Clerks Award flexibility during coronavirus
Published 28 March 2020 | Updated 24 December 2020
Extension of temporary award flexibility for Clerks Award
The Fair Work Commission has extended the operational date, and made changes to, the temporary Schedule I in the Clerks Award. The updated Schedule I now applies until 30 June 2021. It was previously due to end on 29 March 2021.
We’ve updated this page to reflect these changes.
On 28 March 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made a determination varying the Clerks Award. The determination inserted a temporary new Schedule I that applied from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 28 March 2020.
Schedule I adds extra award flexibility to help employers and employees during the impact of coronavirus. It applies until 30 June 2021.
On this page:
The Commission can continue to extend Schedule I, if an application is made by an interested party. We'll keep updating our information if that happens.
Who does it apply to?
The updated Schedule I applies to employers and employees covered by the Clerks Award.
Use Find my award if you’re not sure which award applies to you.
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Extended parts of Schedule I that apply until 30 June 2021
Requirements of a direction under Schedule I
From the first full pay period on or after 22 December 2020, any direction or request given by an employer under Schedule I:
- has to be in writing
- can't be unreasonable in all of the circumstances.
An employer, who issues a direction, makes a request or makes an agreement under the provisions of Schedule I, consents to the Commission arbitrating any disputes about the direction, request or agreement.
Remote working arrangements
Remote working arrangements apply to an employee working from their home, or any other location, that isn’t the premises of the employer.
Spread of ordinary hours changes while working remotely
Employees who have agreed with their employer to work remotely can also agree to change their spread of ordinary hours to allow them to work between:
- 6am and 10pm, Monday to Friday
- 7am and 12.30pm, Saturday.
To change the spread of ordinary hours of work for individual employees working remotely, employers don’t need to agree with a majority of their employees.
Continuous working hours
From the first full pay period on or after 22 December 2020, employees working remotely can agree with their employer to not work their ordinary hours continuously.
Start and finish times for part-time employees working remotely
From the first full pay period on or after 22 December 2020, employers and part-time employees don’t need to agree on their start and finish times when working remotely if they have already agreed:
- that the employee can pick their own start and finish times, or
- to start and finish within a specific range of times.
Non-consecutive hours for part-time employees working remotely
From the first full pay period on or after 22 December 2020, employers don’t need to roster continuous hours for a part-time employee if:
- it has been agreed between the employer and employee that the work doesn’t need to be undertaken continuously, and
- the employee is given at least 3 hours work on that shift.
Meal and rest breaks when working remotely
From the first full pay period on or after 22 December 2020, employees working remotely are entitled to their usual Award breaks according to their hours of work.
If the employer agrees, an employee can take any meal or rest break at any time that suits their personal circumstances. For example, an employee working more than 5 hours can take their break after the first 5 hours of work.
If the employer agrees, an employee can alter their meal or rest breaks to suit their personal circumstances. For example, an employee who is entitled to a 30 – 60 minute meal break can take 3 breaks of 20 minutes.
See Hours of work, breaks and rosters for more information.
Hours of work for full-time and part-time employees
Under Schedule I, some employers can temporarily reduce full-time and part-time employees’ ordinary hours of work for a specified period.
From the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2020, employers can only use these reduction in hours provisions if they’d already used them before 30 June 2020. Other employers need to follow the normal rules about hours of work in the Clerks Award. See Hours of work, breaks and rosters for more information.
Employers who have already temporarily reduced their employees' hours under Schedule I can continue to temporarily reduce their permanent employees' hours of work to:
- not less than 75% of their full-time ordinary hours, or
- not less than 75% of their agreed part-time hours immediately prior to any reduction.
This can be for the whole business or a section of the business.
If an employer wants to further reduce their employees' hours, the employees will need to vote in favour of it. At least 75% of the full-time and part-time employees in the business or section of the business have to approve the temporary reduction.
The employer needs to follow these steps for the vote to be valid:
- If any employee is a known member of the Australian Services Union (ASU) or another organisation, let the ASU or the organisation know about the vote.
- Provide the employees with the contact details for the ASU, if they wish to contact the ASU for advice.
- Email email@example.com about the vote and provide the employees' work email addresses. The Commission will email the employees the ASU COVID-19 Information Sheet.
- Hold a vote at least 24 hours after they have followed steps 1-3.
If an employee’s hours were temporarily reduced under Schedule I before 1 July 2020, the employees can ask their employer for another vote to confirm that their hours will continue to be reduced for a longer period. This vote has to happen within 7 days of an employee asking for it. If the vote doesn’t happen, or the result of the vote doesn’t support an ongoing reduction in hours, the reduced hours will no longer apply from 7 days after the employee asked the employer to conduct the vote.
Any employee who has had their hours reduced can ask their employer for permission to:
- find more work with another employer
- engage in training, professional development and study leave.
An employer can’t unreasonably refuse an employee’s request to engage in other reasonable work. An employer has to consider all reasonable requests for training, professional development or study leave.
Employees working reduced hours under Schedule I will continue to accumulate their paid leave and termination of employment entitlements based on their ordinary hours of work before the Schedule started.
An employer and employee can also individually agree in writing (including in an electronic form) to reduce the employee's hours.
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Employers can request an employee to take annual leave under Schedule I in some circumstances.
Employers can only make this request if:
- the reasons for the request are attributable to the coronavirus pandemic or Government initiatives to slow the transmission of coronavirus
- it is to help the employer to prevent or minimise loss of employment
- the request is in writing
- they take into account the employee's personal situation
- the employee will still have at least 2 weeks’ accrued annual leave left after taking the leave
- they make the request at least 72 hours before they want the employee’s annual leave to start.
The employee has to consider the request and can’t unreasonably refuse it.
The annual leave has to start before 30 June 2021 but can end after that date.
Employees and employers can still agree for an employee to take annual leave at any time.
To request an employee to take annual leave (including unpaid leave in some circumstances), employers can use our Template letter for directing employees to take annual leave during the coronavirus outbreak (DOCX 70.4KB) (PDF 357.7KB).
Annual leave at half pay
Employees can also agree with their employer to take up to twice as much annual leave at a proportionately reduced rate.
For example, this means that if an employee agrees with their employer to take annual leave at half pay, the employee gets payment for 1 week of annual leave (including annual leave loading if it applies) for 2 weeks of annual leave.
An employee on leave at half pay accumulates annual leave and sick and carer’s leave as if they were on leave at full pay.
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Employees covered by an agreement
The changes to the Clerks Award don’t apply to employees covered by an enterprise agreement.
Find out if your workplace is covered by an agreement on the Fair Work Commission website – Find an agreement .
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Schedule I provisions that don’t apply after 30 June 2020
The information below outlines the Schedule I provisions that applied between 28 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. This information is historical and no longer applies.
See Extended parts of Schedule I that apply until 30 June 2021 for information about which parts of Schedule I apply now.
Change in duties
Between 28 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, an employer could direct an employee to do any tasks the employee had the skill and competency for, even if those tasks weren’t in their usual classification or normal work.
If an employee was told during this time to work above their usual classification for more than one day, the employer needed to pay them at the higher rate.
Employees who did tasks below their usual classification were entitled to be paid at their usual pay rate.
There are ongoing requirements in the award about paying employees who work higher duties. You can use our Pay and Conditions Tool to find out minimum rates of pay and allowances, or check the Clerks Award for details.
Minimum engagement/pay for part-time and casual employees working from home
Between 28 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, part-time employees who agreed with their employer to work from home could have their minimum engagement reduced from 3 hours per shift to 2 hours per shift.
During this time, casual employees who agreed with their employer to work from home were also entitled to a minimum of 2 hours’ pay per shift (rather than 3 hours).
Annual leave and close down of business
Between 28 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, employers could direct an employee to take annual leave under Schedule I by giving the employee at least 1 week of notice (or any shorter period of notice that was agreed).
During this time, if the annual leave direction was because the business was closing down for a period, the employer could direct an employee take unpaid leave. The employer could only do this if the employee didn’t have enough paid annual leave to cover the whole period.
Any period of unpaid leave taken by an employee counted as service for entitlements under the:
- Clerks Award
- National Employment Standards.
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Want to check other entitlements and obligations under the award? Go to the Clerks Award.
Not sure what award you’re covered by? Use Find my award.
Need to calculate pay rates, overtime and penalty rates? Use our Pay Calculator.
Want to stay updated on other award changes? Sign up for email updates.
- For further information on the changes, read the Fair Work Commission’s:
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