A Modern Award is a document that sets out the minimum terms and conditions of employment in a particular industry, including minimum wages.
On 3 November 2021, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission handed down a decision to amend the Horticulture Award 2020 (the Award), which covers, amongst others, employees who undertake harvesting and fruit and vegetable picking work on farms in Australia.
It is well known that employees undertaking fruit and vegetable picking work are predominantly migrant workers, often on working holiday visas, and often undertake this work as a requirement to be granted an extension of that visa.
Prior to the decision, the Award provided for employers and employees to be able to enter into agreements based on a ‘piecework rate’. A piecework rate meant that the income of the employee was entirely based on their productivity in harvesting, meaning that they were only paid for what produce they picked. The decision acknowledged that a significant portion of pieceworkers earnt less per hour than the National Minimum Wage.
The amendment introduced a new provision providing a ‘floor’ for earnings for pieceworkers so that employees working under piecework agreements must be paid for each hour of work; and must be paid at least the minimum rate payable for their classification and type of employment under the Award.
This decision and amendment provides a safety net for employees undertaking work under a piecework agreement and is a significant positive step for employees undertaking harvesting work on farms across Australia.
Note: the current minimum rate under the Award for harvesting work is $25.41 per hour.
If you have questions as to whether your employer is complying with the terms of a Modern Award or have queries about your classification and rate of pay, please contact our office on 1300 851 430.