Thousands of engineers and scientists may be eligible for thousands of dollars of extra pay thanks to a precedent set when APESMA took a member’s pay case to court.
When Alan’s company hit financial trouble and was made redundant earlier this year he thought it might be a good idea to check with APESMA to see if he was getting his full entitlements paid out.
While the fact that Alan’s company was a small business meant that he wasn’t entitled to a redundancy payout, he did want to find out whether his employer should have at least paid his annual leave loading and asked APESMA’s Lauren Grabowski (pictured right) to find out.
“As always I was keen to get the best result for an APESMA member but I quickly realised that this case could have wide-ranging ramifications for professionals across the country,” Ms Grabowski said.
“After carefully looking at the Professional Employees Award I took the view that employees are entitled to annual leave loading during their employment unless their contract stated otherwise.
“The Professional Employees Award says that an employee must be paid a loading at a rate of up to 17.5 per cent of their base rate of pay unless their contract states that they are being financially compensated in lieu of leave loading.
“Alan’s case met all the tests and after trying to negotiate with the company for a successful outcome we decided to head to court.
“This part of the award is rather complex and no-one knew how to interpret it until we argued our case before the Federal Magistrate. Until now even other advisory bodies just didn’t know exactly what this clause meant.
“In practise many people – employees and employers alike – incorrectly assumed that annual leave loading was only available to shift workers and the like.”
Ms Grabowski said when the Federal Court decided in Alan’s favour she knew APESMA had helped to set a precedent that could help thousands of engineers and scientists employed under the Professional Employees Award, many of whom are not paid their regular annual leave loading.
She said this was particularly good news for graduates whose contracts may not explicitly state what their leave loading entitlements were.
The Australian Government reports that there are more than 5,000 engineering and science graduates every year, many of whom are not being paid their correct entitlements for the first few years of their professional careers.
“Right now an engineer or scientist earning the average weekly earnings could be getting $1,500 less per year than they are now entitled to,” Ms Grabowski said.
“We will be pursuing these payments on behalf of APESMA members from now on, which is yet another reason why it pays to be an APESMA member.
“As a young lawyer it is exciting to have pursued this case and helped create such a positive precedent.
“This is a great win to be a part of because it is a new interpretation of an award that could affect thousands of APESMA members into the future.
“The important thing for graduates to realise is that if they are not being paid their annual leave loading they should contact APESMA and find out if they should be paid thousands of dollars more than they get at the moment.”
Ms Grabowski says that while employers will probably now increasingly stipulate that annual leave loading does not apply in new employment contracts, they will need to carefully factor in this entitlement to make sure their contracts are better than the award, incorporating the correct payment of annual leave loading.
Need workplace advice or support? Talk to APESMA. 1 300 273 762