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Employment Legislation Updates at 3 July 2020

by By Rachel Walker-Cole and Ann-Maree Chadwick

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As the new financial year has begun, so too have a swag of new legislative updates relevant for Retail and Wholesale organisations. The following is a summary of Employment Relations updates for Australia and New Zealand as at 1 July 2020.

Australia

Annual Wage Review 2020 - The Fair Work Commission has announced a 1.75% increase to minimum wages. This applies to all award wages. The new national minimum wage is $753.80 per week or $19.84 per hour, starting from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2020.

The start date of this increase will be staggered across all awards. Awards have been divided into 3 groups and the 1.75% wage increase starts on the first full pay period on or after:

  • 1 July 2020 for Group 1 awards which mostly includes essential services
  • 1 November 2020 for Group 2 awards which includes Storage Services and Wholesale Award and Clerks—Private Sector Award
  • 1 February 2021 for Group 3 awards which includes General Retail Industry Award and Commercial Sales Award

High income threshold – 2020/21 changes

The high income threshold increased to $153,600, a $4,900 increase on the 2019/20 threshold effective from 1 July 2020.

Sunday penalty rates reduction

The final reductions to Sunday penalty rates in the General Retail Industry Award 2010 took effect on 1 July 2020. This reduction only affects permanent employees; Sunday penalty rates for casual employees are not changing.

Extension of some temporary award flexibility provisions

The Fair Work Commission has extended temporary award flexibility provisions in some awards that were due to end on 30 June 2020:

  • Extension of unpaid pandemic leave - On 30 June 2020, the Fair Work Commission extended unpaid pandemic leave in some awards. Go to Unpaid pandemic leave & annual leave changes in awards for more information. Employees who are employed under one of the affected awards can access up to 2 weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave under certain circumstances, if they are prevented from working as a result of being required to self-isolate, or due to measures taken by government or medical authorities. The leave is available in full immediately to full-time, part-time and casual employees – they don’t have to accrue it.
  • Relevant award pandemic leave end dates are:
    • 31 July - General Retail Industry Award & Storage Services and Wholesale Award
    • 30 September 2020 - Commercial Sales Award & Clerks Award
  • Extension of temporary award flexibility for Clerks Award - The Fair Work Commission has extended and changed the temporary Schedule I in the Clerks Award.

The updated Schedule I applies from 1 July until 30 September 2020 and includes changes: Clerks Award flexibility during coronavirus

JobKeeper wage subsidy and unpaid pandemic leave

An employee receiving JobKeeper payments from their employer can still take unpaid pandemic leave under their award at the same time as receiving the JobKeeper payment.

Unpaid pandemic leave & annual leave changes in awards

Requests to work additional hours on changing duties, location or days and times of work under JobKeeper update

Updated 25 June Changing duties, location or days & times of work under the JobKeeper scheme.

Wage Theft Legislation Victoria

Victoria has passed laws establishing criminal penalties for employers who deliberately underpay or do not pay their workers. Employers who dishonestly withhold wages, superannuation or other employee entitlements, will face fines of up to $198,264 for individuals, $991,320 for companies and up to 10 years’ jail. Offences will also capture employers who falsify employee entitlement records, such as payroll records, or who fail to keep employment records. 

 

New Zealand

New Zealand Wage Subsidy Extension

A Wage Subsidy Extension payment is available to businesses that are significantly affected by COVID-19. Applications for the Wage Subsidy Extension are open from 10 June 2020 until 1 September 2020. Eligible employers will need to reapply through Work and Income once their current 12-week subsidy has come to an end.

To be eligible for the Wage Subsidy Extension, businesses must have had a revenue loss of at least 40% for a 30-day period in the 40 days before they apply, compared to the closest period last year (e.g. June 2020 compared with June 2019) and businesses must sign a declaration about their circumstances. Also, under the Wage Subsidy Extension, an employee’s normal or ordinary wages or salary are the wages or salary specified in the relevant employment agreement on the date the employer applied for Wage Subsidy Extension.

Bonuses must be part of holiday pay calculations

In May 2020, the Employment Court ruled that Bonuses must be part of holiday pay calculations.
Discretionary payments, according to the law, are payments that the employer is not bound by employment agreement to make. 

The Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Act 2019

Triangular employment involves three parties – the employer, the employee, and a third party. From 28th June 2020 the law allows employees in triangular employment situations to include a third party to a personal grievance they have with their employer.

Employees in a triangular employment situation can still raise a personal grievance with their employer where they have grounds to do so and apply to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for it to be resolved. Under the new law an employee can now apply to the ERA to add a third party to the personal grievance if the third party has caused or contributed to the problem.

Paid Parental Leave changes

  • From 1 July 2020, the duration of parental leave payments is extended from 22 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • The maximum weekly rate for eligible parents increases from $585.80 to $606.46 gross to reflect the percentage movement in the average weekly earnings.
  • From 1 July 2020, ‘Keeping in Touch’ days for employees increase from 52 hours to 64 hours over the duration of their paid parental leave.