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JobWatch was featured on Human Resources Director Australia on 13 May 2022, commenting on pandemic pay cuts and changes to contracts.
May 13, 2022
“An employer can’t unilaterally change the terms of an employment contract, written or verbal, without express approval from the employee and this includes rates of pay as well as other contractual conditions such as days/hours of work, location, and more,” says Zana Bytheway, Executive Director at JobWatch, an independent, not-for-profit organisation that supports over 16,000 workers across the country every year with their rights at work, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. “If they impose unilateral changes to contract terms, this could amount to a breach of contract leading to an unfair dismissal claim.”
She adds: “Employers should keep this in mind, and before they seek to lower rates of pay for employees they should consider what other terms of the contract they might be able to alter to make a lower rate of pay more attractive for an employee. For instance, would an employee like to work from home more frequently, undertake business travel less frequently, or work a shortened week and be willing to accept a lower rate of pay accordingly? Of course, any offers of lower pay must still consider minimum rates of pay through any awards, enterprise agreements, or the minimum wage.”
Zana points out that employees should always remember their legal right to maintain their contract terms and where this is threatened, consider seeking external legal support and advice from their union, or employment rights organisations like JobWatch. Most importantly, if this happens to them against their will, they should be aware that there is a 21 day limit to filing unfair dismissal claims with the Fair Work Commission. “Given the current employment climate however, we’d certainly encourage employees to consider if they might receive better rates of pay for the same work elsewhere,” she adds.