Clothing and Laundry Allowance - Retail and Quick Service Sectors

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In conjunction with many other allowances that employees may be entitled to, ‘special clothing’ and laundry allowances can be confusing and often overlooked by businesses. In many instances, employers fall into the trap of believing that employees can simply claim such expenses on their tax return. However, this common misconception has left many employers in breach of the applicable Modern Award/s.

Which retail industry specific awards contain ‘special clothing’ and/or laundry allowances?

The following Modern Awards, specifically pertaining to the retail and quick service sectors, contain a variation of a clothing and/or uniform allowance:

  • General Retail Industry Award 2020 (GRIA);
  • Fast Food Industry Award 2020 (FFIA);
  • Restaurant Industry Award 2020 (RIA); and
  • Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2020 (HBIA).

(collectively, Modern Awards)

What is a ‘special clothing’ allowance?

Requiring an employee to wear certain items of clothing will typically trigger a ‘special clothing’ allowance. ‘Special clothing’ is defined as any article of clothing that an employer requires an employee to wear or is necessary for the employee to wear. By way of example, ‘special clothing’ can be items of clothing, including but not limited to, branded uniforms, aprons, steel capped boots, safety vests and other protective clothing.

The GRIA, FFIA, HBIA and RIA all contain a similar provision relating to a ‘special clothing’ allowance, requiring the employer to supply the ‘special clothing’, pay for the ‘special clothing’, or reimburse the employee for the cost of purchasing the ‘special clothing’.

Requiring a general standard of dress, or requiring employees to wear clothing of a certain colour (that the employee could reasonably be expected to already own) is not considered ‘special clothing’.

What is a laundry allowance?

In circumstances where ‘special clothing’ is required to be worn by the employee, and the employee is required to launder that ‘special clothing’, a laundry allowance will typically be triggered.

By way of example, both the GRIA and the FFIA contain a provision for a laundry allowance which stipulates:

If the employee is responsible for laundering any special clothing that is required to be worn by them, the employer must pay the employee a laundry allowance of:

  • $6.25 per week for a full-time employee; and
  • $1.25 per shift for a part-time or casual employee.”

Under the RIA, where an employee is responsible for laundering ‘special clothing’, the employer must pay a weekly laundry allowance of an amount agreed between the employer and the employee. In the absence of such an agreement, the employer must reimburse the employee for costs associated with laundering ‘special clothing’. The employer is entitled to ask for evidence of such costs (e.g., receipts).

However, with respect to the HBIA, no laundry allowance is applicable.

Read the full article for more information and to read frequently asked questions.