Ripple effect: Full Bench rules Fitness Industry Award covers elite swimming coaches

July 26, 2021
FCB Workplace Law

Industry Focus

Sports & Fitness

Recently, the Full Bench of the Federal Court overruled a previous judgement of Justice Wheelahan and found that a former coach of elite swimmers at Melbourne’s Vicentre Swimming Club, Matthew King, was covered by the Fitness Industry Award 2010 (Fitness Industry Award).

This decision could have significant implications throughout the sports and fitness industry. Here we provide details of the decision and how this could impact your business.

The appeal

On appeal, King argued that the Award Classification definitions for a Level 4 employee applied to his role as he was working under limited supervision and guidance and was required to exercise initiative and judgment in the performance of his duties.

Moreover, King highlighted that the classification definitions are indicative of the minimum qualifications required for an employee to be classified at Level 4.

The decision

The Full Court agreed that King’s qualifications and experience well exceeded the minimum requirements for an employee to be classified at Level 4 under the Award.

However, the Full Court found that the classification descriptors are the minimum only and that as there is not a higher level in the Award that covers swimming coaches, (unless the coach’s primary duties also involved supervising, training and coordinating other employees) King should have been classified as a Level 4 employee under the Award.

The Full Court highlighted that there are no provisions in the Award that exclude swim coaches that have achieved more advanced qualifications from being covered by the Award.

For King, this ruling has meant that he will be able to pursue his underpayment claim against his former employer for entitlements under the Award. His essential claim is that the loaded rate of pay he received between 2012 and 2018 was insufficient to cover the Award derived payment obligations.

What does this mean for swimming coaches and their employers? 

Employers should be mindful that this decision has clarified that advanced and elite swimming coaches are covered by the Fitness Industry Award. This means that the employment conditions prescribed by the Award for entitlements such as overtime and penalty rates will generally apply to swimming coaches at all levels.

This is a timely reminder for employers that underpayment claims can be a significant problem for any business and may be made for up to six years from the date the underpayment occurred.

If you have any questions about this decision and how it may affect your workplace, feel free to contact the team at FCB Group.