introduced the following three changes:

1. Minimum Shift Length:

Where employees are working from home, the minimum shift length for part-time and casual employees is now reduced from three hours long to two hours long.

2. Spread of Hours:

Usually, an award-covered employee must work their shift between:

  • 7 am and 7 pm Monday to Friday; and 
  • 7 am and 12:30 pm on a Saturday

without incurring overtime and penalty rates. 

The changes to the award have increased the spread of hours for employees working from home to:

  • 6 am to 11 pm Monday to Friday; and
  • 7 am to 12:30 pm on Saturday.

3. Direction to Reduce Hours:

Full-time and part-time employees may collectively agree with you to reduce their hours to at least 75% of their ordinary hours of work. For the reduction to operate as a direction, you must meet certain criteria; this includes that 75% of employees must agree to the reduction.

Key Takeaways

To help employers manage the impact of COVID-19, temporary changes have been made to the Clerks and Hospitality Awards. These changes are designed to assist employers whose employees are captured by these awards by:

  • increasing flexibility; and 
  • providing scope for the employer to direct employees to work reduced hours or to take annual leave. 

However, these terms may only be relied upon if properly executed, otherwise, you may breach the terms of the relevant award(s). You should make sure you understand and correctly apply the relevant conditions. If you have any questions about these changes or more broadly your options to manage employees during COVID-19, please get in touch with our employment team. Fill out the form on this page or call 1300 544 755.

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