Interpreting the coverage of modern awards

“‘Before turning to the specific grounds of appeal, it is useful to summarise the well settled principles to be applied in the interpretation of an award. For relevant purposes, each modern award has a “coverage” clause that determines “the employers, employees, organisations and outworker entities” that are covered by it. 33 The determination of whether a particular employment falls within the “coverage” clause of a modern award usually involves two considerations: first, a legal question concerning the proper construction of the coverage clause (and any other relevant provisions of the award) and, second, a factual question as to whether the employer and employee fall within the scope of the coverage clause, properly construed.

The principles of construction of awards were recently summarised by Rangiah J in Swissport Australia Pty Ltd v Australian Municipal Administrative Clerical and Services Union (No 3). 34 In short summary, the task of construction begins with the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used. However an award is to be interpreted in light of its industrial context and purpose and its commercial and legislative context. The context includes the immediate textual context and the historical context of the origin of the provision in question.”

Gourabi v Westgate Medical Centre (2019) FWCFB 3874 delivered  5 June 2019 per Hatcher VP, Colman DP and Millhouse DP