employers may be able to increase employee hours whilst on jobkeeper!
A recent Fair Work Commission decision has confirmed that employers could increase part-time and casual staff hours to meet the Jobkeeper allowance.
This ruling has yet again added more confusion to the rules about employer power under JobKeeper.
The case before the tribunal involved casual and part-time employees in a cash-transit business. The FWC Deputy president Peter Sams ruled it was reasonable for the employer to increase the hours of some of the staff to 25 hours per week.
This is in direct contradiction of what the rules of Jobkeeper say. Previously employers could only reduce the hours of employees on JobKeeper!
The case turns on what is ‘reasonable in the circumstances’. Ie. Is it meaningful work and is there a true operational need. A previous case had a union argue against the employer tripling the hours of casual workers for the Jobkeeper allowance.
HRM reports that “In the case of Prosegur, the business wanted all employees, regardless of employment type, to work 25 hours a week. For some casuals this was an increase in hours from before JobKeeper. Deputy president Sams decided this was reasonable, saying there was a business case for doing so and citing the fact that one of the company’s casual workers had longer hours than this pre-COVID while another had only slightly less. He also said the alternative would have caused a “rostering nightmare”.
It is still unlikely that employers could dramatically increase the hours of casuals, say from 8 hours to 25 hours, but this is now available to be testing under the operational and reasonable needs of the employer.
As always it comes down to culture. If you have a great culture, with highly committee, engaged and talented employees who are playing a long game, then most will be willing to increase their hours if they can.
Creating open, two-way conversations about the benefits for both the business and the employee is always the best way to operate
Employers should also consider the specific circumstances of the employee. As the Australian Financial Review reports, some employees have expressed genuine concern about catching COVID-19 – this is particularly persuasive if they are immunocompromised or live with someone who is. But there have also been reports of employees that argue they shouldn’t have to work longer hours than they did before the pandemic, since the money comes from the government and not their employer.
You do need to consider if an employee has abandoned their employment. This is where the employee has not been in contact with the employer and has not shown up for work. The employer needs to follow an abandonment of employment process in this case and Jobkeeper is then ineligible.