Two Tasmanian Cadbury workers have won a Federal Court case brought by the chocolate maker’s parent company Mondelez over their sick leave entitlements, in a determination that is expected to have ramifications across Australia.
National employment standards require that workers receive 10 days of paid personal leave annually.
The Federal Court case was brought on by Natasha Tewson and Brendan McCormack’s employer, Mondalez.
The pair and their union argued that because they work 12-hour shifts, their 10 days of personal leave should be paid at 12 hours a day, but the company said it was entitled to pay only 7.6 hours.
The Federal Court ruled in favour of the workers in a split decision on Wednesday.
AMWU Tasmanian secretary John Short said the decision would have wider implications for shift workers across Australia, including those in healthcare, mining and construction.
“It’s a great decision by the Federal Court. It’s great for the Cadbury workers who work extended hours, but obviously it’s got ramifications broader than that around Australia,” Mr Short said.
The sick leave hours of the two workers were used as an example as part of the legal case.
Mr McCormack said there was cheering on the factory floor when the decision was announced.
He hoped it would flow on to other industries.
“Normally these sort of things don’t come our way but, yes, I think a bit of common sense came through,” the chocolate maker said.
“Hopefully it follows on through everywhere else. Good old little Tassie, the mouse that roared — we’ve done well.”
‘A clear message to employers’
Unions Tasmania’s Jessica Munday said the decision was a win for workers.
“It’s a good decision that confirms that workers who work long shifts longer than standard days will make sure they get enough sick leave that reflects the hours that they work,” she said.
“This should send a clear message to employers that actually shift workers get the entitlements as they stack up against their working day.”
Ms Munday said she would caution the Federal Government against making any legislative changes in response to the decision.
The Australian Industry Group, whose lawyers represented Mondelez, said the court’s decision was inconsistent with widespread industry practice, and would have “substantial cost implications” for a large number of employers if the decision stands.
Mondelez said in a statement it was concerned about the impact the decision would have on Australian employers.
“Manufacturing is highly competitive and it is imperative manufacturing employers in Australia maintain and continuously improve their operations here to help secure the future of manufacturing,” it said.
“An EA [enterprise agreement] with fair working conditions is key to helping achieve that.”
The company stated it would consider the decision before deciding what to do next.
The Federal Government had intervened in the case, and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the Government would review the reasons behind the court’s decision.
“While a review of the judgement and its broader implications is undertaken, employers should review their own payroll systems in light of the decision,” Mr Porter said.
“If employers or employees have questions about the implications of this decision for them, they may wish to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman, the agency responsible for providing education, assistance and advice about the national workplace relations system.”