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COVID-19 temporary changes to the Clerks Award - Nat

March 31, 2020

If you employ receptionists, contractor administrators or office managers (for example) you may choose to take advantage of temporary changes to the Clerks Private Sector Award 2010 (Clerks Award) to help accommodate the pressure on your business and staffing due to COVID-19.

New schedules provide additional flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. These options will apply up until 30 June 2020.

A new schedule providing additional flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic has been inserted into the Clerks Award. These options became available from 28 March 2020 and will apply up until 30 June 2020.

What are the temporary changes available under the Award?

Type of Award flexibility

Summary

Greater flexibility in duties

Employees can be reasonably directed to perform any duties within their skill and competency regardless of their classification, without reduction of pay, so as long as the duties are safe, and the employee is licensed and qualified to perform them.

Reduction in the minimum hours for part-time employees

Part time employees who are working from home by agreement, can be rostered for a minimum of 2 consecutive hours reduced from 3.

Reduction in the minimum hours for casual employees

Casual employees working from home by agreement, can be rostered for a minimum of 2 consecutive hours work reduced from 3.

Expansion of the ordinary hours of work

Employees working from home by agreement can work in an expanded span of hours of between 6:00am-11:00pm Monday to Friday and between 7.00am-12.30pm on Saturday. This will reduce overtime payments.

Agreed temporary reduction in ordinary hours

By agreement, ordinary hours of work can be temporarily reduced by up to 25% of an employee’s ordinary hours. For example, you could decide to reduce your full time employees hours to 4 days per week.

A prescribed process must be followed before this can take effect.

Employers and employees are still free to reach an agreement in writing to reduce an employee’s hours or to move the employee temporarily from full-time to part-time hours of work, with an equivalent reduction in pay.

Half pay for annual leave by agreement

By agreement an employee can take up to twice as much annual leave at a proportionately reduced rate for all or part of any agreed or directed period away from work, including any close-down.

Direction to take annual leave

Employers can direct employees to take their annual leave by giving a weeks’ notice, or at a shorter period by agreement. Any direction to take annual leave must not result in an employee having less than two weeks annual leave remaining.

Direction to take annual leave to close down

An employer may require an employee to take annual leave or take partial annual leave as part of a close down of its operations by giving a weeks’ notice.

Unpaid pandemic leave

Any employee (full-time, part-time or casual) is entitled to take up to 2 weeks’ unpaid leave if the employee is required by government or medical authorities or on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate and is consequently prevented from working, or is otherwise prevented from working by measures taken by government or medical authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notice requirements apply in order for employees to have access to this entitlement.

Should any temporary arrangements be confirmed in writing?

Yes.

While many arrangements have understandably occurred on short notice and without any formalised documentation it is ideal that employers take steps as soon as reasonably practicable to confirm such arrangements and expectations in writing.

Workplace Advisers can offer members support in putting these arrangements in writing.

Working from home considerations – You are still responsible

It is important to remember that regardless of where your employees work, you are still responsible for your employee’s health and safety while working.

You are also responsible:

  • if an employee sustains an injury in the course of their work while at home, this includes psychological injury.
  • to ensure they are covered by workers compensation insurance while working from home.

Your employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, including complying with reasonable instructions given by you and any other policy and procedures provided.

Prior to moving your employees to work-from-home (or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter), you should have a discussion with your employees to make sure their work area at home meets Workplace Health and Safety standards. Under the COVID-19 working arrangements this is likely to involve the employee carrying out a self assessment of the safety of their work area.

Download a Working at Home Safety Checklist to help carry out an assessment.  After doing this, you should come to an agreement with the employee about any controls and preventative measures that need to be put in place.

Contact a HIA Workplace Adviser on 1300 650 620 for further information and advice

Coronavirus Response

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Current at: 9 April 2020
Reference: NFSIRR1319A