Vehicle Award changes during coronavirus

Published 12 May 2020 | Updated 1 February 2021

Expiry of Vehicle Award temporary flexibility schedule

Schedule I in the Vehicle Award stopped applying after 31 January 2021. This means that employers and employees can no longer use the flexibility provisions in Schedule I for changes to:

  • full-time and part-time employees' hours of work
  • requests to take annual leave.

Employers and employees need to use the award provisions instead. To learn more about these provisions, go to:

Select the vehicle industry on these pages to see tailored information for you.

We’ve updated the information on this page to reflect these changes. 

On 11 May 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made a determination external-icon.png varying the Vehicle Award.

The determination inserted a temporary new Schedule I, which applies from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 11 May 2020. Schedule I adds award flexibility during the impact of coronavirus.

On 2 December 2020, the Commission issued a decision external-icon.png that extended the operational date of Schedule I in the Vehicle Award until 31 January 2021.

Use Find my award if you’re not sure which award applies to you.

Who did it apply to?

The following changes under Schedule I applied to employees engaged in vehicle industry repair, services and retail work.

They didn't apply to employees engaged in vehicle manufacturing under the previous sections 2-4 of the Vehicle Award (such as vehicle manufacturing employees, drafting, planning and technical employees and supervisory employees). This is because from 29 May 2020 the Manufacturing Award started covering these employees. Go to Changes in awards in 2020 to learn more about coverage changes to the Vehicle Award.

Schedule I also didn’t apply to eligible employees whose employer qualified for the JobKeeper scheme. For information about the JobKeeper scheme, see JobKeeper scheme - overview.

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Which parts stopped applying after 31 January 2021 

The information below outlines the Schedule I provisions that applied until 31 January 2021. This information is historical and no longer applies.

Any direction or request given by an employer under Schedule I had to:

  • be given in writing
  • say that the employer agrees to the Fair Work Commission dealing with any disputes about the direction
  • be reasonable in all of the circumstances.

Any direction an employer gave under Schedule I stopped applying on the earlier of:

  • the employer withdrawing, revoking or replacing it, or
  • on 31 January 2021.

Full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work

Under Schedule I, some employers could temporarily reduce a full-time and part-time employee’s hours of work if the employee couldn’t be usefully employed for their normal days or hours because of business changes attributable to:

  • coronavirus, or
  • Government initiatives to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Employers could only use these provisions if they’d already used them before 30 June 2020. Other employers needed to follow the normal rules about hours of work in the Vehicle Award. See Hours of work, breaks & rosters for more information.

Full-time employees

Employers could previously reduce a full-time employee’s hours of work down to an average of between 22.8 and 38 ordinary hours per week. If this happened, the employee needed to be paid for the hours they work and the rules for ordinary hours apply on a pro rata basis.

Some employees couldn’t have their hours reduced below a minimum amount of fortnightly pay. This included:

  • Full-time employees at Levels 1-5 – these employees needed to work enough hours to be paid at least $1115.70 a fortnight (not including allowances).
  • Full-time Vehicle Industry Tradespersons at Level 1 or 2 – these employees needed to work enough hours to be paid at least $1500.00 a fortnight (not including allowances).

Part-time employees

Employers could previously reduce a part-time employee’s hours of work down to an average of between 75% and 100% of their usual agreed hours per week (or per week over their roster cycle, if a roster cycle applied).

This meant, for example, if an employee usually worked 10 hours per week, their employer could reduce their hours to 7.5 per week or an average of 7.5 per week over the roster cycle.

Part-time employees who previously earned more than $836.78 a fortnight for their agreed hours needed to work enough hours to keep getting this amount. They couldn’t have their hours reduced so that they got less than $836.78 a fortnight (not including allowances).

Process to reduce an employee’s hours

If an employer wanted to reduce an employee's hours, they needed to discuss the changes with them, making sure the employer:

  • followed the Vehicle Award’s consultation rules about changes to rosters or hours of work
  • provided as much notice as possible.

If an employee was a union member, the employer also needed to let the employee’s union know that it intended to make the changes.

Schedule I didn’t prevent employers and employees from agreeing in writing to reduce the employee’s hours.

Leave entitlements while on reduced hours

If an employee received less pay than normal under a direction, they could previously agree with their employer to increase their pay to their normal weekly pay by taking paid leave for the difference in hours. For example, an employee who usually worked 10 hours a week and had their hours reduced to 7.5 could have agreed with their employer to use 2.5 hours of annual leave each week so that they were still paid for 10 hours in total per week.

An employee who was directed to work less hours still accrued annual leave, personal leave and any other leave based on their ordinary hours.

If an employee with reduced hours took annual leave or personal leave, they were paid for their ordinary hours for the time they took leave (their hours before the reduction). If an employee with reduced hours was made redundant, their redundancy pay was calculated on their ordinary hours (their hours before the reduction).

Secondary employment, training or professional development while on reduced hours

If an employee was directed to work temporarily reduced hours, they could request to take up:

  • reasonable secondary employment
  • training, or
  • professional development.

Employers needed to consider and couldn’t unreasonably refuse a request.

Annual leave

Under Schedule I, an employer could previously request an employee to take annual leave if:

  • the reasons for the request related to the coronavirus pandemic or Government initiatives to slow the transmission of coronavirus
  • it helped the employer to prevent or minimise the loss of employment
  • the employee would still have at least 2 weeks’ accrued annual leave left after taking the leave.

Employers needed to consider the employee’s personal circumstances when making a request. They also needed to give at least 72 hours’ notice.

Employees needed to consider their employer’s request to take leave and couldn’t unreasonably refuse it.

The period of annual leave needed to start before 31 January 2021 but could end after this date.

Employers and employees could still agree for an employee to take leave at any other time.

Annual leave at half pay

Employees could take up to twice as much annual leave at a proportionally reduced rate if their employer agreed. For example, if an employee agreed with their employer to take annual leave at half pay, the employee got paid 1 week of annual leave (including annual leave loading if it applies) but took 2 weeks off work.

An employee on leave at half pay accumulated 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 Vehicle Award didn'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 external-icon.png.

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Schedule I provisions that stopped applying after 30 June 2020

The information below outlines the Schedule I provisions that applied between 11 May 2020 and 30 June 2020. This information is historical and no longer applies.

Change in duties

Between 11 May and 30 June 2020 under Schedule I, employers could direct vehicle industry repair, services and retail employees to perform different duties.

Employers could tell these employees to do any tasks that they had the skill and competency for, even if those tasks weren’t in their usual classification or normal work. The tasks needed to be safe and within the employer’s operations. The employee also needed to have all the appropriate licences and qualifications to perform the tasks.

When an employee worked at a higher classification, the employer needed to pay them at the higher rate for the hours worked.

Employees who did tasks below their usual classification were still entitled to be paid at their usual pay rate.

Any direction or request given by an employer under Schedule I needed to:

  • be in writing
  • be reasonable in the circumstances
  • say that the employer agreed to the Commission dealing with any disputes about the direction.

An employee who was directed to do different duties returned to their usual duties on 30 June 2020, or if:

  • they agreed with their employer to return to usual duties, or
  • the employer revoked the direction.

Annual leave and close downs

Annual leave

Between 11 May and 30 June 2020 under Schedule I, employers could make an employee take annual leave as part of a close down (also known as a shut down) in certain circumstances. An employer could do this if:

  • they gave at least 1 week’s written notice to employees (or shorter if agreed)
  • the close down was because of the coronavirus outbreak or Government initiatives to slow its transmission.

Employers could make an employee use all their accrued annual leave in this circumstance (meaning they don’t have to keep a balance of at least 2 weeks). The leave had to be taken between 11 May 2020 and 30 June 2020.

Unpaid leave

If an employee didn’t have enough annual leave to cover the period of the close down, the employer could require them to take unpaid leave for the rest of the close down. The unpaid leave could only be taken between 11 May 2020 and 30 June 2020.

Any unpaid leave taken by an employee during a close down counted as service for the purposes of the Vehicle Award and the National Employment Standards.

Secondary employment, training or professional development while on unpaid leave

If an employee was directed to take unpaid leave as a result of a close down, they could request to take up:

  • reasonable secondary employment
  • training, or
  • professional development.

Employers needed to consider and couldn’t unreasonably refuse a request.

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More information

Any dispute about the operation of Schedule I can be referred to the Commission. Go to Interpret or enforce an award – Disputes about how an award applies external-icon.png on the Fair Work Commission website for more information.

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