Are casual employees entitled to paid annual leave?
The Federal Court decided, for the second time in two years, that an employee of Workpac was entitled to paid leave even though Workpac had classified the employee as a casual.
The case doesn’t mean that all casual employees are automatically entitled to the same leave benefits as permanent employees. However, you do need to understand the decision to avoid the same traps as Workpac.
What does the Fair Work Act say?
Under the Fair Work Act, casual employees aren’t entitled to some benefits of permanent full-time or part-time employment (e.g. annual leave, sick leave, carer’s leave). The problem is that the Act doesn’t define when someone will be a casual employee. In the recent Workpac decision, the Federal Court had to interpret what the Act means by the term “casual employee”.
Hasn’t the Fair Work Commission decided this already?
Under virtually all modern awards, and many enterprise agreements, a casual employee is anyone “engaged and paid as such,” or some similar phrase. This expression has resulted in many employers reasonably thinking that an employee is a casual, and so not entitled to paid leave, if they are paid a casual loading and clearly engaged as a casual worker. However, the Federal Court had already decided in an earlier case involving Workpac that an employee was not a casual employee under the Act just because they are a casual employee under a modern award or enterprise agreement.
When is someone a casual employee under the Act then?
This is still pretty murky, just like the distinction between independent contractors and employees.
The Federal Court set out a list of imprecise factors that they use to help guide their decision. The closest a judge came to a definition of casual employee under the Act is “an employee who has no firm advance commitment from her or his employer to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work”. In the Workpac case, the employee was not a casual employee under the Act because:
- his contracts said he was a casual employee, but also guaranteed (for both his and Workpac’s benefit) that he would turn up to work 38 hours per week. The description of his employment as “casual” in the contract was overtaken by other clauses that pointed to him being a permanent employee; and
- practically speaking, he had a regular roster pattern in the mining industry that was set well in advance.
What should I be looking for?
Casual employment usually has most or all of the following characteristics:
- no employer promise (e.g. in the employment contract) to engage and pay the employee;
- likewise, no employee promise to perform work if that is offered by the employer;
- engagements of the casual employee that are irregular, unpredictable, uncertain, discontinuous and intermittent;
- employment “by the hour” (e.g. paid an hourly rate, with the employment terminable on an hour’s notice).
Employers use Tanda to help identify these key considerations. Its compliance features confirm how far in advance each shift was rostered, how consistent an employee’s earnings have been, and how regular their working patterns are. Get started with a free 14-day trial account.
Awards & Rostering |
Easter Penalty Rates 2015 — What you need to know about paying staff
Easter is coming up soon, and that means two things! A new season of Game of Thrones to feast on, and – perhaps less excitingly – public holiday rates to pay staff. As a business owner, accountant, or bookkeeper, it’s important to be aware of how public holiday rates over Easter and ANZAC Day should be paid in your state. First, let’s see when the holidays will be in 2014. You might be surprised! If your business is open on any of these public holidays, you’ll need to pay staff the appropriate public holiday rates. You should check your award, which will tell you exactly what multiplier or penalties to apply, often under a Public Holidays section. A common multiplier is 2.5x. Some businesses pay staff salaries, or pay casually “above award”. Public holiday penalties still apply! If you have a contract, it should cover this – check with Fair Work if you are unsure. Staff who don’t work on a public holiday If you have full or part time staff who should have worked on any of the weekday public holidays – Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Easter Tuesday in specific cases – they are still entitled to pay, even if they do not work. Generally you’ll pay at base rate for the hours staff would have been entitled to. Of course, if staff do work on the day, you’ll pay at a higher rate as dictated by the award (see above). But keep in mind: this only applies if they usually work on that day. For example, a part timer in Queensland who generally works Tuesday to Thursday probably wouldn’t get paid the public holidays because there’s no public holiday on those weekdays. Check your award/agreement to be sure! If your award dictates how rostered days off work, you should check to see if staff with an RDO on a public holiday are still paid. In some states, some kinds of businesses are not permitted to open on public holidays due to trading regulations. If this applies, you will probably still be required to pay staff who would otherwise work on that weekday. Again, if you’re not sure, it’s best to ask. Staff who work on a day that isn’t a public holiday Keep in mind that the rest of the award doesn’t shut off just because it’s Easter. For example, if you are in Tasmania and pay Saturday rates, you’ll still need to pay these on Easter Saturday (which is not a public holiday for you). Did you know… If an employee takes sick leave around a public holiday (eg. Thursday April 24 to Monday April 28), they still get paid the public holiday if they were otherwise supposed to work that day (ie. full/part time) If an employee takes annual leave, public holidays during the leave period don’t count towards their annual leave balance Public holidays do not need to be paid for staff on unpaid leave Staff cannot be forced to work on a public holiday if they have reasonable grounds for doing so. Common reasons include: the amount of notice given, family responsibilities (especially over Easter), and whether one could reasonably expect the business to be open on a public holiday. Tanda’s employee time clocks automatically interpret industry awards – including public holidays – so you can be sure you paid staff right, without tedious manually data entry Add the Fair Work Infoline to your speed dial, they are always happy to help. The number to call for any payroll queries is 131 394. Note: none of the above constitutes formal payroll advice. Always check with your accountant, bookkeeper, or Fair Work.
Awards & Rostering |
The Different Kinds of Award Interpreters
We often chat to people who have looked at a few different award interpretation tools on the market. Most are not really sure which award interpretation tool is right for their business. In this post, we’re going to take a look at the different kinds of award interpreters out there to help you understand what is important when looking for a tool for you or your clients. Firstly, an Award Interpreter (read about Tanda’s Award Interpreter) is software that figures out how much staff should be getting paid based on their hours and times worked. What award interpreter is right for you? There are four different kinds and the right one depends on how your staff get paid. Salary Costing Tools: Used to calculate payroll when all your staff are paid a fixed salary. Hourly Wage Calculators: Calculates when staff get paid a single hourly rate for all hours worked. Single Rate Calculators: Pays staff only single types of pay like weekday, Saturday and Sunday rates. However, it cannot handle any of the more common rate scenarios set out in Awards. Award Rule Engines: Does all of the above. In addition, they also calculate overtime, penalty rates, allowances, accruals and leave. “All my staff get paid a salary.” If you only employ salaried staff, a Salary Costing Tool is perfect for you. This is common in white collar workforces like accounting firms. In this case, you enter each employee’s yearly salary, set rules about how leave accrues and the tool does the rest. This is simple because staff are paid the same thing most pay runs. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool. If this is you, you’re in luck – you will not need an additional system for award interpretation! “My staff get paid the same hourly rate for all hours worked.” This might come up if you run a very small business with only a few staff. This is where nobody works on weekends, receives overtime or penalty rates. Generally, this means the business is only open for a few hours on days that it does open. If that’s you, you’re after an Hourly Wage Calculator. Warning: Be careful with this one. It’s easy to miss subtle wordings in Awards that require you to pay different rates at different times. Keep in mind that if any of your staff ever get more than one pay rate in a week, an hourly wage calculator won’t work as well anymore (even if it doesn’t regularly happen). Using an Hourly Wage Calculator, you enter the hourly rate for each employee. Each week you only enter the number of hours worked (you don’t worry about times). The tool multiplies the hourly rate by the number of hours to calculate total pay. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool, so if this is you, you’re also in luck – you won’t need an additional system for award interpretation! “I employ only one type of employee. They receive weekday and weekend rates only.” If you have staff that get paid hourly and receive different rates on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you might be able to use a Single Rate Calculator. However, be careful because this only works if you have a single employment type. An Employment Type refers to the way someone is employed. This includes full-time, part-time, casual or shiftworkers. If everyone you employ is the same employment type (e.g. everyone is Full Time) then this might work for you. When using a Single Rate Award Calculator, you enter the hourly rate that each employee gets during the week. You enter the multiplier for Saturday and Sunday shifts. Also, Public Holidays, if the calculator supports it. If an employee gets a base rate of $20 and your Saturday multiplier is 1.5 (Time and a Half), they receive $30 on Saturday’s. When you enter a timesheet the system pays staff at the appropriate rate based on the days worked only. Why do these only work for one employment type? If you you have a Full Time employee (base $20/hour), and a Casual employee (base $20/hour + 25% casual loading = $25/hour). This table shows how a Single Rate Award Calculator would calculate the cost of two shifts. Weekday Rate – Full Time Saturday Rate – Full Time Weekday Rate – Casual Saturday Rate – Casual 20 30 25 37.5 In most awards, you’re meant to apply the 1.5 multiplier and then the 25% casual loading! Here is how Fair Work’s Pay Rate Calculator says you should have paid: Base Rate – Full Time (1x) Saturday Rate – Full Time (1.5x) Base Rate – Casual (1.25x) Saturday Rate – Casual (1.75x) 20 30 25 35 Single Rate Award Calculator’s are great if you have staff on a single employment type as all their multipliers will be the same. However as soon as you have different kinds of staff, it stops working correctly. (It also doesn’t work if you have to pay overtime, penalty rates, deal with leave or accruals. It’s really just for simple weekend rates) Some payroll systems include Single Rate Calculators, but most likely you’ll need an external system. Most award interpretation tools on the market can be used for Single Rate Calculation. If that’s what you need, just pick whichever looks good and is well supported. However, if you have multiple employment types, or other more complex pay requirements (eg. Overtime, Allowances, Penalty Rates, RDOs, TOIL, or Leave costing), read on… “I employ more than one type of employee,” or “I have to pay overtime, penalty rates or allowances,” or “I have to manage RDO or TOIL accruals and leave” If any of these sound familiar, you’re after an Award Rule Engine. It’s called a rule engine because it’s based on different payroll rules that you configure, allowing you to pay staff at different rates across the week. However, it also covers different rates within the same day and for different employment types. Some Award Rule Engines also come with pre-built sets of rules called Templates. A template contains all of the rules necessary to pay under a particular Fair Work Award. A good template will include all of the base rates for different levels of staff (each employee will have a minimum wage and the template should include this). A really good template will automatically keep your payroll software up to date based on Fair Work Award updates. Here’s some other things to keep an eye out for when comparing Award Rule Engines. You should ask these questions before implementing a system so you don’t get burned 3 months down the track. Can I set different Saturday/Sunday multipliers for Full Time and Casual staff? When staff pay rates go up (each year when the Fair Work updates minimum rates), are these updated automatically? Are staff pay rates automatically updated in the linked payroll system? Does the engine understand the concept of Ordinary Hours? (Ordinary hours of work accrue superannuation and count towards overtime, while non-ordinary hours don’t. Systems that treat all time as ordinary can end up costing you a lot more in labour costs – and staff won’t complain if you get that wrong!) Can I configure different pay rates for junior staff? Does the system automatically update them on birthdays? How does the engine handle RDOs or TOIL accrual? Are you able to configure accrual for arbitrary leave types? Can the engine pay the correct allowances for split shifts? Can you configure how long a shift must be “split” before this kicks in? Can you configure automatic allowances (like Laundry Allowances) and manual ones (like Overtime Meal Allowances)? Just for specific employees? Based on the times or days that they work? Can I configure specific Public Holiday dates for each employee (important if you have multiple sites with different Show Holidays or Regional Public Holidays). How is overtime calculated if an employee takes leave midway through the pay period? What if they take it on the last day? Can I calculate overtime based on an employee working outside their rostered hours? If a Template has been built based on an Award, can I change the ordinary span of hours based on agreement with the majority of my staff? Can I configure special provisions for shift workers? By the way… with Tanda’s Award Rule Engine, the answer to all those questions is yes! Hopefully, this post has helped clear some confusion around the types of tools that exist in the market and what you can use depending on how your workforce is set up. If you’ve got any further questions, feel free to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Awards & Rostering |
Sunday Penalty Rates: What’s really happening?
The national debate on penalty rates is quickly shaping up to become a defining issue of the Turnbull government and the next Federal election. The debate on penalty rates cuts straight to the bone of modern political disagreement and draws a line straight down one of the most fundamental differentiators of right wing vs. left wing economics. One side of the debate (the left) believes that the Government should regulate labour markets to ensure that the most vulnerable workers in our society are protected against greedy employers, and this will lead to a long term more equitable society. The other side of the debate (the right) believes the best path is to trust the power of the market to set labour rates, the argument is that the hardest workers will naturally attract the highest pay rates and encourage the labour force as a whole to be more productive. At a more practical level, the debate in Australia is concentrated on what to do about Sunday penalty rates which are paid at double time in some industries and whether to reduce those rates to be the same as Saturday rates. There are many institutional, practical and political factors at play which we will try to summarise in this article. Arguments for reducing Sunday penalty rates The argument goes that a reduction in cost of employment on Sundays will simultaneously lift productivity and improve unemployment rates in Australia. Many businesses remain closed on Sunday, because opening is unprofitable. Advocates of the rate cut argue that although some employees would see less money in their take-home pay packet, the overall result will be lower unemployment; not only because more business will trade on Sunday, but because many businesses will choose to increase their service levels (by employing more people) when margins aren’t quite so slim. Arguments against reducing Sunday penalty rates This side of the debate worries that reducing penalty rates will be hurting those in society who need the money the most and should be rewarded at higher rates due to working more ‘unsociable’ hours. Those against penalty rate cuts are generally very sceptical that business owners will create more jobs through the pay rate cuts, and see the proposed cut as a transfer of money from employee’s back-pockets into business owners’ wallets. What about the politics? Not too long ago, specific pay rates for industries were regulated at a State, rather than a Federal level. The move to shift powers of overall rate-setting to the confines of Canberra means that this debate is now being played out on the national stage. The problem for Turnbull and the Coalition is their track-record on labour market reform. As soon as the debate shifts to penalty rates, Turnbull runs the risk of resurfacing some of the toxic politics from the WorkChoices legislation. The problem for the Labour party and particularly Shorten, is how much this fight relies on support from the Union movement. As the political mudslinging begins, this could prove to be particularly bad timing for Shorten following the damning finding of the Royal Commission into Unions. All of this is mixed in with an unpredictable cross-bench, who Turnbull will need to win the support of to push through any change. There is far more at play for both sides than the practical changes to paychecks on Sunday. For both sides this argument flares deeply held ideological principles and is seen as a skirmish on the much larger war on our nation’s attitude towards labour laws, the free-market and the role of government. Get ready for the s**tfight. At Tanda, our Award Interpretation software helps businesses ensure they are paying their staff correct penalty rates at different times throughout the week.