Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union

 

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Your rights at work

Your rights at work

Vaccinations

Does my employer have to give me time off to get vaccinated?

At many AMWU workplaces, union members have negotiated paid time off to receive a vaccination. You can check with your delegate, HSR or our union if this is available at your workplace. If this is not currently available at your workplace, it's time to ask.

Workers who are unable to negotiate paid time off for vaccinations will have to organise this in their own time. Most health directives generally do not require an employer to pay an employee or give them paid leave to go and get vaccinated.

If there is a workplace requirement/mandate to get vaccinated, your employer will need to assist you to access and recover from vaccination. This should include paid time to travel to attend a vaccination clinic/provider.

Can I take sick leave to get vaccinated?

No. Sick leave is only able to be used when you have an injury or illness that makes you unfit to work.

Can I take sick leave if I feel unwell after being vaccinated?

Yes, if you have a sick leave entitlement. 

Casual workers do not have a sick leave entitlements unless their employer has specifically agreed to this.

You should speak to your delegate if you do feel unwell after being vaccinated. Our union has been able to negotiate some specific COVID-19 entitlements that may not require you to use your sick leave. 

In a limited range of circumstances where the employer has mandated, facilitated or encouraged vaccinations, you may be entitled to workers compensation payments.

The federal government is also developing a scheme to reimburse people who are impacted by injury and loss of income due to an adverse reaction to an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

For more information on the scheme, click here.

Contact the AMWU if you need assistance in making a claim.

Does my employer have to consult me about introducing new vaccination policies?

Health and safety legislation requires employers to consult with workers who may be directly affected when making decisions about ways to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety.

Employers must consult with workers and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) at the workplace when considering health and safety matters and prior to any decision on vaccinations.

Workers and HSRs can get assistance from our union to do this. 

Can my employer make vaccinations in the workplace mandatory?

An employer can only mandate workers be vaccinated when public health orders have been made that require those workers to be vaccinated.

Outside of this, it is unlikely that requiring workers to be vaccinated will be reasonably practicable.

Employers must consult with workers and HSRs at the workplace prior to any decision on mandatory vaccinations.

If you are told that vaccination is compulsory in your workplace,you should ask for any instruction from management to be put in writing and request any relevant supporting policy to back up the instruction. Following this, contact the AMWU for advice.

Who is liable if I have an adverse reaction to a work-mandated vaccination?

If you suffer loss of wages or a loss of health (i.e. beyond routine short-term side effects) following a vaccination, contact the AMWU for advice on what options might be available.

 

What is the AMWU's position on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations?

The AMWU does not support mandated vaccination policies in workplaces where it is not supported by public health orders. Decisions regarding the mandating of vaccinations should be left to health experts and be based on risk to health rather than profit.

If you are told that vaccination is compulsory in your workplace, contact the AMWU for advice.

 

How can I get vaccinated?

The COVID-19 vaccine is free and available through a range of locations.

You can find more information and register for your vaccination in your state or territory:

ACT  –  NSW  –  NT  –  QLD  –  SA  –  TAS  –  VIC  –  WA

WHS Consultation

Employers are likely to make policy and operational changes that affect AMWU members’ interests in response to COVID-19.

Employers have obligations under WHS legislation and the Fair Work Act 2009 (the “FW Act”) to consult with employees about these types of changes.

What are my employer’s legal obligations around health and safety?

An employer has legal obligations to ensure the health and safety of their workers so far as is reasonably practicable by managing risks to health and safety.

The union and elected Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) have a role to play. As the spread of COVID-19 is a health and safety risk, employers are legally required to:

  • provide a work environment without risk to health & safety,
  • have a plan to manage risks and protect workers,
  • provide adequate facilities for the welfare of workers and ensure access to those facilities,
  • provide any information, training or instruction that is necessary to protect workers, and
  • consult with workers and any HSRs in developing a plan, and prior to making any decision, in relation to health and safety.
What is the role of workers and HSRs in this?

Where workers/HSRs have concerns regarding the employer’s systems for managing risks to health and safety, they are free to initiate the issue resolution provisions of their respective health and safety legislation, and are entitled to have union representation at such meetings.

What powers do HSRs have?

HSRs have additional functions and powers to require the employer to consult with them regarding any health and safety matter, request assistance from any person (including a union official), request a review of any health and safety control measures they consider inadequate, and should they be of a view that the employer is not meeting any of their duties, issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN) subject to prior consultation.

What does consultation in respect of “major change” and rosters/hours of work look like?

Employers covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 (the “FW Act”) also have obligations to consult with their employees when:

  • they propose to introduce “major change” that has a “significant effect” on members, and/or
  • where they propose to make changes to rosters or ordinary hours of work.

While consultation does not require that the employer and employee reach agreement, it must be a real opportunity for employees to make representations regarding their interests and have those considered by the employer when it makes or implements a decision.

What are the requirements?

The general requirements in respect of consultation are that the employer is required to:

  • notify employees about the change,
  • provide relevant information about the change to employees and their representatives,
  • discuss the effects of the changes on employees and measures taken to avert or mitigate adverse effects of the change,
  • give prompt consideration to matters raised by employees.

You should review the consultation term of the relevant industrial instrument (award, ea, or state or federal legislation) closely, as it may provide for different obligations in respect of, for example:

  • when consultation is required to commence (before or immediately after a decision is made),
  • whether the employer is required to consult directly with the union as an affected party, rather than an appointed representative,
  • the breadth and quality of the information provided by the employer, and
  • time limits and scheduling of consultation.
Where can I find more information?

AMWU delegates and HSRs are being directed to the ACTU COVID – 19 Resource Centre which will be regularly updated.

Remember, with the current level of misinformation, it is advised that you only consider information from trusted government sources, your union, or the ACTU Resource Centre.

Apprentices

Apprentices like yourself are the future of our industry. Your employment, training and safety remain a priority so we’ve put together some advice to ensure you know and can exercise your rights at work.

This advice should be read alongside other advice provided by the union about general pay and conditions matters, and health and safety, as well as advice available from governments, training providers, and your employer.

If you have any questions or need support, get in touch with Helpdesk.

Know what’s in your training contract

As an apprentice, your training contract is a contract between you and your employer for employment and training for the duration of your apprenticeship. Once you have completed your probationary period, the contract cannot be terminated without the approval of the relevant state/territory apprenticeship authority unless both you and your employer agree to terminate it.

Your training contract outlines your rights and obligations as well as those of your employer. These rights and obligations are in addition to those that apply to all workers. 

Your training contract should identify the duration of the contract, the trade, the qualification you will study, the hours of work, who will deliver and assess your progress, how and when the training will be delivered, and the award or enterprise agreement that will specify other conditions of employment such as wages, penalty rates, leave etc.

Beyond the rights conferred specifically under a training contract, the rights of apprentices are no different to the rights that apply to all employees.

Your employer must discuss changes with you before making them

Some employers may try to use COVID-19 as an excuse to terminate your apprenticeship, stand you down from your apprenticeship without pay, suspend your apprenticeship, reduce your hours of work, or rearrange your training schedule or even prevent you from attending your training.

These things cannot be done without discussion because your training contract confers special rights upon you as an apprentice.

Your apprenticeship may be extended or shortened

Your apprenticeship lasts for the period nominated in the contract, usually four years. Most apprenticeships allow for the period of an apprenticeship to be extended or shortened depending on your progress, or in certain circumstances like if you break a leg or need time off to care for a partner or a sick child.

It’s possible for apprentices to be assessed as competent tradespeople before the nominal period. However, in the current circumstances, we are concerned that some employers may be tempted to have you assessed as competent before you’re ready so they can say that you have successfully completed your apprenticeship, then terminate your employment without your agreement.

It may of course be the case that you are a competent tradesperson. If that’s the case, well done and welcome to your future!

What if you don’t feel ready to be assessed as competent?

If you don’t believe that you are competent yet, or a person who you respect like your AMWU delegate, a tradesperson you work with or your parent or guardian believes that this is not the case, then you are entitled to question that suggestion.

To be completed, you must sign the contract off as well as your training provider and your employer. Do not sign if you are in doubt.

You can seek advice from the state apprenticeship authority in your state or territory. Contact information should be listed in your training contract, otherwise look here.

 

What if there isn’t enough work?

If there is a shortage of work to practice your skills on, your employer may seek to “front load” classroom theory classes. This may have the advantage of being able to be delivered via technology like Zoom or WhatsApp. Remember, this sort of training must happen in paid time.

What if you are stood down?

If your employer is instructing you to stay at home, then your employer should pay you as if you are at work. You cannot be made to take personal leave if you are not unfit for work because of an illness or injury.

You cannot be compelled to take annual leave without agreement. You may be directed to take excessive accrued annual leave, but this is unlikely in the case of an apprentice. If you do have excessive leave, then there are certain rules that apply before you can be forced to take it. 

The Fair Work Act allows an employer to stand down employees if there is a ‘stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be held responsible’. A downturn in business does not automatically mean there are grounds for a stand down. If you are sent home, but your co-workers continue to work, that may not be a valid stand down, because there is still work to be done.

 If the employer cannot have work done because of government orders, that may become a ‘stoppage’ but it will depend on the type of work, the nature of the government orders, and what the circumstances are.

Can you be asked to perform different duties?

You cannot be asked to do work other than what you have been employed to do. The terms of your employment are determined by the relevant EBA, award and your training contract.

In most states and territories apprenticeships are regulated by legislation. This generally requires that any variation to the training contract, including a change in the duties performed as specified in the training contract, must be applied for by either the employer, the apprentice or both. The changes must be approved. If there is a change to the nature of an employer’s business and it affects their ability to provide appropriate work for the apprentice and their ongoing traineeship, they must inform the relevant apprenticeship authority. This is true also if the employer becomes aware of anything else that could jeopardise the training contract.

Can you be dismissed?

There may be circumstances where you may be subject to dismissal. Dismissal is a very serious matter. Generally, dismissal is difficult to successfully dispute in cases where an apprentice has engaged in serious and wilful conduct such as violent behaviour or theft.

You are entitled to dispute an attempt by your employers to dismiss you. You should seek urgent advice from the AMWU if you are dismissed or at risk of dismissal.

If you are dismissed, it is not usual for apprentices be paid redundancy benefits unless this is provided for by another agreement, but you must be paid all your existing entitlements including any outstanding wages including overtime, any accrued annual or long service leave, and other payments/reimbursements associated with your apprenticeship including fees, travel costs to attend block release, and necessary textbooks.

What support is the government offering?

The federal government has provided employer incentives to support apprentices and trainees.

The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy supports businesses and Group Training Organisations to take on new apprentices by providing a wage subsidy paid to a new or recommencing apprentice or trainee for a 12-month period.

More information is available here.

The normal Commonwealth apprenticeship incentive program, Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program (AAIP), is being replaced by a new subsidy program from 1 October 2021.

The new program is called the Incentives for Australian Apprenticeships (IAA). 

More information is available here. 

The Queensland Government also has its own incentives including a support payment of up to $20,000 for employers who recruit eligible unemployed jobseekers in regional Queensland. More information is available here.

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