After many weeks of uncertainty, on Friday 19 July 2020 the Fair Work Commission finally handed down their decision on the Annual Wage Review for 2019-20. After much speculation, especially in light of the global pandemic and other significant hits to the economy, the Expert Panel decided to impose a 1.75% increase to both the National Minimum Wage and the modern award minimum wages, but agreed to stagger the operational date for the modern award minimum wage increases.
The Commission considered extensive submissions from both Federal and state governments, unions and employer bodies, as well as expert evidence and data. The ACTU proposed a 4% increase, while employer bodies (including the motor trade organisations) preferred no increase, or at least a delayed operational date with a small increase.
The majority of the Panel came to the view, taking into account the effect of the current crisis, but also recognising the need to cover increases in prices and living costs, that a smaller increase of 1.75% was the preferred outcome. In the first split decision from the Panel in many years, Professor Wooden in the minority recommended no increase.
Early in the call for submissions, and once the pandemic had clearly hit but the potential impact was not yet known, organisations called for the Commission to either delay their decision, or hinge any increase on an economic recovery. The Commission responded with a clear decision that under the legislation, they could not delay making a decision (a decision was required to be issued by 30 June each year), and they could not set the operational date by reference to some external event, but they could delay the operational date.
Ultimately, the Commission did in fact take this last action. While the National Minimum Wage and a small selection of Awards will have an operational date of 1 July 2020, two other groups of Awards will have operational dates of 1 November 2020 and 1 February 2021. In particular, the Vehicle Repair, Services and Retail Award 2020 increases will have an operational date of 1 February 2021, while most other Awards impacting on our members will have an operational date of 1 November 2020.
The WR team will be preparing and publish online updated Wage Schedules to assist members with the increases. These annual increases are an important opportunity to ensure you are paying the correct amount to your employees. If you are unsure or need assistance call the WR Team. Additionally, the WR team offer Payroll and/or HR audits, as well as offering training in Paying Your Staff Correctly, with the next session on 12 August 2020. Please contact the WR team on 8291 2000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you require assistance or wish to book for any of these services or training.