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Changes to Modern Awards

On 1 January 2014 there was a change to all modern awards. The variation means that you have to consult with employees before changing their regular roster or ordinary hours of work.

You can look at the new clause in the 'Consultation' section of your modern award.

When do I need to consult?

You need to consult an employee if:

  • the employee works a 'regular roster' or has ordinary hours of work, and
  • you're considering making a change to an employee's working hours, times or days.

It doesn't matter whether the change you're considering is temporary or permanent, if the employee works a regular roster or has ordinary hours of work, you need to consult.

What's a regular roster?

A regular roster is a regular and systematic work arrangement. Full-time, part-time and casual employees can all have a regular roster.

Employees that work irregular, sporadic or unpredictable hours don't have a regular roster.

Example

Tim is a casual employee covered by the General Retail Industry Award 2010. For the last 3 years he's worked 4 days a week Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Tim has a regular and systematic working arrangement, so if his employer wanted him to start working Wednesdays they would need to consult with him before making changes.

How do I consult?

There are 3 steps you need to follow when consulting:

  1. Give the employee and their representative (if any) information about the proposed change. This should include information about what the changes are and when you'd like them to start.
  2. Ask the employee/representative to give their views about the impact the change would have, including any impact to their family and caring responsibilities.
  3. Consider the employee/representative's views about the impact of the changes.

You need to give employees the option of being represented in any consultations. Examples of representatives an employee can choose include:

  • an elected employee representative
  • a representative from a union that's eligible to represent the employee.

It's also important that you genuinely consider an employee's views. If an employee doesn't think you've considered their views they can enact the dispute resolution terms in your modern award. 

Other considerations

Many awards restrict when and how an employer can change an employee's roster or hours of work. These new consultation obligations must be read in conjunction with any other award terms about changing hours and rostering. There may also be restrictions in an employee's employment contract about changing their working hours.

Example

Simone is part-time and covered by the General Retail Industry Award 2010. Simone and her employer have agreed in writing that she'll work 21 hours a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The agreement says that Simone will work 7 hours each day and includes the start and finish times, rest breaks and meal break.

The Award says that any change to the regular pattern of work must be agreed in writing between the employee and employer. If Simone's employer wants her to increase her agreed hours or the days she works, they need to consult with her about the proposed change. Simone's employer also needs to reach a written agreement with her to change her regular pattern of work.

My workplace has an enterprise agreement, does this change affect me?

This article deals with employees that a modern award applies to, however similar rules apply to employees covered by an enterprise agreement.

Source: Fair Work Ombudsman eNewsletter 26 February 2014

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