Clifford Gouldson Lawyers

Trainees & Apprentices: Are you paying them enough?

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Do you pay your trainees or apprentices in accordance with a Queensland Award?
If so, the outcome of a recent case means you may have inadvertently been underpaying them and be at risk of an unpaid wages claim. 
The Case:
This week the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) upheld the decision of Commissioner Spencer in All Trades Queensland Pty Ltd v CFMEU and Others.

The Full Bench of the FWC considered that Commissioner Spencer’s decision will:

have broader implications for the pay rates and conditions of employment for trainees and apprentices in the State of Queensland generally.

At the heart of the case is whether or not the Notional Agreement Preserving State Awards (NAPSA), which relates to traineeships and apprenticeships, continue to operate post 1 January 2014. The NAPSA allowed for State Awards created prior to 27 March 2006, to continue to operate post the introduction of the Federal Government Modern Awards System in 2009.

The Full Bench of the FWC found that NAPSA does not continue to operate post 1 January 2014.
What this means for you:
If since 1 January 2014, employers have been paying their trainees or apprentices based on a Queensland Award, it is likely that they have been incorrectly paying their employees.

The Awards and Orders (relevant to the case before the Fair Work Commission) which the Full Bench of the FWC found were no longer in force were:

  • Building Products, Manufacture and Minor Maintenance Award - State 2003;
  • Building Construction Industry Award - State 2003;
  • Civil Construction, Operations and Maintenance General Award - State 2003;
  • Electrical Contracting Industry Award – State;
  • Engineering Award - State 2002;
  • Furniture and Allied Trades Award - State 2003;
  • Metal, Engineering and Associated Industries Award 1998 - Part 1;
  • National Training Wage Award 2000;
  • Plumbing Industry (QLD and WA) Award 1999;
  • The Vehicle Industry - Repair, Services and Retail Award 2002;
  • Order - Apprentices’ and Trainees’ Wages and Conditions (Excluding Certain Queensland Government Entities) 2003 (One Big Order); and
  • Order - Supply of Tools to Apprentices (Tools Order).

As a result of this decision, employers who were using Queensland Awards, may have inadvertently been underpaying their trainees or apprentices, which could expose them to a potential unpaid wages claim.  These wage claims may extend back as far as six years of unpaid wages.
What you should do about it:
In light of this decision, we suggest that all employers in Queensland who employ trainees or apprentices, ensure that they review the rates of pay currently paid to their apprentices and ensure all relevant terms of the applicable Award are being complied with.
If you believe this may apply to you please contact the CG Law Workplace Team to review the pay and conditions of your apprentices or trainees to assess whether or not you may be at risk.

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