The Fair Work Commission has finalised its 4-yearly review of the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Service Industry Award 2010 (SCHADS Award). If the SCHADS Award applies to your workers, it is vital that you start planning for the upcoming changes.

The amendments address uncertain work arrangements, on call and remote working benefits, 24 hour care and sleepover arrangements and reimbursement for certain expenses.

Amendments to the SCHADS Award come into effect on 1 July 2022.

Amendments to minimum terms and conditions

Workers who come under the SCHADS Award, particularly disability and home care workers, are often required to work irregular and broken shifts in order to meet the needs of clients. Employers face difficulties in managing their staff when clients cancel services at short notice. The amendments are designed to provide greater certainty for employees in the sector and enable employers to better manage their workforce.

Part time and casual employees

As part of the changes, the Fair Work Commission has introduced minimum engagement periods for casual and part-time social and community service employees of three hours for and two hours for home care and disability employees. These minimum engagement periods also apply to a period of work in a broken shift.

For existing part time employees, transitional provisions allow for consultation to occur between employers and part-time employees before the minimum engagement period requirements come into operation. This gives employers the opportunity to try to reach an agreement with part time employees to vary the employee’s existing hours of work to account for the new minimum engagement periods.

Part-time employees who have been working above their guaranteed minimum hours for at least 12 months will have the opportunity to request an amendment to their employment agreement to increase their minimum contracted hours. Employers will only be able to refuse on reasonable business grounds, a constraint which is consistent with the casual conversion provisions inserted into the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) last year.

Broken shifts

The Commission has introduced a broken shift allowance for employees rostered for a workday involving two or more periods of work which are separated by unpaid breaks. As indicated above, employees must also be paid for a minimum of two hours for each part of a broken shift. This is likely to require changes to rosters so that employees can see numerous clients within each part of a broken shift.

From 1 July 2022, employers will need to seek agreement from a social and community service employee before rostering employees undertaking disability services and home care employees to a shift with three periods of work (and two unpaid breaks) in one day.

Employers will still be able to unilaterally roster employees for a broken shift of two periods of work separated by one unpaid break.

Client cancellations

The Commission has made changes to the client cancellation clauses of the SCHADS Award, expanding the timeframe to a full 7 days which allows an employer to find substitute meaningful work for an employee after a client cancels the service. This work needs to be paid at the higher rate of the cancelled work or the substitute work. An employer can alternatively cancel the shift (or effected part of the shift) or provide “make-up time”. The make-up time scheme attempts to provide a balance whereby employers can elect to have employees make-up the time lost for client cancellations with other work, rather than paying them for the cancelled shift.

24-hour care and sleepover schemes

Resisting calls from the unions to scrap the 24-hour care scheme altogether, the Commission has introduced a significant change by providing in the SCHADS Award that a home care employee must agree before an employer can roster them on a 24-hour care shift. Employees who agree to a 24-hour care shift will be entitled to overtime where they provide care in excess of eight hours during the shift.

Minimum conditions for workers required to sleep at a client’s residence have also been expanded, and in addition to a separate room with a bed, employees are entitled to clean linen and access to food preparation facilities.

New remote work entitlements

A remote work scheme has also been introduced into the SCHADS Award. Employees who are on-call and must perform work away from their designated workplace will receive a minimum payment of 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the time of day the work is being performed.

Employees who are not on-call and are required to do remote work will be entitled to a minimum of one hours’ pay.

Reimbursement for soiled and damaged clothes

Finally, the Commission has inserted a new laundry allowance for employees whose clothes (other than uniforms) become soiled in the course of their work. The employer will be obligated, following the commencement of the amendments, to reimburse the employee the reasonable costs incurred where the employee’s clothes require repair or replacement.

Employees will only be entitled to these reimbursements where:

  • they have appropriately notified their employer as soon as reasonably practicable;
  • they were compliant with personal protective equipment requirements; and
  • the damage or soiling was not the result of their own negligence.