HR Highlight: Back to Basics
Each week ACAPMA receives many calls from members seeking workplace relations advice, support and resources. Some of these enquiries are quite detailed and difficult, leading to hearings in the Commission and the production of specialised resources. Other enquiries are simple ‘fact checking’ or ‘I’m just not sure’ situations. The weeks HR Highlight will very briefly recap some of the basic questions we regularly receive, and provide some simple answers.
It is imperative for businesses to classify employees using the correct employment instrument. In the downstream petroleum industry there are three Awards that cover most employment types;
For Administrative Staff the correct Award is the Clerks Private Sector Award 2010
For Console Operators, Driveway Attendants & Roadhouse Attendants the correct Award is the Vehicle Manufacturing Repair Services and Retail Award 2010
For Dangerous Goods and Fuel Tanker Drivers, as well as Packaged Dangerous Goods Drivers the correct Award is the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2010 (and the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2010 for those trips that are “long distance” in nature)
Finding the correct Award is only part of the journey. Time needs to be taken to understand the classifications within the Award, to ensure that the business is meeting its minimum requirements.
To decide which classification to apply see Schedule B of the Award. Schedule B outlines the job tasks or qualifications that are considered to be under each classification as per the Award. It is important to remember that the job title that is applied in the business may reflect a different set of job tasks, and therefore a different classification under the Award. The Commission will consider what the Award says a role should have been classified as, not what the job title says.
For Example in Fiction Co they had a job title that was “Junior Assistant” and the Pretend Manager, assuming that to mean the lowest level of administrative assistant, started Staff Guy using the Level 1 classification from the Clerks Award. However, after a dispute the Commission looked at the job tasks of the role, and using Schedule B determined that “Junior Assistant” was actually undertaking Level 3 tasks.
When classifying a job role it is helpful to have a document to compare with Schedule B, such as a Position Description that outlines the actual job tasks.
PRO TIP: When reviewing the classifications in Schedule B it is important to review all classifications before selecting one to apply to a job role, as many classifications will have the same or very similar tasks listed in them, the difference often comes down to the level of responsibility, accountability or autonomy a task.
The classification applied should be documented. The rationale behind the application of a particular classification should be documented in an internal email (such as between a line manager and the director). The application of the classification to a job role should also be communicated to the employee to avoid confusion. This is particularly important when paying above Award rates.
Classifications should be reviewed regularly. This ensures that the tasks of the role have not moved too far past the classification, either up a level or down. If there has been movement, the regular review allows for this to be addressed in a timely fashion, avoiding costly back pay situations later.
For Example in Fiction Co Staff Guy has been working as the “Junior Assistant” for 4 years. Over that time the tasks undertaken have changed and grown, and Staff Guy has been given more responsibility. When there is a dispute Staff Guy asks the Commission for backpay as he feels he has been doing a Level 4 role for the past 3 years. As there has been no classification review since Staff Guy started the Commission can decide that the tasks of today have been undertaken since day 1 or soon thereafter. If Pretend Manager had reviewed the classification and communicated it to Staff Guy annually then the Commission would have considered that in the backpay claim.
Above Award Payments and the National Wage Case Increases
Each year the Commission undertakes the National Wage Case, and in most years, announces an increase to the National Minimum Wage that has an impact on all Award rates. If a business is paying above Award rates at the time of the new wage rates coming in it is possible for them to “absorb” the increase, provided that the rates they are paying remain above the new minimum outlined in the relevant Award.
Reviewing Enterprise Level Agreements
Many businesses have enterprise level agreements such as EBA’s or CA’s that are specific to their workplace. These agreements set pay and conditions as well as classification models. While these instruments govern the employment relationship they are still tied to the Award that would cover the job roles of the employees at the workplace. This tie means that the agreement must offer pay and conditions that are at least level with the Award.
This means that the as the Award is subject to the annual National Wage Case and (usual) increases in the National Minimum Wage. When the rate in the Award that is ties to the employment tasks is increased the Agreement must be checked to ensure that it is still at least level with the Award in this area.
This can be difficult to do, as many Agreements have “rolled up” or “racked up” rates that encompass many elements, and are offered to balance or offset other conditions within the Agreement, so comparing them to a Base Rate in an Award can be hard. However, as this is a task that needs to be undertaken at least annually, with the National Wage Increases, it is worthwhile to “map” the Agreement to the Award. Mapping is the process of working out what the Base Rate would be under the Agreement so that it can be compared to the Award as the Award Base Rate changes, to ensure that the Agreement is keeping up with Award changes. Initially Mapping can be time consuming, but once done it provides an excellent tool to use for the life of the Agreement, and if the Mapping is done as part of the development of the Agreement it can also be used as part of the proofing process showing that the Agreement leave the employees Better Off Overall.
Here to Help
ACAPMA members are reminded that ACAPMAlliance has a series of resources from Quick Reference Guides to template letters and investigation and reporting checklists that can assist with ensuring compliant and consistent responses in this area, and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals on 1300 160 270.
HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.
They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals it’s free for members.
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Elisha Radwanowski | BCom (HRM & IR)
Workplace Services Manager