Understanding employee entitlements is crucial

, | By: Jason Wales | Tags: Modern Awards, Fair Work, shift work, penalties

As an employer, one of your main obligations is to ensure Modern Awards are applied correctly throughout the workplace. Failure to do so could lead to you and your business being investigated and potentially fined.

CCIQ's Senior Employer Assistance Advisor Jason Wales looks at recent cases before the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Courts:

  • The FWO has secured its largest back-payment, after making an enforceable undertaking with a Victorian-based mining services company that requires it to reimburse $2 million to 205 underpaid workers and provide IR training to all managers with HR and payroll responsibilities. The investigation found that the employer underpaid its employees a total of $2.09 million between 2010 and 2014 when it was conducting drilling works at mine sites in Victoria and Queensland.
  • A restaurant chain has been ordered to pay $300,000 to employees who were underpaid. The FWO took legal action on behalf of the employees – five of them visa holders from non-English speaking backgrounds – after its investigation revealed employees were paying as little as $11 an hour.
  • A contractor "knowingly involved" in underpaying vulnerable supermarket trolley collectors and a subcontractor who "deliberately" produced false payment records and the Federal Court fined them more than $90,000.

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All of these cases highlight how important is to understand Modern Award entitlements regardless of industry. You need to make sure base rates, shift penalties, and allowances are factored into operations and paid to employees. A recent member asked us whether or not casuals under the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 2010 had an entitlement to afternoon and night shift allowances.

After discussing this inquiry with the FWO, we found employees under this Award were entitled to shift allowances as:

  • there are no restrictions in the award preventing casual employees from being employed to work shifts;
  • casual employees are not specifically excluded from shift worker clause; and
  • while casual employees do not have an expectation of rostered hours there is nothing preventing them from working 5 or 6 consecutive shifts under the award.

With 122 Modern Awards in place, understanding which one is right for your business, industry, and employees can be difficult. Not all employees will fall under the same Modern Award and different roles may require different categorisation.

Considering this, cementing your understanding surrounding Modern Award entitlements and keeping up to date on any changes associated with these is paramount.

If you are unsure which entitlements are payable to employees under an Award, contact the Employer Assistance team on 1300 731 988 or email advice@cciq.com.au

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