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Log your hours, or don’t get paid: What the 1 March changes mean for you

(Source: Getty)

Aussies who work under certain modern awards will have to start paying much closer attention to the hours they log in order to be paid for all the hours they work.

Beginning from 1 March 2020, new requirements will see employers keep a record of the start times, finish times and unpaid break times for these employees, and have them sign these off each pay cycle.

It’s a move that has employment experts concerned about the burden of extra paperwork for both workers and bosses, as well as its effect on flexible working arrangements for some.

“In a world where we are constantly connected via our devices, the question of when you're actually working becomes blurred,” people management software Employment Hero CEO and qualified solicitor Ben Thompson told Yahoo Finance.

“Should the time employees spend engaging with work-related content on Twitter, LinkedIn or Slack while watching TV be recorded as work?” 

“These new obligations don't contemplate the realities of life and work in 2020, rather they force the vast majority of Australian businesses back to Bundy clock type systems that were popularised in the 1890s. In my opinion, this is crazy.”

Bundy clocks are known for being used by workers decades ago to clock in and out of their shift.

The Fair Work Commission has introduced these new requirements to employers who pay workers under ‘annualised salary’ provisions in modern awards which are projected to impact more than a million Australian businesses.

Who does this affect?

If you’re covered under the following modern awards, this will be relevant to you:

  • Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2010

  • Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010

  • Contract Call Centres Award 2010

  • Hydrocarbons Industry (Upstream) Award 2010

  • Legal Services Award 2010

  • Mining Industry Award 2010

  • Oil Refining and Manufacturing Award 2010 (clerical employees only)

  • Salt Industry Award 2010

  • Telecommunications Services Award 2010

  • Water Industry Award 2010

  • Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award 2010

If you work under the following awards, the changes will apply to you, but only if you agree to the new arrangements:

  • Broadcasting and Recorded Entertainment Award 2010

  • Local Government Industry Award 2010

  • Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010

  • Oil Refining and Manufacturing Award 2010 (non-clerical employees)

  • Pharmacy Industry Award 2010

  • Rail Industry Award 2010

  • Horticulture Award

  • Pastoral Award 2010

What does this mean for me?

  • Workers will have to log their hours – and more.

Thompson said the changes will be “frustrating” and “time-consuming” to both workers and bosses – but failure to follow the new changes will be a breach of the Fair Work Act.

“If you’re an employee covered under one of the Awards affected, you will be required to record all hours worked,” he said.

But it's not just start and finish times that need to be logged. “You will have to log your unpaid lunch breaks and it even extends to you attending for example, a work-related event or course, outside of usual work hours.”

Get to know the award you are covered under and whether you’re entitled to any additional penalty rates, such as working additional hours or other entitlements like phone or travel allowances, he said.

  • You won't be underpaid for the hours you work.

Workers who do additional hours will be compensated for their time. “Your employer can’t ask you to perform unpaid labour and now you’ll have a record of what you did work,” said Thompson.

  • If you’ve been underpaid, your boss will make it up to you – every year.

The new obligations also require employers to perform a ‘reconciliation’ every 12 months, which involves calculating how much the worker would have been paid if they were paid on an hourly basis according to the award. Any shortfall has to be paid within 14 days. This reconciliation will also be performed when employment is terminated.

How do I know if this affects me?

If you’re still not sure whether the new requirements affect you, your best bet is to check with your employer and ask.

And in fact, if you’re affected by the awards, you should know by now: you should have been told before 1 March.

“Your employer is responsible for providing you a time and attendance tool to record your hours, so you’ll need to understand what to record and how to do it,” said Thompson.

“Moving forward, you will need to log all your time, even including things like unpaid lunch breaks.”

The stakes are higher for employers

2019 saw dozens of underpayment scandals, and 2020 has been no different, with brands such as Target, Coles, Woolworths, Rebel Sport and more reporting that they had underpaid staff.

According to Thompson, the new requirements may mean pay scandals will become even more frequent.

“More reporting obligations means it’ll be easier to catch employers not doing the right thing. Where employees work extensive hours over an extended period of time, for example, large projects, this could pose a risk to employers,” he said.

“These changes are part of the Fair Work Commission’s broader strategy to close loopholes and ensure Australian businesses are paying all employees their full legal entitlements.” 

“The annualised salary changes mean business owners have a legal obligation to change the way they pay employees affected, in-line with recording hours diligently; and upon termination, running annual reports to ensure any underpayments are identified in comparison with the employee’s Modern Award entitlements, while reconciling any shortfalls immediately.”

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