Student employee

Employers prepare for new student minimum working hours

Fair Work Australia will introduce amendments to minimum working hours for students on July 1, with the General Retail Industry Award to allow full-time school students to work a minimum 1.5 hours casual after-school work.

On June 20, Fair Work Australia handed down a decision amending the General Retail Industry Award, though the previous minimum engagement of three hours is still effective for all other circumstances under the Award.

According to El Legal Practice Manager Patricia Ryan, the decision follows a lengthy battle by employers to have the previous minimum start of three hours reduced. The case was heard over four days, with the application opposed by the SDA Union.

“In reaching its decision the Tribunal noted that 37 percent of secondary students are employed and that over half of those employed are employed in the retail sector. It also noted the high rate of youth unemployment, which has been greater than 15 percent for most of 2010-2011,” she said.

Ryan said the Tribunal acknowledged the new minimum start might not suit all employees – perhaps because of travel time and cost – but noted that it was likely to open up opportunities for many others.

The new draft clause for employees relevant to the award is:

  • The employee is a full time secondary school student;
  • The employee is engaged to work between the hours of 3.00pm and 6.30pm on a day which they are required to attend school;
  • The employee agrees to work, and a parent or guardian of the employee agrees to let the employee work, a shorter period than 3 hours; and
  • Employment for a longer period than the period of the engagement is not possible either because of the operational requirements of the employer or the unavailability of the employee.

Those employers covered under the General Retail Industry Award may employ casual full time students under the amended clause from 1 July 2011. The Tribunal issued a draft determination for the changes, however the clause will not be finalised until submissions on this wording are heard by Fair Work Australia.

Ryan suggests employers check the award after July 1, to ensure they’re aware of the precise terms of its final wording.

“It is also important to remember that the new minimum is subject to the restrictions outlined above. Failure to comply can result in penalties and underpayment claims. Employers under workplace agreements will need to continue to apply the provisions of the agreement,” she added.

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