Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award flexibility during coronavirus

Published 24 April 2020

On 24 April 2020, the Fair Work Commission (the Commission) made a determination external-icon.png varying the Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award. The determination inserted a temporary new Schedule J, which applies from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 24 April 2020 until 1 August 2020.

Schedule J adds award flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak for:

If an application is made, the Commission may extend when Schedule J operates until, if necessary. We'll update our information if that happens.

The following changes apply under Schedule J, for employers and employees covered by the Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award. Use Find my award if you’re not sure which award applies to you.

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Unpaid pandemic leave

On 8 April 2020, the Commission issued a determination external-icon.png inserting unpaid pandemic leave and the ability to agree to take annual leave at half pay into the Education Services (School) General Staff Award. See Unpaid pandemic leave in awards.

Reducing hours of work for full-time and part-time employees

JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act – Hours of work for full-time and part-time employees

Under the recent JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act, qualifying employers can temporarily direct eligible employees to work fewer hours or days (including no hours) in certain circumstances.

These employers don’t need to rely on Schedule J of the Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award to make these changes.

See JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

Under Schedule J, an employer can issue a notice in writing of their intention to direct that a full-time or part-time employee’s ordinary hours be reduced by up to 25%.

Immediately after issuing the employee with a notice of intention to reduce their hours, the employer must:

  1. discuss the reason behind the direction with the employee or the employee’s representative.
  2. notify the Independent Education Union (IEU) of its intention to implement changes to an employee’s ordinary hours.

The direction comes into effect 5 days after the notice of intention is issued and can’t apply for longer than 12 weeks.

If the discussions result in a different reduction in hours, the employer doesn’t need to give another 5 day notice period to the employee.

When the direction by the employer expires, a further notice of intention to reduce hours can be issued if it is necessary because the employer has suffered a significant reduction in income and/or operation.

Employees can’t have their ordinary hours reduced by more than 25%, even if other provisions in the award allow it.

A full-time employee directed to work part-time still holds their full-time position.

Employees continue to accrue their annual leave, sick or carer’s leave, and other award entitlements that accrue, based on their ordinary hours before the reduction. Payment for any annual leave and sick or carer’s leave taken is also based on the employee’s ordinary hours before they were reduced.

When an employee usually receives payment during periods of leave without pay during non-term time (in accordance with an arrangement under Clause 11 of the award – Leave without pay during non-term weeks), this payment will be at the reduced rate of pay. Any annual leave taken during non-term weeks will be paid on the basis of the employee’s ordinary hours of work before the reduction.

If an employer needs to reduce an employee’s hours by more than 25% or make a role redundant, they need to comply with the consultation and redundancy obligations in the award.

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Change in classification or duties

JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act - Direction to change usual duties or location of work

Under the recent JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act, qualifying employers can temporarily change an eligible employee’s usual duties or work location in certain circumstances.

These employers don’t need to rely on Schedule J of the Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award to make these changes.

See JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

While Schedule J applies, an employer can tell an employee to do any tasks that the employee has the skill and competency for. This applies even if those tasks aren’t in the employee’s usual classification or normal work.

The task must be safe and the employee must have all the appropriate licenses and qualifications to perform the tasks. The employee’s pay can’t be reduced as a result. If the employee is told to perform tasks at a higher classification level, they must be paid the higher rate.

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Employees covered by an agreement

These changes to the Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award don’t apply to employees covered by an enterprise agreement.

For those covered by an agreement, the Fair Work Commission has said that some parties to enterprise agreements are considering varying their agreements because of coronavirus. This is to give extra flexibility to help address the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

There have also been some changes to access periods for variations for enterprise agreements. Where an employer asks employees covered by an enterprise agreement to vote on varying it, the employer now only needs to give employees access to a copy of the variation for 1 day (instead of 7 days) before employees vote. Learn more on the Fair Work Commission - COVID-19 and enterprise agreements page external-icon.png

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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More information

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