Modern Award Round Up for 2020

This year has seen a significant number of award changes as the Fair Work Commission (‘FWC’) draws near completion of its 4-yearly review.   Award changes have also resulted from the insertion of various schedules into awards to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Award Flexibility Schedules

On 8 April 2020 the Full Bench of the FWC of its own initiative, varied 99 modern awards to insert a new schedule (Schedule X – Additional measures during the COVID-19 pandemic).  Schedule X provided for an entitlement to unpaid pandemic leave (2 weeks) and the option for the double the amount of annual leave at half pay.  Schedule X was to operate until 30 June 2020.   However, many of the awards containing Schedule X have since been amended and/or extended.

The FWC has also received and made determinations regarding many other modern awards for the insertion of various flexibility schedules into modern awards.

It is important that employers continue to check awards relevant to their business to review and keep track of flexibility schedule provisions, extensions and expiry dates.

Paid Pandemic Leave

During proceedings for the FWC’s application to vary the 99 modern awards and insert a new Schedule X, a separate process was established in relation to health care workers.   Despite a push for 2 weeks paid pandemic leave to be included in all health services awards, the FWC granted paid pandemic leave for three awards by the insertion of Schedule Y:

  • Employers and employees covered by the Aged Care Award;
  • Employees covered by the Health Professionals and Support Services Award who work in the aged care industry; and
  • Employees covered by the Nurses Award who work in the aged care industry.

Schedule Y provides eligible residential aged care employees up to 2 weeks paid pandemic leave each time the employee is unable to work because of circumstances relating to coronavirus.  Schedule X providing 2 weeks unpaid pandemic leave, was also inserted into health care services awards generally.

On 29 October 2020, the FWC extended paid pandemic leave provisions for residential aged care employees to be operative from the first full pay period on or after 29 July 2020 until 29 March 2021.

FWC’s 4-Yearly Review

The FWC’s 4-yearly review of modern awards commenced in 2014 and once finalised the Commission will no longer undertake this process but rather deal with award review upon application.  The current review process has been lengthy and comprehensive requiring modern awards to be split into various groups (tranches).  Tranche 1 and 2, and some tranche 3, awards came into operation on various dates between 4 February and 26 October 2020.

For many modern awards the biggest change is the layout and language of the award to make the award easier to read and understand.

The changes to modern awards (including proposed changes) include specific restructuring, technical and drafting changes.  Some of the key modern award provisions the FWC has reviewed include:

  • Allowances (construction awards)
  • Annual leave loading
  • Annualised wage arrangements
  • Coverage clause (Miscellaneous Award)
  • Directions to take annual leave and cashing out leave
  • Extension of award coverage (Amusement, Events and Recreation Award – insertion of golf industry classifications)
  • Family and domestic violence leave
  • Hours of work, penalty rates and payment of overtime
  • Minimum engagement for casuals
  • Payment of wages on termination
  • Public holiday substitution
  • Requests for flexible work arrangements
  • Streamline casual employment clauses (including overtime for casuals)

Some more significant modern award changes involved the:

  • consolidation of the Quarrying Award into the Cement and Lime Award;
  • the manufacturing stream of the Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair Service and Retail Award moving to the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award; and
  • the Vehicle award is now called the Vehicle Repair, Services and Retail Award to reflect this change.

“Current” and “Future” modern awards are available for review on the Fair Work Commission’s website here (current awards are indicated by the date “2020”).

The FWC has finalised its 4-yearly review process for the following awards:

Operative – 6 November 2020:

  • Pastoral Award
  • Pharmaceutical Industry Award

Operative – 13 November 2020:

  • Broadcasting, Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award
  • Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award
  • Fitness Industry Award
  • Funeral Industry Award
  • Horticulture Award
  • Live Performance Award
  • Racing Clubs Events Award
  • Telecommunications Services Award
  • Timber Industry Award
  • Wine Industry Award

 Operative – 21 December 2020:

  • Registered and Licensed Clubs Award
  • Salt Industry Award
  • Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award

Operative – 1 February 2021

  • Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award

 Operative – 1 March 2021

  •  Building and Construction General On-site Award
  • Joinery and Building Trades Award
  • Mobile Crane Hiring Award
  • Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award

 Note – Tranche 3 awards were split into further groups and subgroups, with awards in the following industries yet to be finalised:

  • aged care
  • black coal mining
  • hair and beauty
  • children services
  • community services
  • fast food and
  • nursing industry

With so many award changes, Aitken Legal strongly recommends that employers take time over the festive season and early in the New Year to review and monitor the award/s relevant to their business and ensure compliance with them.

If you require assistance with determining award coverage and/or with ensuring compliance with an award, please contact one of our specialist employment lawyers.

Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.