Professionals Australia celebrates win on overtime and hour of work

Friday 17 March 2023

Professionals Australia celebrates win on overtime and hour of work Professionals Australia celebrates an important win on overtime and hours of work for professionals in a decision that will contribute to significantly improving wages and conditions.

The Fair Work Commission yesterday handed down its final decision on the award coverage of the Professional Employees Award 2020 and the hours of work and related overtime provisions.

This Award covers professional engineers, professional scientists, IT workers, those working in the game workers sector and quality assurance professionals.

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said that in a culmination of several earlier related Commission proceedings, the Commission’s latest decision will provide a much more effective safety net in terms of pay and hours of work.

“While the Fair Work Commission has maintained a minimalist approach to the regulation of hours of work and overtime requirements as set out in its decision in January 2023, employers will now be required to keep hours of work records and to pay their employees for all hours worked above 38 hours, and that’s a fantastic win for professionals.

“Additional penalties will now apply to hours worked before 6.00 am or after 10.00 pm Monday to Saturday, which attract a rate of 125%, and hours worked on Sundays and public holidays will attract a rate of 150%.

“In addition, employers will now be required to pay for call-backs to work and remote work and in a post-pandemic world where lots of work is undertaken from home or remote locations, this is a fair and sensible approach.”

These changes take effect in 6 months unless employers pay their employees 25% above the minimum award rate, which applies to the employee’s award classification. Employers paying employees 25% above the relevant award classification will be exempt from the requirements to record hours, pay for additional hours worked, etc.

The decision also clarified that an employee with substantial managerial responsibilities would not come within the Award’s coverage, but otherwise, employees (who may have supervisory responsibilities) must be assigned to one of the award classifications. This change takes immediate effect.

Ms McCabe said these changes were a significant win for professionals who, on principle, should be paid for all hours of work they undertook.

“These changes give effect to the intent of existing provisions in the award to pay employees who work overtime but which have proven unenforceable due to their vagueness. This re-set has become increasingly important as professionals frequently work under annual salaries that are set and rely on the goodwill of employers to recognise additional hours when they are worked. Unfortunately, some employers have relied on the loopholes to avoid paying professionals even the equivalent of all hours worked at award rates of pay.

“The clarification of the coverage provisions is not expected to reduce the current award coverage in practice.”

Ms McCabe also said that the median salary for professional engineers for all classification levels except the lowest Level 1 are paid 25% above the base rates of pay set out in the award, and therefore it is unlikely to have major impacts on many employers.

“We believe the decision strikes the right balance in restoring the requirement to pay overtime when additional hours are worked unless the annual salary is set at an appropriate level.

“Some of our members have not been paid the equivalent of the base pay provided under the award, which motivated our application in the first place.

“Without this baseline, the award failed to set any minimum standard for paying for work hours. “In the context of the current discussion about reasonable additional hours of work, there are questions about what is fair and reasonable in terms of overall working hours, and part of that discussion is ensuring that pay recognises those additional hours are being worked.

“Professionals Australia welcomes this important decision by the Fair Work Commission, which will deliver a well-deserved improvement to pay and conditions for our hard-working professionals.”

Media contact: Darren Rodrigo 0414783405