In recent times there has been an inquiry into wage theft in Queensland and it is estimated that 1 in 5 workers are underpaid. Currently, there are substantial penalties for employers if found to have breached workplace laws and underpaid employees. However, wage theft is still a major issue within Australia which is why employers should speak to a lawyer to ensure they aren’t at risk of having a claim against them.
Amendments to the Modern Awards
In an attempt to tackle the issues of wage theft, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission have implemented a number of changes to the modern awards that will come into effect on 1 March 2020.
Of significance, there will be a shift in employer obligations in relation to the award entitlements and annualised salaries. Specifically, industries covered by the following awards must be prepared for the implementation of these amendments on 1 March 2020:
- Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2010
- Broadcasting and Recorded Entertainment Award 2010
- Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010
- Contract Call Centres Award 2010
- Health Professionals Award 2010
- Hydrocarbons Industry (Upstream) Award 2010
- Horticulture Award
- Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010
- Legal Services Award 2010
- Local Government Industry Award 2010
- Marine Towage Award 2010
- Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010
- Mining Industry Award 2010
- Oil Refining and Manufacturing Award 2010
- Pastoral Award 2010
- Pharmacy Industry Award 2010
- Rail Industry Award 2010
- Restaurant Industry Award 2010
- Salt Industry Award 2010
- Telecommunications Services Award 2010
- Water Industry Award 2010
- Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award 2010
What does this mean for Employers?
It is essential that you review your letter of appointments and/or contracts of employment to ensure that appropriate provision address annualised salaries. You must make sure that there are appropriately worded clauses for annualised salaries and that the salary covers all award entitlements. If you are unsure about the clauses in your contracts, you should obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
Employees will be required to record the method by which the annualised salary has been calculated including a breakdown of each separate allowance or entitlement permitted under the award and regularly review the hours in which employees are working to ensure compliance with award entitlements.
Detailed records must also be kept identifying start and finish times and unpaid meal breaks which are to be confirmed by employees.
Contravention of these requirements can result in significant civil penalties against employers.
What do you need to do?
We recommend that employers who pay annualised salaries ensure that they review the applicable awards and understand their obligations moving forward. You may, as a result of the amendments, be required to amend your employment contracts and HR and Payroll practices to ensure compliance with the new requirements.
If you need help to ensure that you comply with your obligations, speak to a lawyer today.