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Australia - Award flexibility in response to COVID19: What employers need to know

25 March 2020
On 24 March 2020, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) approved unprecedented interim changes to the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 (Award), with similar provisions expected to be rolled out in many other modern awards as employers grapple with the ever changing landscape of the Australian economy.

As many Australian businesses struggle to keep their doors open, the FWC changes allow an employer to, amongst other things:

  • Direct an employee to perform any duties within their skill and competency, irrespective of the employee's classification within the Award, where it is safe and, if required, they are licensed/qualified to do so (a higher duties allowance may be enlivened where duties are above the employee's usual classification);
  • Reduce permanent employees' weekly hours, after consulting the effected employee/s, as follows:
    a. To no less than an average of 22.8 hours per week, if employed full-time; or
    b. To an average of no less than 60% of their guaranteed hours, if employed part-time.
  • Direct an employee to use their annual leave accruals, after considering an employee's personal circumstances, upon providing 24 hours' notice. If mutually agreed, the employee can access their annual leave accrual at half-pay for a longer leave period (for example: where one week annual leave has accrued, the employee may agree to take two weeks at half pay). Annual leave and personal (sick) will continue to accrue at the employee's usual rate (prior to any reduction).

These changes took immediate effect and will operate until 30 June 2020, however this period can be extended and is designed to allow flexibility to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is reasonable to expect that changes like these will, as events transpire, affect other modern awards covering other industries.

Employers should ensure that they stay up to date on any changes to the awards that they are working with.

If you require further information or have any queries in relation to this legal update, please contact Michelle Dawson or Matthew Smith.

We would like to acknowledge the contribiton of Nicole Davis to this article. 

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