The HSU has quashed an attempt to undermine a member’s rights in an important test case for the aged care sector.
In response to the most recent COVID outbreak, the Federal Government instituted the Single Site program to make sure that no worker would be worse off when asked to work at one site only. Prior to this, however, employer ‘bans’ had no legal footing. In response to an action brought by the HSU, the Fair Work Commission has ruled that Huntingdon Gardens Aged Care’s implementation of a ‘one employer’ policy in March 2020 – i.e., requiring that staff cease secondary employment at other employers if they wished to keep their jobs at Huntington – was unlawful and in contravention of their Enterprise Agreement. In addition, the FWC ordered that Huntingdon pay back all missed shifts and leave entitlements to Belinda Mar, a part-time music therapist at the facility. Belinda had been forced to exhaust all of her annual and long service leave when the policy was implemented. The Commission rubbished Huntington’s arguments that the COVID-19 pandemic had given them the authority to implement major changes without consulting their employees.
Belinda worked at three other locations and wasn’t aware that Huntingdon had no right to do what they were doing. “It was only when the local HSU Organiser contacted me to say she would be visiting, and I told her that I couldn’t come on site – that’s when she told me they were wrong. Without the Union I would never have known.” This important decision will stand as reminder to employers that, no matter the circumstances, they can’t ride roughshod over workers’ rights. “Despite a long battle for justice, the sense of relief when the decision arrived was palpable,” said Belinda. “It was great! The industrial support I received was very competent, they knew how to defend my rights, and I was so happy to be able to return to work with no problems and receive all of my entitlements. I want to tell other members – if in doubt, ask. “I strongly recommend joining the Union. I received excellent support and representation from the HSU.”