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Can My Boss Make Me Perform Other Duties While I’m On JobKeeper?

Can my boss make me perform other duties while I’m on JobKeeper?

Can my boss make me perform other duties while I’m on Jobkeeper?

The short answer is – yes, within reason.

The case of the pastry chef

A pastry chef receiving JobKeeper was forced to resign after refusing a different role with her employer.

The worker filed a stand down dispute in the Fair Work Commission last week, arguing she was entitled to a redundancy payout.

However, under recent changes to the Fair Work Act, employers can now direct staff to carry out other duties in certain circumstances.

Pastry chef quits after refusing to perform other duties

* Tanya worked for a major hotel chain in New South Wales as a pastry chef.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, the hotel initially stood her down.

After taking carer’s leave and some annual leave, hotel management began receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy for Tanya.

As a result, they directed her to return to work as a cook, rather than as a specialist pastry chef. 

She refused and demanded a redundancy payout.

When the employer denied her request, she took her case to the Fair Work Commission.

What can an employer ask you to do on JobKeeper?

Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says changes were made to the Fair Work Act earlier this year as a result of the pandemic.

“Under the changes, employers can direct staff to do different duties than what they normally do, if it’s reasonable, and if it’s within certain limits,” he said.

Mr Heffernan says your employer can direct you to perform a different role, as long as:

  • it is within your skill-set and competency;
  • you hold the required licence or qualification;
  • and the duties are safe – including from the threat of COVID-19.

The Fair Work Ombudsman gives the example of a warehouse supervisor who is directed to temporarily drive a forklift in the warehouse.

In this instance, it’s reasonable because the worker has experience driving forklifts, as well as the relevant licence, and can also adhere to social distancing measures.

Additionally, Mr Heffernan says if your employer directs you to carry out other duties, they must be within the scope of the business.

“In other words, your boss can’t make you paint their house, or do their shopping, or pick up their kids from school,” he said.

Chef chooses to resign

As for the case of Tanya the pastry chef, her employer made it clear during conciliation in the Commission that it had no intention of making her role redundant. 

Therefore, she could choose to work as a regular cook, or resign – and she chose to resign. 

Mr Heffernan says the Fair Work Commission has little tolerance for those who refuse to be flexible during the pandemic. 

“The lesson here is that the harder line you take, the more likely the industrial umpire will rule against you,” he said.

“A number of recent decisions show the Commission will not entertain dogmatic attitudes from inflexible workers during this current crisis.”

* name changed


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