Everything you need to know about the SCHADS Award: Common Questions

Award Coverage

What is the SCHADS Award?

The Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services (“SCHADS”) Award is an industry award which covers employers throughout Australia in the:

  • Crisis assistance and supported housing sector
  • Social and community services sector
  • Home care sector
  • Family day care scheme sector

 

Who does the award cover?

The award covers employers operating in the above sectors and their employees as outlined within the relevant classifications. This can include employees such as support workers, support coordinators, personal care workers and case managers.

The reference to “family day care scheme” is not for employees actually caring for children, but rather for those involved in duties such as:

  • Registering family day care centres
  • Providing administrative support for centres
  • Assisting centres to access child care subsidies for families.

The SCHADS Award also contains coverage for employees working in admin or clerical roles but only in the social and community services sector or the family day care scheme sector. Clerical employees working in the home care sector or crisis assistance and supporting housing sector are generally covered by the Clerks Award.

The award also does not cover nurses performing nursing duties (i.e. registered or enrolled nurses) or health professionals (i.e. physiotherapists, psychologists, counselors etc.). These people would generally be covered by the Nurses Award or the Health Professionals and Support Services Award, as applicable.

 

What is the difference between the Home Care Sector and the Social and Community Services Sector?

The Award provides for definitions for each of the sections which elaborates on what work these are intended to cover.

The Home Care Sector is defined as “the provision of personal care, domestic assistance or home maintenance to an aged person or a person with a disability in a private residence”.

The Social and Community Services sector is defined as “the provision of social and community services including social work, recreation work, welfare work, youth work or community development work, including organisations which primarily engage in policy, advocacy or representation on behalf of organisations carrying out such work and the provision of disability services including the provision of personal care and domestic and lifestyle support to a person with a disability in a community and/or residential setting including respite centre and day services.”

Whilst there are some similarities, Home Care is specifically work that is primarily conducted in a private residence. Social and Community Services work, by comparison, is primarily work conducted within the community or within a residential setting (i.e. a respite centre). 

It is possible for some Home Care work to take place outside of the home (the Level 2 Home Care classification specifically mentions “accompanying clients on outings”, for example). Equally, some Social and Community Services may take place in a client’s private home, so long as the nature of the service being provided is a social or community service. 

What changes were made in 2023?

The only notable change made in 2023 impacted eligible employees under the Aged Care Award, Nurses Award, and SCHADS Award. On 30 June 2023, these eligible employees were entitled to a 15% minimum wage increase. This was the only significant change to the SCHADS Award in 2023, which impacted the minimum wage increase for direct care workers. The increase applied to the following types of employees:

  • Nurses Award: Nursing assistants, enrolled nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners working in aged care.
  • SCHADS Award: Home care workers working in aged care.
  • Aged Care Award: Personal care workers and recreation/lifestyle activities officers.
    This 15% increase to minimum wages for the above mentioned employees is separate from the Annual Wage Review decision.

Engaging employees

Do part-time employees need set hours of work?

Under the SCHADS Award when engaging a part-time employee, you will need to agree in writing to:

  • A regular pattern of work including the number of ordinary hours to be worked each week (the guaranteed hours), and
  • The days of the week the employee will work and the starting and finishing times each day.

These hours can only be varied in writing by mutual agreement between both the employer and employee. Further, the business can not require the employee to work additional hours in excess of their guaranteed hours, unless the employee agrees.

If they do agree to do so, they are only paid their ordinary hourly rate (not overtime rates), unless they work in excess of the daily or weekly overtime limits set by the award.

 

What if I regularly agree with my part-time employee to work additional hours?

The award does allow for both parties to agree to work additional hours, however, where a part-time employee has regularly worked more than their guaranteed hours for at least 12 months, the employee can then request in writing that the employer vary their agreement and increase their guaranteed hours of work. The award has strict requirements around responding to such a request including that an employer must respond within 21 days from receiving a request and any response should be in writing. Any refusal of a request can only be done so on reasonable business grounds.

 

What are the minimum engagement periods for employees?

Part-time and casual employees need to be paid for the following minimum number of hours for each shift or each period of work in a broken shift:

  • Social and community services employees (except when undertaking disability services work): 3 hours
  • All other employees: 2 hours.

 

 

Breaks

Employees who work for certain amounts of time are entitled to certain breaks, including rest breaks, meal breaks, and breaks between shifts.

What is a rest or tea break?

Rest breaks are short periods of time during work hours that allow an employee to rest. Under the SCHADS Award, these are also referred to as ‘tea breaks’.

Rest breaks run for 10 minutes and are counted as time worked. As such, rest breaks are paid breaks.

Under the Award, employees are entitled to a rest break in each 4 hours worked, at a time agreed upon between the employer and the employee.

 

What is a meal break?

A meal break is a longer, uninterrupted rest period that allows the employee to eat a meal.

Meal breaks must be for at least 30 to a maximum of 60 minutes in duration. Generally, meal breaks are unpaid and do not count as time worked. However, a meal break will be paid and count as time worked if the employee has to have their meal with a client as part of the normal work routine or program.

An employee must receive a meal break when they work in excess of 5 hours. Where an employee is required to work during a meal break and continuously thereafter, they will be paid overtime for all time worked until the meal break is taken.

 

Breaks between shifts/rostered work

Employees must have a minimum break of 10 hours between shifts.

The only exception to this is if an agreement is made between the employer and employee for the break between the following shifts to be reduced to between 8 and 10 hours:

  • The end of one shift and the start of a shift that includes a sleepover, or
  • A shift that starts after the end of a shift that included a sleepover

 

 

Sleepovers

What is a sleepover?

As defined under clause 25.7 of the SCHADS Award, a sleepover is where an employee is required by their employer to sleep overnight at the premises where their client is located, except in the case of a 24-hour care shift or an excursion.

The span of a sleepover is a continuous 8-hour period.

Sleepovers do not count as ordinary hours of work – only the hours worked before and/or after the sleepover count as ordinary hours. As such, the actual sleepover period is not paid; however, the employee will be entitled to a sleepover allowance of 4.9% of the standard rate for each night they sleep over. This allowance will be paid in addition to the prescribed payment for the hours worked either side of the sleepover period.

Should an employee be required to work during this sleepover period, the employee must be paid for the time worked at the relevant overtime rate for a minimum of 1 hour worked. If the employee completes more than 1 hour of work during the sleepover period, the employee must be paid at the relevant overtime rate for the duration of the work. 

 

Can the employee work a shift before the sleepover?

An employee can be rostered to perform work before, and/or after the sleepover period. However, the employee must be rostered or paid for a minimum of 4 hours’ work either before or after a sleepover. The 4 hours cannot be split across the sleepover i.e. 2 hours before and 2 hours after.

For example, if the employee is due to sleepover from 10pm-6am, the employer may roster or pay the employee for a minimum of 4 hours on one side (before or after) of the sleepover period.

  • Correct: Ordinary hours from 6pm-10pm (4 hours), sleepover period from 10pm-6am (8 hours), ordinary hours from 6am-8am (2 hours) – where the 4 ordinary hours are rostered continuously before the sleepover.
  • Correct: sleepover period from 10pm-6am (8 hours), ordinary hours from 6am-10am (4 hours) – where the 4 ordinary hours are rostered continuously after the sleepover.
  • Incorrect: ordinary hours from 8pm-10pm (2 hours), sleepover period from 10pm-6am (8 hours), ordinary hours from 6am-8am (2 hours) – where 4 ordinary hours have been divided before and after the shift.

 

Does a sleepover count as a break between shifts?

No, sleepovers cannot count as a break between rostered periods of work, and does not break the shift.

Unlike a break between shifts, a sleepover is considered part of the continuous block of hours of a shift, similar to a meal break.

 

 

Broken Shifts

What is a broken shift?

A broken shift is defined as a shift where there are two separate periods of work in a day broken by one unpaid period, other than an unpaid meal break. 

Where an employee is rostered to work a broken shift, they will be entitled to be paid the broken shift allowance in clause 20.12 (a) or (b) depending on the amount of unpaid breaks in the shift. 

However, broken shifts only apply to social and community services employees when undertaking disability services work and home care employees. Employees working in other sectors within the award cannot be rostered for a broken shift.

 

Can you have a broken shift with more than two periods of work?

The award does allow for a broken shift to have up to 3 periods of work (2 unpaid periods between work). This can only be rostered by agreement with the employee. This is the maximum number of periods of work a broken shift can contain.

 

Is there a limit to the span of hours that a broken shift can be rostered?

The span of a broken shift is up to 12 hours. The Award provides that any work in excess of the 12 hour span must be paid at double time. However, an employer should not intentionally roster a broken shift to exceed 12 hours.

 

Is there a minimum length of time an employee must work for each part of the broken shift?

Minimum engagement periods apply to each part of a broken shift, of:

  • 3 hours for social and community services employees (except when undertaking disability services work);
  • 2 hours for all other employees

This means, employees must be rostered or paid for at least these hours in any shift or part of a broken shift. As well as this, the usual rules around meal breaks arise during a broken shift.

As an example, using an employee who is entitled to a minimum payment of 2 hours per engagement, the following arrangement could arise in relation to meal breaks:

  • 1st part of the broken shift – 2 hours
  • 2nd part of the broken shift – 2 hours
  • 3rd part of the broken shift – 1.5 hours and 30 minute unpaid break (2 hours total)*

* At the five hour mark (1 hour into the 3rd part of the broken shift), the employee is entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes. Under the new rules, the unpaid meal break counts towards the minimum engagement, meaning this obligation has also been met in this example.

 

Can you roster a broken shift including a sleepover?

This is a roster pattern that commonly arises and causes some confusion. However, a broken shift has a limited span of 12 hours. As such, considering that a sleepover must be for an 8 hour continuous period, it is unlikely that a broken shift can be rostered to include a sleepover without breaching the award rules. We generally consider these clauses are intended to operate separately.

Further guidance

You may also find some of our other resources on the SCHADS Award helpful:

 

Need further help?

If you require any further assistance in understanding your obligations under the SCHADS Award, please contact us.

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