Changes to the Award

In this Circular, we will explain some important changes to the Health Professionals and Support Services Award, and what it means for your Practice.

The Award was varied in April and May, and was subject to a formal four yearly review, ending on 16 June 2020.  The Award now looks and reads very differently.  The most recent changes take effect from your Practice’s first pay period on or after 18 June 2020. Needless to say, it is important that employers understand how to respond to, and also to benefit from, these changes in line with their Practice goals.

Some key changes include:

1. Flexible working arrangements
When responding to an employee’s request for flexible working arrangements, there is now a more prescriptive process to follow.  If the request is not agreed, the employer must outline its reasons for refusal, and consider and propose other ways it can accommodate the requested flexibility (if possible).  The final arrangement must be documented in writing.  Looking at it another way, the employer can only refuse the request if it can justify its decision, and must propose a counter-offer if there are any other changes it can make, and must document any new arrangement in writing.  This goes further than simply considering and responding to a request.

2. Contracting out of Award
There is a new provision allowing the parties to contract out of some Award obligations with respect to breaks, when wages are paid, cashing out and taking leave in advance, time off in lieu and substituting public holidays.  Please note this is different to Individual Flexibility Agreement arrangements which still exist.

3. Part timers
There is more flexibility to engage and ask part time employees to work outside their fixed hours.  Part time employees are now defined as having “reasonably predictable” hours of work, and can change their fixed hours by agreement.  They are only entitled to overtime pay for time worked – where they have not agreed to change their fixed hours.  This gives employers a lot more flexibility to vary the fixed hours of part time employees, without attracting overtime rates, providing there is evidence of such agreement.

4. Regular casuals
A regular casual employee is now defined, together with the right to request conversion to a permanent role.  In light of the recent Federal Court decision on regular casuals and paid leave, this definition is important.

5. Breaks
After working at least 5 hours, an employee is entitled to an unpaid break of 30-60 minutes, rather than just 30 minutes.  Rosters may need to be adjusted to allow for longer breaks.

6. Voluntary super payments
Employers must comply with an employee’s written authority to pay voluntary superannuation payments from the employee’s post tax wages to their fund, within 28 days after the relevant month.

7. Termination – paid time off
If employment is terminated by the employer, an employee is now entitled to one day off with pay, to look for another role. This means an employee cannot be required to work all days over their notice period.

8. Redundancy – extra paid time off
An employee can now take more than one day off with pay, if attempting to secure another role due to redundancy, by evidencing attendance at an interview.  This is in addition to the already existing paid day off to look for another role.

9. Classifications update
The Classifications have been updated and for example a level 1 support services employee is now defined as someone with less than 3 months industry experience.  This means a new employee may need to commence at level 2, if he/she has more than 3 months experience.

The above summary does not include all the changes.  We are suggesting that the Owner/Practice Manager responsible for HR reads the Award carefully and makes changes to ensure compliance, and to maximise flexibility and productivity.

For members accessing ClinLegal contracts, rest assured they are currently being updated as a result of these changes.  As the laws are regularly changing, it is important to use up to date contracts.

Last, but by no means least, Fair Work has increased the minimum rates for employees covered by the Award by 1.75% to take effect 1 July 2020.  If you have employees on minimum Award rates, they need to be reviewed and increased.

If you would like guidance or assistance in reviewing and improving your HR infrastructure, or on implementing changes, please contact us [email protected]

Please note the laws are evolving and may change in the coming days and weeks.  The above information is current as at the date of publication and is based on information made publicly available.  It is important to stay appraised of any developments or changes. This Circular is produced for guidance purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice.  Legal advice should be sought for individual circumstances. For tailored advice for your Practice, please contact us for a confidential discussion:[email protected]