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Are your workers on the right award?


Are your workers on the right award?

Assigning your workers to the right award is essential to pay them correctly. So we’re worried to see some businesses faltering at this first step.

Now awards won’t usually be a problem if you run an indie record store or a suburban butcher. But for more complex operations, like pharmacies, health-care providers and hospitality businesses, it’s a different story. A batch of factors comes into play that makes assigning the award trickier than you’d think.

And as we saw in last week’s post , getting the award wrong can see your business face being forced to back-pay tens of thousands of dollars, or penalties right up to a court-imposed fine.

So this week, we’re zeroing in on getting the award right.

1. What job does the employee hold?

Pharmacy owners are embracing entrepreneurship and choosing to offer more services under the one roof. That diversification can bring other industry awards into play.

Five or ten years ago, a typical pharmacy’s staff profile was simple: a pharmacist and one or two assistants. Now, we’ll often see naturopaths and other allied-health professionals working alongside them.

In this scenario, the pharmacy staff could be on three different awards:

  • Retail Industry Award (shop assistants)
  • Pharmacy Industry Award (pharmacists)
  • Health Professionals Award (naturopaths)

For most pharmacies, the award question is still fairly straight-forward: one employee to one award. But in other areas of healthcare, it starts getting complicated.

2. Where is the service being provided?

In disability care, the same employee can full under a different award, depending on the location of their work. Across a pay period, one employee can move between awards.

This situation stems from two different models in disability care that determine where an employee provides a service.

Some of our clients operate disability care services from their own location, such as at a health-care clinic or private hospital. Those same providers can also offer services to clients’ homes, in line with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In this scenario, there are two awards that could apply to the same employee:

  • Nurses Award (for services provided in hospitals)
  • Home Care and Disabilities Award (for services provided at the client’s home)

For disability care providers, as long as your workforce management system can capture the location of a shift, you’re on the way to getting the award right. Turning to the hospitality sector, we see yet another layer of complexity.

3. What tasks does the employee undertake?

The plot thickens. In a handful of cases, one employee working in the one location can fall under multiple awards, depending on their tasks for that pay period. You’ll most often see this level of complexity in businesses where some employees have fluid job descriptions.

Let’s take Gavin. Gavin works as a casual guest assistant at a large hotel in Sydney. On Monday, Gavin works on reception. On Tuesday evening, the restaurant is swamped, so they bring Gavin in work as a waiter. On Wednesday, a big conference is starting, so they call Gavin in to clean.

In this scenario, Gavin has changed awards twice in one pay period

  • He started on reception, which is covered by the General Hospitality Industry Award.
  • When he moved to the restaurant, he was covered by the Restaurant Industry Award.
  • When he cleaned, he moved back to the General Hospitality Industry Award.

4. Confused? Don’t be

The key to making sense of awards is to be clear on what factors are relevant to your organisation. Where does your business fall on the scale of complexity? Many businesses will have different staff whose terms of employment put them under different awards, similar to the pharmacy example above. Only a few will have the type of complexity seen in our hotel example.

Then, once you’re clear on the level of complexity in your awards, check that your workforce management system is up to the task of capturing the information you need.