Employers and Unions co-operate on Restaurants Award to address COVID-19 challenges

In a landmark deal struck this morning, employers and unions have collaboratively lodged an application this afternoon with the Fair Work Commission to amend the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 to help businesses stay open and workers stay in jobs.

The special conditions contained in the application and agreed between the United Workers Union, the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Australian Industry Group, provide flexibilities around hours of work and annual leave to facilitate businesses and their employees being in the best position possible to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, and remain in jobs and connected to their employer, while retaining the rates of pay for work performed.

The application seeks to:

  • Provide flexibility around the range of duties that employees can perform, provided it is safe to do so and the employee has the necessary qualifications, such as a Responsible Serving of Alcohol certificate. Employees performing higher duties will be paid at the higher rate;
  • Allow for a temporary reduction in working hours for full and part time staff (providing 60 per cent of full-time or regular part-time hours) to ensure a spread of hours across the workforce, while also ensuring minimum shift rules apply;
  • Allow employers to direct employees to take annual leave with notice and/or enable annual leave periods to be extended and pay to be averaged over the longer period;
  • Allow employers to close down operations while employees are on leave, or direct employees to take leave having regard to their personal circumstances; and
  • Ensure there is consultation with employees when new working hour arrangements are implemented.

Importantly, employees will continue to accrue their entitlements on the usual basis if their working hours are reduced, and any unpaid leave taken during a close down will count as service.

R&CA CEO Wes Lambert called the agreement a “fantastic win for thousands of restaurants & cafes across Australia and the hundreds of thousands of people they employ”.

“I want to thank ACCI, the ACTU and the UWU for their collaborative efforts in getting this draft determination lodged in such extraordinary circumstances. These changes will no doubt keep businesses open and keep Australians in jobs.”

ACCI’s Scott Barklamb said: “This temporary alteration allows restaurants and cafes to scale up or down their operations and employees to work fluidly across other areas of the business, providing they have the training to do so.

“Greater flexibility means these businesses might just be able to survive this harsh trading environment.”

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