Get ready to manage the Hort Award changes

Make sure you are ready for the changes that have occurred to the Horticulture Award, which mean casual workers are entitled to overtime payments in certain conditions.

Hort award changes – are you ready?

The most significant changes to the Horticulture Award since 2010 now mean that all casual workers are entitled to overtime payments in certain conditions. These changes are quite complex and will potentially cost some businesses large amounts of money. Are you ready?

Overtime for casuals now a reality

A recent decision by the Fair Work Commission means you now need to pay casual workers penalty rates under certain conditions.

On the 2nd April 2019 the Commission handed down a decision that changes to the Horticulture Award would be implemented from the first full pay period on or after the 15th April. While changes to the Horticulture Award had been flagged for some time by the Commission, the short time period to implement the new provisions surprised large sectors of the horticulture industry.

“The award changes are significant,” said Mr Robert Hayes, State Manager with the National Harvest Labour Information Service, MADEC. “The decision has changed the Horticulture Award for casual employees to include ordinary hours of work, a night loading and overtime entitlements. It also clarifies the penalty rate for working on public holidays for casuals.”

Key changes that growers need to understand and comply with include:

  • Casual employees are now entitled overtime pay. This means that casual workers are now required to get paid 175% of the casual hourly rate (including the 25% casual loading which previously applied) when they work more than 12 hours in a single day or engagement, or more than 304 hours in an eight-week period.
  • A night loading now applies. Casual employees are also entitled to a 15% night loading if they work between 8.31pm and 4.59am. This is paid in addition to their 25% casual loading. Both loadings are calculated on their minimum hourly wage.
  • Overtime provisions do not apply to piece rate workers. Where workers are paid on a piece rate basis (i.e. where pay is related to how much you pick or pack), no overtime or night loading applies.
  • Public holiday penalty rates clarified. Although there have been no changes to public holiday penalty rates, the Commission’s decision reaffirmed that casual employees who work on a public holiday are paid 225% of their minimum hourly wage (this includes their 25% casual loading). Employees get this rate whether they’re working overtime hours or normal hours.

Mr Hayes urged growers to make themselves familiar with the award changes.

“The introduction of overtime and night loading will have a profound impact on many businesses and may result in significant changes to the way businesses operate,” he said.

“There is a lot of detail contained in the new award and, if growers are unsure what their obligations are, they should contact the Fair Work Commission or their industry association for assistance.”

Growers wanting casual workers can contact the National Harvest Labour Information Service Call Centre on 1800 062 332, a no cost service available to growers anywhere in Australia. Growers can also register vacancies on the Harvest Trail website.