The Fair Work Commission has varied the Clerks-Private Sector Award in response to a special COVID-19 application. These changes are effective Saturday, 28th March until 30 June 2020, unless extended. If not extended, the Award will revert to its original clauses on 1st July 2020. These changes are contained in Schedule I of the Clerks-Private Sector Award.

The key amendments to the Award, which will apply from the employee’s first full pay period after 28th March are:

  • employees’ classifications and duties
  • reduction in minimum engagement periods for part-time and casual employees
  • change to span of hours whilst working at home
  • reduction in full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work
  • directions to take annual leave

Employee’s classification and duties

Under this new clause, employees can be directed to perform any tasks that are within the employee’s skill level and competency. As long as the duties are safe for the employee to perform, including having the relevant license and qualifications, then these tasks can be above or below their normal skill level.

Employees working above their skill level for more than one day will need to have their pay adjusted for the higher duties but must be paid at their normal rate when performing duties below their normal classification level.

Reduction in minimum engagement periods for part-time and casual employees

Minimum engagement hours have been reduced from 3 hours to 2 hours for part-time and casual employees who are working from home during COVID-19. Note: this reduction doesn’t apply to part-time and casual employees who are working at your business’ premises.

Change to span of hours whilst working at home

Employees working 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 and

7am and 12.30pm, Saturday.

Employees will be paid at normal hourly rate for ordinary hours worked and penalty rates will not apply to these ordinary hours.

Reduction in full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work

By agreement with the majority of their workforce, employers can reduce their permanent full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work by no more than 25% ie a full-time employee’s hours of work can be reduced to 4 days per week. This can be done across the whole business (applicable to all employees employed under the Clerks Award) or applied to just a section / department of the business.

The Fair Work Commission has outlined a number of steps that must be followed for this action to be valid so please reach out before undertaking this step.

Alternatively, an employer can enter into an individual agreement with employees to reduce working hours.

Directions to take annual leave

Under Schedule I, employers can direct employees to take annual leave by providing employees with at least 1 weeks’ notice. Shorter periods of notice can be given if mutually agreed.

If the direction to take annual leave is because the business is closing down due to COVID-19, then the employer can direct the employee to take unpaid leave if they don’t have enough annual leave.

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

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

The employer and employee may mutually agree for an employee take to leave at any time with none of the above restrictions. Employer and employees may also mutually agree for the employee to take annual leave at half pay to extend the leave period.

If you have questions regarding these changes or other concerns regarding the current situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us.