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The rules of overtime

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Do you find yourself asking staff to work overtime when business is booming?

Many business owners typically know when their busiest times are and will have formed strategies to cope through those peak periods.

For a fluctuating small business it might not make sense to hire more staff, and so requesting overtime from existing staff is a common solution.

As the name suggests, overtime falls outside of an employee’s ordinary hours of work, and there are rules when it comes to requesting overtime from them. It’s important that you are aware of the rules on overtime to avoid people problems in your business.

Whilst overtime can be seen as a quick solution for a busy business, it can also have a negative impact if not implemented well. We take a look at this below in addition to the rules of overtime.

My legal obligations as an employer regarding overtime

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) specifies that employers can request that an employee works reasonable overtime. You may ask, what might be deemed as reasonable? Well the FWO have made this clear and the following points must be considered when requesting overtime from employees.

  • Risk to health and safety from working the extra hours
  • The employee’s personal situation, including their family responsibilities
  • The needs of the workplace
  • Overtime payments or penalty rates for working the extra hours (if applicable)
  • If they are paid at a higher rate on the understanding that they work some overtime
  • If the employee was given enough notice that they may have to work overtime
  • If the employee has already stated they can’t ever work overtime
  • The usual patterns of work in the industry

You’ll also need to consider overtime rates. These are set out by awards, enterprise agreements or other registered agreements and can differ between industries.

For example, a recent Fair Work Commission ruling on overtime for casuals on horticultural farms came into play this month. Penalties can be incurred for non-compliance regarding the change to maximum shift hours. Ask us if you are unsure about overtime awards for your industry.

The impact of overtime on your business

Whilst the request may be reasonable and the employee may be willing to accept overtime, you’ll want to monitor the frequency of which overtime is occurring.

Consistent overtime could lead to employee burnout which in turn can lead to further problems. Declines in productivity and an increase in mistakes are known to be the result of overworked employees. It’s also important to look out for employee well-being and manage workplace stress, as neglect can lead to poor mental health.

How to make overtime work for your business

To make sure overtime is a success for you and your employees it’s important to know not only your legal obligations, but also how to effectively communicate with your team. Regular employee reviews offer the perfect opportunity to check in on workload, productivity and well-being.

If overtime has become standard practice for your business, it could be time to consider expanding your workforce.

Whether you need advice on the legalities of overtime for your existing staff or are looking to recruit for your growing business, your local HR Dept can help.

Seven tips to protect your business from employee sabotage

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Finding out that you and your business have fallen victim to sabotage is awful. Uncovering that the damage was done from the inside and it was an employee who caused it can be even harder to swallow. After dealing with the initial shock and disappointment of the situation you’ll want answers.

Why has this happened? How has it happened? And what needs to be done to make sure it never happens again?

It’s possible that your risk analysis has typically been focused elsewhere until now. Such as keeping a keen eye on a bitter competitor or alerting staff to a vocally dissatisfied customer. Afterall, it’s perhaps easier to accept that someone wishing harm on your business isn’t on your payroll, or holding access to some highly confidential information.

The unfortunate truth is that employee sabotage is a thing. The good news is that there are processes that you can put in place to increase protection for your business.

Types of employee sabotage

A good starting point is to remain aware of situations that have the potential to do damage. You could be dealing with varying degrees of employee sabotage, such as:

  • A disgruntled employee repeatedly acting up after missing a promotion.
  • An online smear campaign caused by a social media executive with a grudge.
  • A sales assistant telling a customer about their very competitive side hustle.
  • A developer deleting crucial code during their notice period.
  • An outspoken employee coercing others and threatening to strike.

Each problem will require a case by case resolution. But there are approaches you can follow to manage them effectively and mitigate risk.

Following the correct procedures will also help your defence should the problem lead to tribunal.

Tips to prevent employee sabotage

1. Start at the beginning with your recruitment. A thorough recruitment process can help to make sure you are hiring employees that are a good fit for your business. Comprehensive reference checks, a reliable interview process and employee vetting can highlight causes of concern early on.

2. Accountability for actions. Each employee should be aware of their own accountability. Breaking down business goals and explaining how they relate on a team or employee level can help to get everyone on the same page and working towards the same purpose.

3. Need to know basis. With information sharing in mind, it’s wise to consider who needs to know what and how much. Updating managers and employees is beneficial but you’ll also need to protect yourself when it comes to sensitive data.

4. Policies for protection. Policies are a good way to inform employees of your expectations and can help you to manage a difficult employee. Policies on social media use, conduct and data protection can all help to provide a solution in the event of employee sabotage.

5. A time and place for feedback. Regular reviews offer an opportunity to pick up on potential problems. You can use this time for feedback and to look for a resolution. Correct documentation is essential should you need to refer back to previous meetings.

6. Don’t skimp on security. Change passcodes and revoke access when employees leave, or sooner if the situation is urgent. You’ll also want to protect your online brand reputation. Use social media listening to watch for brand mentions and address any online grievances.

7. Company culture. An inclusive and diverse culture that promotes employee voice can keep you in touch with the overall well-being of your workforce. If trouble is brewing, it could be time to collect feedback or consider a team-building away day.

Whether you are in the midst of suspected employee sabotage or want to know how best to protect your business in the future, contact your local HR Dept today for advice.

What is the key to effective internal communication?

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One employee missing your important email and asking questions could be brushed off as an honest mistake. But when the second, third or fourth person does the same thing, you may find yourself exhaling sharply and exclaiming “just read my email!”.

It could be that they simply didn’t read your email. With email being a popular form of communication in businesses, it’s possible that yours was lost in a sea of many others. Or perhaps they scanned it and missed some vital points of information. Regardless of how it happened it can be frustrating and counter-productive to repeat the message over and over again. Especially if it is an important update relating to your business.

The problem of oversharing in internal comms

Of course, another scenario is that everybody receives your email but perhaps it isn’t very well received. Could you be oversharing with your internal communications?

For example, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been criticised for some all-staff emails. In one early morning email, sent at 01:20 am to be precise, he admitted to there being other companies who can offer a better work-life balance and urged employees to do everything they can to advance the cause. (Tesla’s, that is).

Then there’s the boss who let his anger get the better of him in an outrageous email rant sent to all employees. Listing the misdemeanours of “five to six” employees and threatening a risk of being “fired and slung out the door in under three months” if they didn’t pick up their game. Yikes!

Tips for communicating with your workforce

So how should you communicate with your wider workforce, and what is the key to effective communication with employees?

First, it’s a good idea to consider your audience. Does everybody need to know or only those concerned? Is your message clear and concise? Use plain English and try to avoid overcomplicated terms.

If your communication includes employee conduct, such as our example above, this should be dealt with privately and on an individual basis. Timing is also important. Catch up on some sleep and save the 1am emails for 9am. You can revisit your draft with fresh eyes before hitting send.

Methods of communication

When your message is good to go, it’s time to consider your method of communication. If you’re stumped as to how to get your message out there without email, why not try one of these?

  • Face-to-face. Call a company meeting at your premises to get your message across in person. This can reduce the risk of misinterpretation and you can take questions there and then. For clarity, it might be an idea to run the announcement past managers first.
  • Mobile first. If your team are dispersed in the field, an internal communications app with notifications could work well for your business. If you decide to go the social media route, be sure to implement a policy first to manage usage and behaviour.
  • Instant message. Instant messaging can be an effective communication tool for businesses and is growing with popularity. If you’re thinking of trying it for your business, read our blog on how to keep control over workplace instant messaging.

More help with internal comms

For further advice or a second pair of eyes on your internal communications, speak with your local HR Dept today. We’ll work with you to make sure your message is understood.

How to keep the peace between employees

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Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could get along all the time?

With different personalities working in one organisation and people spending a significant amount of their time at work, conflict between co-workers is inevitable. It could be a one-off disagreement that has never been resolved, such as, “my colleague shamelessly stole my client and I missed my target!”. Or a full-on personality clash with opposing views on how to move a project forward.

Left unaddressed, these situations escalate and prove troublesome for the people concerned and the wider organisation.

To keep the peace between your employees you’ll want to navigate them through these bumps in the road and take a proactive approach to managing conflict. Knowing what to look out for can help you resolve issues early on and prevent any further damage. In addition to this, a clearly structured reporting line and well-trained leadership team can help you to manage conflict in your workplace. This will free you up to focus your attention on bigger business decisions. 

What are the signs of conflict that you should look out for?

The blame game. If an employee repeatedly blames someone else for their work not being completed on time it could suggest that there is an underlying reason and conflict is at play.

A change in morale. The effect of conflict between employees can spread further and affect the wider team. If you notice a change in morale, it could indicate conflict.

A heated exchange. A heated exchange between employees in a team meeting can be the result of tensions rising. This can be an awkward situation for all present and suggests a separate conversation is needed ASAP.

Increased absences. Ongoing conflict can lead to stress and a heightened level of sickness absence. If an employee is struggling with a stressful situation at work and can’t see a way of resolving it, they may stop coming to work altogether.

Equipped with some knowledge on the common signs of conflict, what can you and your managers do to resolve it?

Ways to resolve conflict between your employees

Conduct 121s. 121s or private informal catch-ups with employees provide an opportunity to talk in confidence. You can address progress and allow time for any other business that may need to be discussed, such as motivation or teamwork.

Investigate. If a complaint about a co-worker has arisen from a 121 you will want to investigate the issue before taking immediate action. Speak with the other employee in question to find out both sides of the story before aiming to find a solution with both parties present.

You might find that some difficult conversations arise during this process. Having a relevant manager or senior team member sit in can help to ease the tension. 

Take action. Policies are there to protect your company and your employees. So it’s a good idea to have a policy detailing the management of conflict in your business. This will inform employees of official processes that may be initiated to resolve conflict.

Engage employees. Team building exercises bring your team together and can be a good way to dissolve or prevent conflict. Personality profiling is a brilliant way of developing understanding between teams.

Seek advice. Conflict can often get brushed under the mat, to the detriment of the business. Our experienced HR advisors can help to make sure that this doesn’t happen and show you and your team the best possible way to move forward. Contact your local HR Dept today.


How to manage whistle-blowing in the workplace

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It’s a new day and whilst scanning your very busy inbox you spot some fresh emails of high importance. Upon opening and digesting the trending subject line it quickly becomes clear that an employee has publicly lifted the lid on a perceived problem within your business.

This is the first time you are hearing about it, alongside a slew of others who are already coming to you with questions. That sinking feeling is the realisation and horror that you are now amidst a scandal.

Sexual harassment, data breaches, fraud or other. Whatever the issue, it’s one you don’t want your company to be associated with.

This nightmare is real and has the potential to stir up a whirlwind of emotions and risky outbursts. You’ll want immediate answers and there will be actions that you will need to take to protect your reputation and your business.

But before making any impulsive decisions it is vital to gain understanding of what has happened, how you can address the situation legally and prevent it from happening again.

If you find yourself in a situation such as this, you are quite possibly dealing with a whistle-blower.

Due to a whistle-blower’s motivations normally being deemed to be in good faith, they are legally protected under the Corporations Act 2001, subject to criteria. And it is therefore advised to procced with caution.

What steps should employers take to manage a whistle-blower?

Seek to understand
If this is the first time you are hearing about a major problem within your business, your first line of inquiry should be with your management or leadership team. How did it get to this point? Why were you not made aware of any problems, especially those carrying significant risk?

If you have a much smaller team and deal directly with your employees, you’ll want to speak with the employee in question and find out why they felt they couldn’t raise their concerns with you first.

Investigate your processes
In order to uncover the truth of the matter, it is important to investigate your current processes. A whistle-blowing case suggests that something or someone has gone awry and some sort of intervention could be necessary to get back on track.

Your investigations could result in some difficult conversations. Be sure to follow the correct procedure when handling these to reduce further risk to your business.

Know the risks

If the whistle-blowing employee is under performance management, it is advised that you manage this independently to the whistle-blowing case. If they are eventually dismissed due to poor performance, you’ll need to have documented evidence to show that this was not in relation to whistle-blowing.

Dismissing an employee for whistle-blowing can result in an automatic unfair dismissal claim of grand proportions.

Take proactive measures
Implement a whistle-blowing policy. This will inform managers and employees of how to formally raise and report concerns.

You may also wish to look into your company culture and assess the current level of employee voice and representation. Higher diversity and the practice of involving your employees in decision making can help to highlight concerns before they turn into sources of conflict.

Enlist expertise
Dealing with the fallout of a whistle-blowing case can be stressful and comes with many legal obligations. Businesses must be able to show that they are managing whistle-blowing in accordance with the law.

It is also important to note that the law on whistle-blowing is changing this July with greater protection for public interest disclosures. Get a head start on understanding the changes and transition phase by making sure your current processes are compliant.

Let an expert take the load off and contact your local HR Dept today.

How to manage an employee on extended sick leave

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Absenteeism is a big problem for Australian businesses. In fact, it has been reported that absent employees cost the economy billions every year. This is a staggering expense that could be reduced through proactive and preventative measures.

The opposite of absenteeism is presenteeism, when people turn up to work sick, which can also cause complications for employers. Although it appears to reduce absence levels, it doesn’t necessarily improve productivity and can increase the risk of serious health problems developing later on. Left unaddressed this can result in long periods of sick leave.

How might extended sick leave affect your business?

When an employee is absent from work due to a long period of sick leave, it can be a difficult time for them and a strain on your business. Changes to your business operations will no doubt be required. And there is also a risk of unexpected costs should you need to arrange cover or make adjustments.

To reduce the chances of this happening, it’s best to implement a prevention policy which promotes good health and wellbeing at work. For example, we now know that the pressure of today’s always-on culture can increase levels of stress and anxiety, eventually leading to burnout. This can have a damaging effect on the mental health of employees and subsequently impact attendance. Early intervention can help and reduce the risk of this happening.

Sadly, not all sickness can be avoided. Therefore it’s a good idea to know your rights and how best to manage an employee who is on long-term sick leave.

Manage the absence

Your sickness policy should inform all employees of protocol regarding sickness absence. This should set out the notification and certification requirements, and the penalty for failing to follow them.

You’ll need to keep in touch with the employee whilst they are absent and document your communication. You may also need to get a GP report, which requires the employee’s prior consent.

In addition to managing the absent employee, it’s important to address the gap that their absence has created at work. Could temporary cover be helpful?

Manage the return to work

If and when the employee is ready to return to work, consider whether a phased return might be beneficial. Assess the circumstances in which they are returning. Do you need to rethink their duties or adjust their work station? These are important considerations that will need to be addressed. Conducting a return-to-work interview will help you find the answers.

Special considerations

Long-term sickness could be the result of, or result in, disability. In either circumstance you would have a duty to make any reasonable adjustments required.

For help with managing an employee on long-term sickness leave contact your local HR Dept today.

5 Five top tips when welcoming new employees

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After reading The HR Dept’s A-Z of recruitment you have found the ideal candidate to join your team. By now you have offered them the position, they have happily accepted, and you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the job of filling the job is done. For now.

Before you get too comfortable, we have one more suggestion to add to your to-do list to make sure your new hire sticks. And that is to initiate your induction process.

As a matter of fact, the induction is really a continuation of your recruitment. The quality of it can make or break the success of your new hire. Those first few interactions are vital. When thought through they can lay strong foundations for good engagement and high retention.

If you have somebody lined up to join your organisation soon, make sure you read our top tips below on how to achieve an effective induction process for new employees.

One: Send their contract

The offer letter or contract should be sent out as soon as possible. Most interviewees won’t hand in their notice until they receive this. The terms must reflect the ones discussed at interview as contracts can be oral as well as written. This document should state who their line manager will be and who will meet them on their first day.

Two: Keep in touch

When changing jobs most people are required to work a notice period which means there could be sometime between them accepting your job offer and starting with you. Especially if you are filling a graduate role which could be lined up months before they are available.

During this time, it’s a good idea to maintain contact to keep your new hire engaged and show your commitment. If you have any team socials coming up, why not invite them so that they can meet their colleagues ahead of their start date? Or see if they can drop by to join a team lunch.

If you have an internal company newsletter, why not subscribe them so that they can stay informed on the latest goings on?

Three: Day one prep

All new employees will have concerns on their first day. But these can quickly be resolved upon entering a welcoming and well-structured environment. Ensuring that all of the necessary equipment is ready for them to start work, from PC to phone, name badge and (if appropriate) business cards, can help them feel prepared to hit the ground running.

Planning will also save time on day one and reduce the risk of them having to awkwardly loiter whilst somebody sets up their monitor or activates their key card.

Four: Induction timetable

Induction training is key to giving the employee a real feel for workplace culture and their role in the business’s success. By planning their workflow and sticking to a schedule for the first week or so, you can make sure that the introduction to their new role and company is comprehensive.

Induction is not just about going through their job description duties. Start with an introduction to their team, wider department and anybody that you expect them to be working with. A tour of the building is also helpful at this point and solves the problem of not knowing where to get a drink or where the toilets are. New employees can feel a bit lost come their lunch hour, so arranging a colleague to take them under their wing for the first few days can be beneficial.

Five: Terms and conditions

Make sure to allot some time to talk through the terms and conditions of their employment and key policies such as how to book holiday or report an absence. Not only is this helpful information for the new employee, but having this process documented can protect you from FairWork claims later down the line.

Once the essentials have been covered you can delve into training with an explanation of how their performance will be monitored over the coming weeks of their probation.

A helping hand

Planning an effective induction can take time away from day-to-day tasks. Get in touch with your local HR Dept if a helping hand with inductions could benefit your business.

How to handle employees leaving to set up in competition

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One employee leaving the business to set up in competition may be considered a misfortune. Several leaving at the same time, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, looks like carelessness.

They have all of your prices, details of customer relationships and the rest of your staff are watching to see what you are going to do.

The good news for employers is that there are ways to reduce the risks involved. Preparation is key for a smooth transition. Read on for some crucial points for consideration.

Their contracts

Check notice periods as we imagine you won’t be too keen to have them wandering around the office for that period. If they have a notice period longer than 4 weeks you can consider the process of Gardening Leave. This means that they continue to be an employee but stay at home and are not allowed to work elsewhere.

Restrict access

Your employees no doubt have access to passwords, data and sensitive information in order to carry out their day-to-day work. So you should block access immediately.

Restraint clauses

A well-drafted contract outlines terms of employment for an employee and protects your business interests during, and for a reasonable time following, their employment. However, they are extremely difficult to defend unless the restrictions are reasonable and appropriate. So, protecting your customers, prospect list and staff that they have worked with is paramount.

Communication and PR

You will want to make sure that their exit doesn’t disrupt the rest of your workforce or your customers. Agree a statement to go out to customers. At this point, it is a good idea to involve a PR agency in case the press pick up on it. Hold a staff meeting and put as positive a spin as you can on the events. Remaining staff will naturally feel concerned so reassure them that it is business as usual.


You will need replacements as soon as possible, so contact The HR Dept to help. Our fees won’t break the bank.

Investing in your employees is investing in your business

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Training and development for employees can often be seen as expensive or time consuming and be bumped down a list of priorities. But if it’s done well it can provide a significant return on investment, whilst building both the trainee and the business.

You may ask – “But what happens if I train them and they leave?”. Whilst this is a genuine concern which we will go on to address, you’d also want to ask yourself – “What if I don’t train them and they stay?”.

Unhappy and unmotivated employees are a liability for an organisation. So whilst training and development might seem like a costly “nice to have” for your business, we would argue that it plays an essential role in any successful people management strategy.

Sir Richard Branson summarised this nicely when he famously said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

If you are about to embark on a training and development plan for your employees there are a few things we think you should consider before you get started.

Define learning needs

At one time or another it’s quite possible you will encounter an eager employee who is asking you to send them on a super-duper week-long course to better their abilities. Whilst their enthusiasm should be well received, you’ll want to retain control over the types of training and development that you provide. And that your business will benefit from them.

Looking forward, and identifying the skills gap within your organisation, personal development plans can be drawn up as part of the annual appraisal process.

Protect your investment

Whilst it’s the individual or team who receive the training through a learning and development plan, the ultimate goal is to retain this knowledge within your business so that you can measure the ROI. Some courses that give recognised qualifications are extremely expensive. You do not want to pay out, only for the employee to take the new qualifications to a competitor six months later.

Having a study assistance clause in an employee contract and a signed agreement in place will protect your investment should an employee leave sooner than expected. These set out that the financial assistance covering the course is to be considered as a loan which is written off over a period of time. For example, if the employee leaves within a year then 50% will be repayable. A study assistance policy can set out your expectations regarding time off for study days, examinations and what will happen should they fail.

Talk to us about training and development plans

Aligning a training and development plan with your business objectives can seem like a laborious task. Let us bring to life the benefits and make it enjoyable for you and your employees.

What to do about an employee with a side hustle

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The day has come when you find out that an employee has something on the side.

Your impulse reaction might be one of surprise and raise questions such as, “How long has this been going on?” or “Aren’t we enough for you?”. Then you return to earth and remember that your employees do have free time outside of work to spend as they wish. And with today’s technology providing them with the tools and opportunities to set-up shop and self-promote, why wouldn’t they consider adding another string to their financial bow?

Having a side hustle, as the practice is more commonly known, is catching on. It has been reported that around 40% of Australian Millennials prefer to work a number of part time jobs rather than one 9-5. And more recently over in the UK, as many as 25% of all adults have active side hustles alongside their regular employment. So even if only one employee has declared their passion for another project, it’s fair to assume there may be a few others who are thinking about doing the same.

What does the side hustle mean for your business?

Naturally you may be wondering what this might mean for your business and the future of your workforce. For example, issues can arise if a side hustle starts encroaching on regular work. A conflict of interest will be a real problem.

But on the plus side, an employee with diverse enthusiasm could breathe new life into an existing project or department of yours, if you embrace it and give them the opportunity. It may even satisfy a desire of theirs to look elsewhere or start out on their own.

A good way to protect yourself and communicate your expectations to your employees is to have a policy in place which addresses work on the side. In your policy, you will want to consider the following:

Protection of your assets

A data breach can do serious damage to your business. Your policy should make it clear that your customer data, trade secrets and any other sensitive business information is strictly confidential and a breach of this could result in legal action. You will also want to add that company hardware and software is for official business use only and that activity can be monitored.

Encouragement of openness

Through encouraging an open and honest culture you can request that your employees declare any other work or projects that they have committed to. Let them know that you are keen to find out more about their interests to see if these can be incorporated into their primary role.

Time spent working

When they are onsite for work, or have clocked on, it is to carry out the work which you have agreed upon. If it becomes apparent that side hustle activity is seeping into their work days for you and distracting them from their tasks at hand, disciplinary procedures will follow.

Need help managing an employee with a side hustle?

Ultimately an employee displaying an entrepreneurial spirit can end up doing wonders for your business if managed correctly. Keep the communication flowing to handle conflict and ask us about how to implement your policy today.