find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
In-house counsel warned over award rates

In-house counsel warned over award rates

Middletons' workplace relations and safety partner, Kathy Dalton, wipes away all misconceptions about modern award rates and shows what in-house counsel really do need to be aware of under the new rules.

Middletons' workplace relations and safety partner, Kathy Dalton, wipes away all misconceptions and shows what in-house counsel really do need to be aware of under the new rules


"A breach of award conditions can attract civil penalties of up to $33,000 for a corporate employer and individuals involved can also be penalised up to $6,600 for each breach. In the employment context, the likelihood of multiple breaches over an extended period of time quickly compounds the risk. On top of the risk of prosecution, a continued breach of award obligations can quickly create a very serious back-pay liability for a business. "

A number of myths and misconceptions amongst employers about the effect of modern awards, which came into effect on 1 January this year, is leading to non-compliance. Given the confusion and complexity, it is important that in-house counsel are alert to the compliance issues associated with the introduction of modern awards and are able to ensure that their organisations are meeting their obligations.

A key misconception at present is the assumption that provided a Company pays over-award rates, it will have met its obligations under modern awards. This is simply not true. Paying over-award rates will not ensure modern award compliance. There is more to modern awards than pay rates. For example, many modern awards contain detailed rostering and overtime arrangements and provide for a range of allowances. These award conditions will apply unless the appropriate steps have been taken to exclude or vary them.

Another common misconception is the assumption that professionals and those on high incomes will not be covered by modern awards. Again, such an assumption could lead to serious error. The scope of award coverage, particularly for managerial and clerical roles has changed significantly. Previous "award free" employees may now be covered.

Companies, and those within them responsible for regulatory compliance, are at risk both of legal sanction and workplace discord unless they undertake the hard work of transitioning to modern awards. A breach of award conditions can attract civil penalties of up to $33,000 for a corporate employer and individuals involved can also be penalised up to $6,600 for each breach. In the employment context, the likelihood of multiple breaches over an extended period of time quickly compounds the risk. On top of the risk of prosecution, a continued breach of award obligations can quickly create a very serious back-pay liability for a business.

Modern awards form part of the new safety net of minimum terms and conditions of employment which now regulates employers and employees in the national workplace relations system. There are approximately 120 modern awards which replace thousands of state and federal predecessor awards. Conditions regulated by modern awards include minimum wages, overtime, penalty rates, hours of work, allowances, and consultation and dispute settlement procedures.

There are a range of mechanisms available in relation to modern awards for businesses to vary or exclude their operation. These may include annualised salary arrangements, a high income guarantee of annual earnings, individual flexibility agreements or negotiating a collective agreement. However, unless businesses have undertaken the hard work of reviewing the modern awards that may apply to their business it is impossible to assess where existing conditions fall short of compliance and whether a mechanism to vary or exclude the modern award is available or appropriate.

A modern award compliant workplace will not happen by accident or mistake. Companies run a serious risk if they don't invest in reviewing their employment strategies now rather than later.

Kathy Dalton is a workplace relations and safety partner at law firm Middletons.



Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

In-house counsel warned over award rates
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Quentin Bryce
Oct 18 2017
DV has worsened in a generation: Quentin Bryce
Former governor-general of Australia Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO has spoken of her deep distress about...
Lawyers
Oct 18 2017
Academics entertain the idea of law without lawyers
Researchers from Queensland will explore some of the most disruptive trends tipped to transform the ...
Please, Continue (Hamlet), Melbourne Festival
Oct 16 2017
Hamlet suffers slings and arrows of top Victorian barristers
Victorian judges and barristers have performed the unique play Please, Continue (Hamlet) at the Melb...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...