In Seo v Bindaree Food Group Pty Ltd  FWC 6468 the issue of whether preparing for work can be categorised as work arose.
Mr Seo’s complaint was that having to remove personal protective equipment and clean himself before he entered the break room meant that he was required to “work” during his 30 minute unpaid meal break.
Mr Seo worked in a processing factory, where meat was packaged for the wholesale and retail market.
In July 2020. to overcome difficulties with employees having to use their unpaid breaks to don or remove PPE, Bindaree extended the meal break to 40 minutes and paid employees for 10 minutes of that break, specifying it as an over award condition.
Whilst Deputy President Asbury acknowledged that there might be cases where the donning or removal of PPE might constitute work, it was not the case here.
What influenced him was the type of work Mr Seo did and the relative ease with which his PPE could be donned or removed.
Further, Deputy President Asbury was not prepared to award back pay for the period before Bindaree introduced the 40 minute break because he was not satisfied that the task of donning or removing PPE was itself “work”.
This decision assumes importance in the wake of workplaces making themselves COVID-19 safe.
Our experienced workplace relations team is able to assist both employers and employees in advice on what constitutes “work”.