Opinion: being up for the (industrial) Awards

By: Warren Clark

It’s a complex matter and the employer’s task is only getting harder

Opinion: being up for the (industrial) Awards
Warren Clark


Understanding modern Awards is important for all employers in the road transport industry. Having a basic understanding of the awards helps your business with compliance, as they make up part of Australia’s workplace relations safety net.

It is unlawful to pay someone less than set out in the applicable modern award or employ them under conditions less than in the modern Awards and the National Employment Standards.

Recent news headlines have painted many large employers’ failure to meet the minimum wages paid under Awards as "wage theft".

This is an unacceptable, loaded term. Most underpayments occur because of a failure to follow the often complex provisions of modern Awards. We wish we could say that this process is getting easier after the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has been involved in a review of modern awards for the last six years but unfortunately the situation is getting worse.

From March 1, 2020, a decision of the FWC brings in new rules about the recording and reconciliation of hours worked by staff on an annualised wage arrangement (salary).

Most of NatRoad’s members, for example, employ clerks or other administrative staff. Employers who pay these and other employees (qualified mechanics is another example) an annualised wage in satisfaction of modern award entitlements must have in place systems to ensure employees are adequately compensated by the annual wage.

These systems must ensure that all hours worked are recorded and verified.

Employers must keep a record of all the hours these employees work, and any paid or unpaid breaks taken, at what times and in a way that can substantiate an annual reconciliation of what the employee would have been paid under the award compared with the annualised wage actually paid.

This means that some workplaces are bringing back a system of time clocks, where employees punch in and punch out for start and finish times and for all breaks, paid and unpaid.

Your system can be electronic or paper-based so long as there is a clear system for record keeping that is adhered to by all affected employees.

Read Warren Clark’s views on the impact of coronavirus on employment, here

Employees must verify in writing that the record about their hours is correct, inclusive of acknowledgement by electronic means, each pay period or roster cycle.

These changes don’t apply to people employed under the two road transport awards.

But where employers want to provide their drivers with an annualised wage (as some NatRoad members do) then you need to put in place individual flexibility agreements or an enterprise agreement that shows the employee is better off overall than being paid under the Award.

This means that many employers continue to stick with paying the rates and applying the conditions under the modern Awards because to do otherwise involves a lot of administration.

The ongoing obligation to keep records of hours and/or kilometres driven also applies in the instance of an annual salary payment where these arrangements are in place.

If there are any doubts about what you need to do to comply with these new modern award requirements, or any payment of wages issue, you should seek advice from NatRoad on (02) 6295 3000.

Warren Clark is NatRoad’s chief executive officer


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