Ai Group comments on FWC’s Professional Employees Award Hours of Work decision

“The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) is very disappointed with the decision of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to reject a practical and sensible set of amendments to the Professional Employees Award jointly proposed by Ai Group and Professionals Australia – the main industrial parties representing employers and employees covered by the Award,” Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

“The proceedings primarily related to a Professionals Australia claim for a much more prescriptive hours of work clause in the Professional Employees Award, including compensation for any additional hours worked.

“This modern award and the relevant predecessor pre-modern awards have never contained overtime penalties. This is appropriate given the nature of professional employment and given that most professions are award-free. The Professional Employees Award only covers a limited number of professions (e.g. professional engineers, professional scientists and IT professionals).

“After many months of negotiations, Ai Group and Professionals Australia developed a set of proposed amendments to the Award, in satisfaction of Professionals Australia’s claim, that would:

  • Preserve important flexibility for employers and employees;
  • Implement a range of new hours of work protections for employees at lower classifications levels; and
  • Avoid the excessive red-tape burden and ‘bundy clock’ approach inherent in the FWC’s problematic Annualised Salaries Decision that became operative in various other awards from 1 March this year.

“Unfortunately, the Full Bench has rejected the sensible outcome proposed by the major industrial parties. The industrial parties have been invited to put forward proposed award variations consistent with various conclusions that the Full Bench has reached. Given the prescriptive nature of these conclusions, it will not be an easy task to preserve the current flexible and practical approach to hours of work.

“Similar to its problematic Annualised Salaries Decision, the FWC has again highlighted s.139(1)(f) of the Fair Work Act. Given the FWC’s very problematic interpretation of this provision, the Australian Government needs to move quickly to introduce amendments to the Act. Awards need to be able to reflect contemporary work practices, including awards that apply to professional employees.

“The decision is disappointing, an inhibitor to employment and out of step with where our economy is and where it is headed,” Mr Willox said.

FWC Full Bench decision

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