Employers fear ‘miscellaneous’ award will catch high paid managers


Employers fear ‘miscellaneous’ award will catch high paid managers

Two major employer groups have reacted with trepidation to Friday’s release by the AIRC of a draft Miscellaneous Award to apply to workers not covered by another award.


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Two major employer groups have reacted with trepidation to Friday’s release by the AIRC of a draft Miscellaneous Award to apply to workers not covered by another award.
ACCI and the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) are both concerned that the Miscellaneous Award will apply regulated hours and penalty rates to managers, professionals, or higher income public sector workers.
‘Unclear’ who is covered
In announcing the draft award, the AIRC said it was ‘unclear’ which employees will be covered by the award.
‘It may be that it will have application in some areas of the workforce which have not been covered by awards before,’ the Commission said.
ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson said the ‘catch-all’ award would create uncertainty and is likely to have unintended consequences.
‘In particular, it risks extending the reach of the award system into higher income, managerial and professional work that was never intended to be covered by modern awards under the government’s new IR laws,’ he said.
Significant concern
Anderson said the AIRC’s statement that it was not known who would be covered by the award was ‘a cause of significant concern to industry’.
‘Regulation should not be made unless it is clearly known who is to be regulated, why, and how,’ he said.
‘Award coverage and award conditions like overtime rates, penalty payments for work beyond certain hours, and annual leave loadings do not form part of the salary arrangements that exist in the managerial, professional or higher income private sector labour force.'
‘Coverage of these employees by awards serves no useful purpose, and would also limit flexibility promised by the government under the National Employment Standards.’
Operation and cost difficulties
Ai Group’s chief executive Heather Ridout said the new award would need to be very carefully analysed ‘to ensure that it will not lead to an extension in award coverage and consequent operational and cost difficulties for industry’.
She said that in addition to lower classifications, the draft Miscellaneous Modern Award covers professional employees except:
  • professionals covered by another modern award
  • professionals excluded from award coverage by the Fair Work Act 2009 (eg those who earn more than $108,300)
  • professionals ‘in an industry covered by a modern award who are not within a classification in that modern award’.
‘The likely interpretation of the word “industry” in the above exclusion needs to be very carefully analysed,’ Ridout said.
‘It is vital that HR professionals, accountants etc who are currently award-free remain so. Many professional employees earn less than $108,300.'
Penalties ‘unworkable’
‘The award includes hefty overtime penalties for hours worked in excess of 38 in a week and shift penalties for work performed after 7 pm. These penalties are unworkable for professional employees.’
IR Minister Julia Gillard said that as part of the plan to reduce the number and complexity of awards, it was always intended that a new general modern award be drafted to apply to employees who perform work of a type that has traditionally been covered by awards but who are not covered by a new modern award.
Not intended for managers: Gillard
‘The Transition to Forward with Fairness legislation, the Fair Work Act and the Minister’s award modernisation request make it clear that the award modernisation process is not intended to extend awards to groups such as senior managers who have never been covered by awards,’ she said.
‘The Miscellaneous Award proposed by the AIRC, will not apply to employees in an industry covered by another modern award who are not in one of the classifications in that modern award or who were specifically exempted.'
‘In accordance with the consultative processes set out by the Commission, parties now have an opportunity to make further submissions to the Commission before the awards are finalised.’
ACCI and Ai Group will both make further submissions to the AIRC Full Bench seeking amendment to the terms of this miscellaneous award, and limits on its coverage.
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