A recent decision by the Fair Work Commission has resulted in changes to the Professional Employees Award 2020 (the Award). The Award sets out rules for the work standards of professional employees (which are defined in the Award itself). For example, this includes how many hours they can work and their rate of pay. 

If you’re an employer, it’s important to be familiar with recent changes to the award. After all, it’s your legal obligation to be up to date and ensure your employees are receiving all their correct entitlements. 

These changes also serve as a reminder to check your existing documents and contracts with your employees to ensure they are consistent with updated laws and modern awards

Keep reading to know more about the changes and what you can do to ensure legal compliance. 

Paying Employees More For Working Longer 

It’s not uncommon for employees to work longer than their usual hours. Sometimes, the nature of their work will demand this. 

The changes made to the modern award by Fair Work will ensure that employees get compensated for their extra, non-sociable work hours. This is referred to as a ‘penalty’ where employers need to pay their employees for working longer. 

The main changes are as follows: 

  • Between Monday to Saturday, a penalty rate of 125% applies for hours worked overtime (before 6:00am and after 10:00pm) 
  • Sundays and public holidays accrue a 150% penalty rate 
  • Casual employees are also entitled to a 25% loading on top of their usual pay 
  • Employers need to keep records of all their employees’ hours worked which exceed the usual 38 hour week
  • Keep in mind that all of the above applies for hours worked before 6:00 am and after 10:00pm between Monday to Saturday
  • It also applies for Sundays and public holidays (all hours of the day) 
  • These changes do not impact employees who have a salary of more than 25% the minimum wage for their employment 

What Are My Next Steps? 

If you’ve got employees under the modern award and this applies, then you’ll need to review your documents and get in touch with your staff as soon as possible, as these new regulations are set to take effect as early as March 2023. 

Consider letting your employees know of the changes, talk about how it will impact them and if necessary update any Employment Contracts to reflect these new regulations. Wording can be a bit tricky, so if you need your contracts reviewed or redrafted by a legal expert, we’ve got you covered. 

Alternatively, if you’re unsure about your obligations under the Award generally, we offer an Award Compliance package where a Sprintlaw lawyer will advise you on how to remain compliant with your Award. 

If you haven’t already done so, ensure that your current record-keeping systems are efficient enough to track the hours worked by employees, particularly overtime hours. 

We’ve written more about the Professional Employees Award and what you need to know. 

What Other Obligations Do I Have Towards My Employees? 

Paying your employees correctly under the applicable award  is just one of the many obligations employers have towards their employees. Every obligation should be followed precisely, as non-compliance can lead to employees filing complaints and, in serious cases, taking legal action. 

As an employer, you want to have the best relationship possible with your employees. Fulfilling your duties towards them is a step in the right direction. 

We’ve listed a few of the main duties all employers will need to look out for. 

Award Compliance  

Employees can be covered by more than one award. Even if the Professional Employees Award doesn’t impact your place of work, there’s a chance that there are other awards your employees might be entitled to. 

Under Fair Work regulations, it’s essential that employees are being paid correctly under their respective rewards. Not doing so puts you in a position of non-compliance which can have some pretty heavy legal, financial and reputational consequences. It’s better to avoid this scenario altogether and be on top of your priorities. 

You can visit the Fair Work website to see what awards might be applicable to your industry. Once you enter the correct details, you should be able to get information on the kinds of awards you need to look out for. 

It can be difficult to know where to go from there. So, if you need to talk to a legal expert, we’re here to help. Our lawyers can help you sort through the best ways to be compliant with modern awards and regulations

Work Health And Safety 

It doesn’t matter if your employee works from a desk right across from you or if they are in a remote location across the country. As an employer you are obligated to make sure your employees working environment is a healthy and safe one.  

Workplace health and safety is a key legal obligation for all employers. It essentially means that all employees have the right to work in an environment that does not cause them harm in any way. Depending on the workplace and industry, these rights can be practiced differently. They can often look like:  

  • Ensuring all employees have the correct equipment
  • Monitoring office chats for appropriate and professional conversation 
  • Having strong harassment and anti discrimination policies as well as procedures
  • Training all staff when it comes to workplace safety measures
  •  Making sure the office is clear of any harmful defects
  • Providing employees with mental health resources and regular check ins 

Safe Work Australia is the main regulatory body when it comes to workplace health and safety. We strongly recommend checking out their resources and keeping up to date with their information to make sure you’re on the right track. 

Confidentiality and Privacy 

Confidentiality and privacy are one of the most important terms thrown around in business. A business’ ability to keep information confidential will often have a substantial impact on their success. However, confidentiality and privacy are often referred to in terms of client confidentiality or business secrets. 

Even though these are extremely important, it’s also essential to remember that your employees are owed some level of confidentiality and privacy. 

Therefore, it’s important to have systems in place that keeps the information you have on your employees safe. This can be through online systems, monitoring levels of access, ensuring all online communication is protected and having strong workplace policies

Example
Jenny runs a software startup. It’s a small company with 5 employees that work from a rented office space. One day, Jenny gets a phone call asking whether one of her employees, John, works at her company. The person on the other end also asks what time John usually comes into work. 

Jenny lets them know she cannot divulge this information without asking her employee first and hangs up. Upon telling John about the phone call, Jenny learns they were not comfortable sharing that information. In this case, Jenny did the right thing by protecting her employees’ privacy and keeping their information secure. 

Being an employer is a fulfilling yet great responsibility! There’s a lot to think about and it can be overwhelming sometimes. It is better to have the advice of someone who is an expert in employment law. 

Our specialist Employment Lawyers are here to talk and answer any question you may have – get in touch today! 

Key Takeaways 

The new changes to the Professional Employees Award 2020 changes the way some employers will pay and monitor their employees work hours. It’s a stark reminder that all employers need to keep up to date with their legal obligations. 

To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • The changes to the award will pay employees for their overtime 
  • It will also place the additional responsibility on employers to efficiently monitor their employees overtime hours  
  • Employers may need to make changes to their employment agreements or seek advice on compliance in light of this – our legal experts are happy to help! 
  • It’s also a good time to revise additional workplace obligations such as health and safety, confidentiality and other awards or entitlements that may be applicable 

If you would like a consultation on the Professional Employees Award, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

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