Australians are confused about their rights under the JobKeeper wage subsidy as bosses face accusations of rorting the scheme.
Applications for the payment opened yesterday, which involves employers passing on the $1,500 a fortnight to workers.
Australians confused about JobKeeper rights
Despite 6.7 million Australians expected to receive the wage subsidy, many don’t understand their rights.
In addition, there is confusion about temporary changes to workplace laws giving employers more freedom to change a worker’s duties, hours and pay.
For example, many workers are unsure if their boss can force them to take a pay cut.
The answer is generally no, according to industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from IR Claims.
“A reduction in pay is a variation in an employment contract, therefore, you and your employer must agree before any changes are made,” he said.
“Furthermore, your pay can’t be less than your relevant industry award or enterprise agreement.”
The Fair Work Commission temporarily changed several awards, including the:
- restaurant; and
- clerks awards which apply until 30 June, making it easier to reduce workers’ hours and, therefore, pay.
For example, the clerks award changes mean an employer and employees can agree, via a vote, to a temporary reduction to no less than 75 percent of normal hours.
Workers can have their hours increased or reduced
Recent changes to the Fair Work Act mean employers who qualify for JobKeeker can stand an employee down or reduce shifts.
The changes don’t specify extra powers for an employer to direct an employee to work additional hours.
“For example, some workers are reporting being directed to work more hours – meaning they will be doing the full $1,500 a fortnight worth of hours,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Which is unfair, considering the government is footing the bill, not the business.”
Employers accused of rorting the scheme
Furthermore, some employers are accused of reverse engineering changes to hours so they can pay all their employees the minimum $1,500 a fortnight under JobKeeper.
“Employers can only reduce hours in certain circumstances, so affected workers should seek expert advice,” Mr Heffernan said.
Additionally, some employers are demanding workers pay back part of the $1,500 payment, despite being illegal.
Can employers direct workers to do other duties?
Under the JobKeeper changes, yes, your boss can direct workers to do different duties to normal, within certain limits:
- The duties must be within the worker’s skill and competency;
- the worker must hold the required licence or qualification;
- the duties must be safe (including from the threat of coronavirus) and be within the scope of the employer’s business.
For example, asking a shop assistant to perform maintenance or to paint a retail store is an unreasonable request.
What about leave?
The Fair Work Commission recently varied 99 awards, providing employees with two weeks of unpaid pandemic leave.
In addition, they have the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half pay, if their employer agrees.
Under JobKeeper, employers can request an employee take paid annual leave, as long as they can keep a leave balance of at least two weeks.
For example, if a worker has four weeks annual leave saved, they could be asked to take two weeks of it, or four weeks at half pay.
If a worker only has three weeks leave accrued, they could be asked to take one week, or two weeks at half pay.
While it needs to be an agreement, the employee is required to consider the request and can’t unreasonably refuse it.
“WORKER LOSES CLAIM TO KEEP ANNUAL LEAVE WHILE ON JOBKEEPER”
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on