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Retail employers and their part-time employees will be able to agree to extra hours by text message or email, under changes to the industry award.

A full bench confirmed on 28 June 2021 its provisional view, expressed in a May statement, that it should vary the retail award to enable greater flexibility, but added some further refinements to the proposed changes.

President Iain Ross, Deputy President Ingrid Asbury and Commissioner Peter Hampton largely adopted the joint proposal put forward by the Master Grocers, SDA and AWU and said it would not take any further steps on a competing application from Australian Business Industrial and the NSW Business Chamber.

The variation, which takes effect on Thursday (see determination below), enables employers and employees to make temporary or continuing changes to the employee’s regular pattern of work.

They must do so in writing – which includes “an exchange of emails, test messages or other electronic means” – before the end of a particular shift or before the variation takes effect.

Employers will be able to change an employee’s regular pattern of hours with seven days written notice (or 48 hours in an emergency), but it “must not be changed from week to week or fortnight to fortnight to avoid any award entitlements”.

The revised award also provides for a review of employees’ guaranteed hours, if they are less than the ordinary hours they have worked in the previous 12 months.

Such a review is triggered by an employee’s request, which the employer can refuse on reasonable business grounds, with an example citing reasons such as the extra hours being temporary.

Employers inclined to reject a request must discuss it with the employee and genuinely try to reach agreement.

Award flexibility–General Retail Industry Award 2020 [2021] FWCFB 3571 (28 June 2021)

Determination, PR731097 (28 June 2021)

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