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Sweet victory for Mondelez after contentious legal stoush over sick leave

Workers at Mondelez International’s Hobart factory now have clarity over sick leave entitlements after High Court ruling.
Workers at Mondelez International’s Hobart factory now have clarity over sick leave entitlements after High Court ruling.

Confectionery multinational Mondelez International has won a High Court appeal after a long legal battle with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union over workers’ eligibility for sick leave.  

The dispute related to whether employees who worked 12-hour shifts were entitled to more leave than those whose hours were more spread out.

In a 4-1 decision, the court agreed that when an employee is entitled to 10 days of paid personal leave a year, it is considered a “notional day” the AAP reported.

Mondelez, which owns Cadbury, said the decision confirmed the “long-standing and widespread industry practice of calculating personal/carer’s leave entitlements for non-standard shift workers and part-time employees should remain unchanged”.

“It means that all employees, irrespective of their shift roster or number of ordinary working hours, will receive the effect of two weeks personal/carer’s leave.”

Business and employer groups breathed a sigh of relief at the decision which – had it gone the other way – would have impacted shift workers in other industries, including healthcare, mining, building and construction and transport and distribution.

The Australian Industry Group said the decision preserves widespread industry practice.

“The court’s judgment ensures equity among full-time and part-time employees, and amongst 8-hour and 12-hour shift workers,” AI Group boss Innes Willox said.

An earlier Federal Court ruling – overturned by the High Court – found that employees who worked three 12-hour shifts at the Hobart Cadbury factory each week accrued 120 hours of leave each year. But a worker who did the same 36-hour week across five shifts would only accrue 72 hours a year.

Federal Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter backed the Mondelez appeal, saying the initial ruling sparked confusion and uncertainty about calculating sick and carers’ leave.

He blamed Labor’s rewording of the Fair Work Act in 2009, when the annual entitlement was changed from 76 hours to 10 days.

Mondelez said it welcomed the decision and was pleased the matter is now resolved. 

“The decision will ensure continued equality between employees in the same workplace, who complete the same ordinary hours in their working week, however, on different rosters; and provide certainty for all Australian employers with non-standard shift arrangements and those that employ part-time employees.”

  • Additional reporting by AAP.

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