Some tech, telco and medical research workers will soon receive overtime and increased penalty rates as part of a draft Fair Work Commissioner decision.
The full bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) released a draft decision laying out significant changes to the Professional Employees Award, which covers some employees in IT, telecommunications, medical research, and quality auditing.
The changes cover the set hours worked per week by employees on the award, and the overtime hours they complete.
Full-time professional employees covered by this award include IT professionals, engineers in the construction industry, consulting engineers, engineers in manufacturing, and gaming sector workers.
These workers typically work well over the set 38 hours per work in the award, the FWC said, but are usually paid an annual salary to cover all hours worked.
This means that workers under the award are not paid for any of the overtime they complete, leading to a situation where a graduate tech worker on an annual salary may be paid below the minimum hourly wage set out in the award.
The existing provisions in the award in relation to this are “vague, uncertain and unenforceable”, Professionals Australia said in its submission to the FWC.
“To meet the modern awards objective to provide a fair and relevant minimum safety net of terms and conditions consistent with the object of the Act…it is necessary that the award include enforceable obligations to make additional payments when those to whom the award applies work hours in excess of ordinary hours as well as when they are called-in, work remotely, or are required to work on shifts,” Professionals Australia said in its submission.
The FWC mostly agreed with Professionals Australia in its draft determination.
“The minimum annual wages for which the award provides cannot be regarded as high enough to compensate any employee, even a professional employee, for all the incidents of their employment, and were never intended to do so,” the draft decision said.
“We consider that it is necessary that clause 13 should prescribe additional rates of compensation for additional and unsociable hours for full-time employees in order for the award to meet the modern awards objective of establishing a fair and relevant safety net.”
The changes, however, will only apply to workers receiving the minimum wage under the award or 25 percent or less more than it.
This means the changes will mostly benefit early-career tech workers on a lower wage than more senior workers.
“There is a minority of professional engineers and scientists who earn less than the amount they would earn if they were entitled to be paid the hourly rates prescribed in clause 14 of the award for all hours worked,” the FWC said.
The FWC has opted for a “minimalist approach” which will see workers on the award paid for all hours worked in excess of 38 per week, and a baseline entitlement to additional pay for hours worked before 6am or after 10pm.
All tech workers on the Professional Employees Award will be paid an hourly rate for all hours worked over 38 in a week.
“We do not consider that the variations will impede flexible modern work practices and the efficient and productive performance of work, and may indeed promote it by appropriately remunerating the flexible performance of work outside of ordinary hours,” the FWC said.
The Commission has also proposed increasing penalty rates for these workers, to 125 percent for all hours worked before 6am or after 10pm from Monday to Saturday, and 150 percent for rostered hours on Sundays and public holidays.
To facilitate this change, employers of these workers will have to keep track of all hours they work outside of the set 38 per week and any work overnight, on Sundays and on public holidays.
Interested parties now have until 10 February to make submissions on the draft decisions before it is formally adopted.