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COVID-19 temporary changes to the Clerks Award

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.

Date extended

Originally temporary changes to the Clerks Award in response to COVID-19 were scheduled to cease at the end of June, however some of those changes have been extended and now apply until 30 September.

Some temporary changes ended on 30 June

Temporary COVID-19 related arrangements for greater flexibility in duties, and reduction in the minimum hours for part-time and casual employees, were not extended and ceased on 30 June 2020.

What are the temporary changes available under the Award?

Type of Award flexibility Summary

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-10:00pm Monday to Friday and between 7.00am-12.30pm on Saturday. This will reduce overtime payments.

Agreed temporary reduction in ordinary hours

Up until 30 June 2020, the Award temporarily allowed a process where, by agreement, ordinary hours of work could be temporarily reduced by up to 25% of an employee’s ordinary hours. For example, you may have reduced your full time employee’s hours to 4 days per week. A prescribed process had to be followed before this can take effect.

An employee subject to a reduced ordinary hour arrangement prior to 1 July 2020, may request an employer reconsider the ongoing nature of these arrangements. Where such request occurs, a prescribed process must be followed.

Despite these requirements, an employer and an individual employee can agree to reduce the employee’s hours.

Request to take annual leave

Annual leave can be taken at any time by agreement between an employer and employee.

An employer may, whilst considering an employee’s personal circumstances, request an employee to take paid annual leave, so as long the employee retains a balance of less than 2 weeks annual leave after the leave is taken.

A request:

  • can only be made for reasons which are linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, or Government initiatives to slow the transmission of COVID-19, and assist to avoid or minimise the loss of employment;
  • must be made a minimum of 72 hours before the date on which the annual leave is to commence;
  • must be considered and may not be unreasonably refused by an employee.

Employers and individual employees may agree to 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.

The period of annual leave must commence before 30 September 2020 but may end after this date.

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. Any of the abovementioned directions or requests given by employers must be given in writing, and do not apply to the employee if the direction is unreasonable in all the circumstances.

Of note any directions or requests from 1 July 2020, will need to clarify in writing that the employer consents to any dispute about the direction, request or agreement being settled by the Fair Work Commission through arbitration processes.

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.

Click here for 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

Current at: 3 July 2020
Reference: NFSIRR1319B