Many APS conditions of employment have a long history, and reflect changing social expectations. An interesting example is the overtime meal allowance. In the early twentieth century, the principle established for paying an overtime meal allowance or ‘tea money’ was to compensate an employee who had to work overtime without notice and therefore had to buy a meal.
An arbitration decision in 1924 concerning postal workers provides an interesting insight into life at this time. It provides a scenario where an employee working a 9.00am to 6.00pm shift leaves home in the morning and takes his lunch, expecting to come home for dinner. When he arrives at work, he is directed to work overtime to 9.00pm.
The impact is that: ‘He has no telephone by which to advise his wife of the change, so dinner is put off and off in the hope that he will be home any minute; the meal is more or less spoiled, and tempers of wife and children are more than a little frayed.’ Furthermore, the employee also has to buy an additional meal unexpectedly.
Today conditions, like overtime meal allowance, are paid through enterprise agreements, common law contracts or determinations. Changes to conditions such as meal allowance can be negotiated in enterprise bargaining, subject to the Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018.