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What is a Modern Award? Do I get a trophy?

Minimum conditions at work are outlined within legislation, Modern Awards (Awards) and registered agreements; often called Enterprise Agreements (EA), or Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA). The majority of small businesses don’t have a registered agreement in place, and so will be turning to Awards and general employment legislation to guide the minimum requirements in your workplace!

The first 122 Modern Awards were effective from 1 Jan 2010, consolidating more than 1500 existing Awards, after a huge review into pay and conditions across industries in Australia and the introduction of the new workplace relations system. 

As you can imagine these Awards cover the majority of industries and occupations that employees work within in Australia, but if no Award applies then the minimum pay and conditions in the legislation will apply.

How do I know which one/s, if any, apply to my team?

Fair Work does have a handy Award Finder (here) to help point you in the right direction, however there are definitely limitations and as it doesn’t cover every role title or industry that Awards are applicable for. You could get in touch with your industry body to get some guidance, you can look through the list of Awards that can be found on the Fair Work website here, find ones that sound relevant and then check the Coverage clause and the job classifications (or do an old fashioned Ctrl+F to find the key words you are looking for), or you can give us a bell and we will work with you to figure it out!

High income roles (above $145,400 for FY19) are not covered by an Award, and there are also a number of professional roles that are not typically covered, for example accountants, marketing, legal, HR, PR, and IT. It is always a good idea to check the Awards for your industry and also the Professional Award or Miscellaneous Award to make sure they don’t cover your professional employees.

Same, same, but different

To keep things interesting for businesses that have employees covered by more than one Award, while there are many similarities or consistent clauses across all Awards, there are also many nuances that exist between Awards (oh good!). Some recent additions that are uniform across all Awards are clauses concerning entitlement to Family and Domestic Violence Leave, and Flexible Work Arrangements Model. The areas where Awards vary considerably are in relation to pay and entitlements relating to work hours and conditions. 

Yikes! It’s over 70 pages long, where do I start?

Some particular areas to be across are:

  • Minimum Award Wages (and corresponding Classifications schedule) – ensuring your team are paid appropriately based on their skills, experience, qualifications and responsibilities.

  • Ordinary Hours of Work – this clause outlines the normal business hours for this employee group, e.g., between 7am and 7pm, but a maximum 10 hours per day.

  • Overtime or Shift Allowances – pretty self-explanatory but this will be important for rostering and planning workloads/workflows for many businesses to weigh up the impact of stretching out the work day versus employing more staff, for example.

  • Casual Conversion – many Awards have long included provisions that allow employees to request to convert from casual to permanent employment after 6 or 12 months’ service, but there are some specific requirements relating to notification to these employees either on commencement, or when they reach these tenures to be aware of. And remember – the right to request doesn’t mean the right to convert, but it can be an important conversation.

If you’d like to sift through Awards like a hole in the head, give us a holla and we’ll do the leg work!