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Understanding uniform and laundry allowances

September 04, 2018

Understanding when to pay uniform and laundry allowances prescribed by modern awards is an issue that is commonly misunderstood by employers. The misunderstanding often arises because employees can claim such allowances on their tax return. However, employers may be in breach of a Modern Award if applicable uniform and laundry allowances aren’t paid.

NRA’s Fair Work Boot Camp Webinar series starts tomorrow, 5 September 2018. The series of six interactive webinars assist members to monitor compliance with the Fair Work regime and will provide practical tips for employers to navigate workplace laws. More details are available here.

Which retail industry modern awards feature uniform or laundry allowances?

Uniform and laundry allowances feature in many Modern Awards including the following;

  • General Retail Industry Award 2010 (GRIA);
  • Fast Food Industry Award 2010 (FFIA);
  • Restaurant Industry Award 2010 (RIA);
  • Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010 (HBIA); and
  • Meat Industry Award 2010 (MIA).

Employers should find the applicable clause, titled “Allowances” in the Modern Award which applies to their employees. The modern award list can be found on the Fair Work Commission website here.

If you do not understand which Modern Award covers your workforce, please call NRA Legal to find out.

Uniform and laundry allowances – The specifics

Clothing allowances

Under the allowances clause in GRIA, FFIA and HBIA, there is a “special clothing” allowance which provides;

“Where the employer requires an employee to wear any protective or special clothing such as a uniform, dress or other clothing, the employer will reimburse the employee for any cost of purchasing such clothing and the cost of replacement items when replacement is due to normal wear and tear. This provision will not apply where the special clothing is supplied and/or paid for by the employer.”

The RIA has a similar clause entitled “clothing, equipment and tools allowance.”

Laundry allowance

The MIA has no clause in relation to a clothing allowance but does provide an allowance for laundering of working clothes at clause 26.6 “Clothing (meat processing establishments only)” which states;

“(a) An employee will be paid an allowance of $3.60 per week, or $0.72 per day, to compensate employees required to launder their own outer working clothes.

(b) Clause 26.6(a) does not apply where the employer launders the employee’s outer working clothes free of charge.”

The GRIA and FFIA provide that where an employee is required to launder any special uniform, dress or other clothing, then a full time employee will be paid $6.25 per week and a part-time or casual employee will be paid $1.25 per shift.

Under the RIA, where an employee is responsible for laundering the special clothing, the employer must reimburse the employee for the demonstrated costs of laundering it. Further, the employer and employee may agree on an arrangement whereby the employee will wash and iron the special clothing for an agreed sum of money to reflect the cost of laundering the items. This agreed sum is to be paid to the employee each week.

What this means for you

You will be in breach of the Award if you are not paying your employees an allowance they entitled to and all affected employees will be entitled to back pay for the unpaid allowances. Employees can make a wage claim up to 6 years later if they have not been paid the correct amount. If you need advice about whether your employees are entitled to a laundry or uniform allowance, please call us.  

The NRA workplace relations team are also well equipped and experienced to conduct audits for its members to ensure they are complying with workplace laws. Please contact a member of the team today if you wish to discuss.

To find out more information and speak to one of our workplace advisors, call the NRA today on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).

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