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How to help employees manage when life gets in the way of work

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“It’s just one of those days” is a phrase we often hear when a friend or associate is experiencing an off day. Maybe you have even said it yourself.

It’s understandable. Maintaining a good work-life balance is not always straightforward. Any number of occurrences can throw us off course and stop a day from going as planned.

For example, a delayed commute or technology failure can be enough to kick off a difficult day. Meanwhile, break time, which is intended for respite, is often used to catch up on life-admin or cram in appointments. This leaves little time for relaxation.

A day like this can feel like the tip of the iceberg for someone who is struggling with poor mental health. And statistics tell us that’s one in four people. The ability to cope with day-to-day stressors can be impaired by the bulk of the iceberg: a build-up of bigger worries, which are usually kept hidden.

When every day turns into “one of those days”, it suggests that something more serious is going on.

Why might employees be stressed?

It comes down to the individual and their situation. But multiple studies have warned us that some key causes of stress are:

Financial worries. Job insecurity, inflation and the cost of living all contribute to financial anxiety. Continued worry about finances can lead to both mental and physical signs of stress, severely affecting a person’s quality of life.

Family matters. Whether dealing with a tumultuous relationship, going through a divorce or caring for a dependant, family problems can cause unavoidable stress. Even getting married, which should be a joyous occasion, can cause serious stress through the planning or some other issue.

Health concerns. A long-term physical or mental illness can impact a person’s wellbeing. Needing time off work and finding access to support can add more stress to an already difficult situation.

Work stress. One in five workers report that they cannot complete their tasks within their allocated hours. The pressures of an “always on” culture and insurmountable workload can lead to demotivation, stress and even burnout.

Why should employers take note?

Although not all stress is caused by work, it can influence an employee’s ability to work well. Keeping personal problems outside of the workplace can become difficult for someone who is stressed and/or struggling with poor mental health.

Aside from prolonged stress being the biggest cause of absences, costing businesses billions, employees work better when they are happy and feeling well. So, it’s in your best interests to promote good well-being and manage the stress levels of your workers.

Managing workplace stress

Some stress is good and can challenge employees to better themselves. But it’s important to be wary of limits. As mentioned previously, there could be more going on that you are not aware of. Managing stress effectively is crucial for supporting good mental health in the workplace.

Starting a conversation with simple, open and non-judgemental questions, in a private and confidential setting, can encourage an employee to open up. From here, you can look for ways in which to support them. If you need advice on effective next steps, we can help.

This Thursday 10th October is World Mental Health Day. Whilst it’s a great opportunity to review your workplace well-being, we think that a year-round commitment to good mental health is good for business.

Ask us about how you can continue to promote good health and well-being in your organisation.

Driving success by developing great leaders

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What makes a great leader?

Various styles of leadership have been known to achieve success in different fields and industries. So there may not be one clear answer as to what makes a great leader, but rather a mixture of qualities and techniques that can inspire others to follow.

The role of a leader is to encourage collaboration and influence people to meet a common goal.

Traditionally, leaders have been identified as those holding a position of power. The difficulty this can present for a modern-day organisation is that when a leader moves on or retires, there may not be an obvious successor to take their place.

The leaders of today

With the help of advanced technologies, more businesses are adopting agile and flexible working practices. We are seeing a less traditional approach to organisational structures and a clear need for leadership to be developed at all levels.

By nurturing leaders throughout the workforce, a business can not only be managed through periods of change, but also give life to new ideas and find new opportunities for success.

Additionally, a business with well-developed leaders can attract and retain talent, further widening the pool of prospective leaders.

Developing leaders

There are techniques that employers can implement right away to sow the seed and nurture the leaders within their business.

Share the vision. Sharing your vision for the business can help employees to see and understand the common goal they are all working towards. Without this visibility, employees can get caught up with minor issues or lose focus on their purpose and role in the business. They are also more likely to contribute ideas and make useful suggestions if kept informed on wider business objectives.

Stretch skills. Continuously stretching skillsets helps employees to grow and build on their abilities. Through knowledge sharing and job shadowing, employees can learn new skills and discover new ways to contribute to the team.

Empower decision making. The ability to make competent and confident decisions is a key skill for any leader. You can prepare employees for this by guiding and steering them to arrive at their own conclusions when they seek your advice.

Investing in the future

When you have identified employees with promising leadership capabilities, it’s a good idea to consider leadership training. Investing in their future is investing in your business and employees are more likely to remain loyal to an employer who provides opportunities for professional development.

We offer tailor-made courses that can take your leaders and your business to the next level. Ask us how to upskill your employees through an effective training and development program.

Jury service – The process for employers

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You’ve set your sights on an exciting new project, got your people in place and are ready to hit the ground running. Then it happens. A key member of staff informs you that they have been selected for jury service.

“You’re joking!” is quite possibly the reaction you want to give. Until they hand you a very official letter to show you that they are not.

After this you’re probably wondering if you can get them out of serving and what counts as a viable excuse. Believe it or not, passable excuses in the past have included somebody in the U.S having a weak bladder and someone else simply not believing in the law!

Desperation can do all sorts. But before you go too far into thinking up reasons for them not to attend, it’s worth noting that jury service can develop a person’s skills and be a beneficial experience. From problem solving to working in a team, or removing emotions and channelling logical thinking. These are all transferrable skills that could be an asset to your business.

Who can be called for jury service?

Jury service is a public duty, and anyone eligible to vote in a federal election is eligible to serve. Although some people can be exempt due to their profession or criminal background.

Selection is random and although we all know that being chosen for jury service is a possibility, it can still seem out of the blue and feel like a disruption to day-to-day business when it does happen.

What do I need to do?

At this point your employee is going to be looking to you for guidance. And you may have questions of your own on what you need to do next. An employee being out of the office for jury duty could have an impact on your project and operational plans and so a rethink might also be required.

Follow a process

What may have seemed like a curveball being thrown into your day can be managed by following a clear process.

1.The employee should advise you of their expected period of leave, so consider that they are potentially going to be absent for this length of time.
Can you rearrange or postpone a project, or bring in cover to keep business running as usual?

2.If, after considering this, it appears that the employee’s absence will cause harm to your business, you can ask them to request a deferral.

3.For any full-time or part-time employee attending jury service, you will need to pay them “make-up pay” for the first 10 days of jury selection and jury duty. This is the difference between jury duty payment and their base pay rate for ordinary working hours. For the employee to be entitled to make-up pay you can ask them for evidence of their jury duty pay. For casual employees, it’s best to refer to your state department for advice.

4.Take note of enhanced employment protections. Employees missing work due to jury service are legally protected from unfair treatment and dismissal.

5.Call us if you have questions. Managing an employee on jury service and understanding your obligations as an employer can take time out of your already busy schedule. By outsourcing your HR to us, we can take this worry off your hands and help you come to a quick and effective solution that suits your business. Our HR Solution is backed by employer’s indemnity insurance, putting your business in a safe pair of hands.

When an employee goes AWOL to attend a protest

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Are you so passionate about climate change that you would be willing to let employees take time off to protest? Well, this Friday may test your views. It has been marked as a significant day for climate strike action around the world. Earlier in the year, the teen activist Greta Thunberg inspired schoolchildren to wag school, and those backing the event are calling for adults and businesses to support the action.

Even the most supportive employers will have concerns that this may affect the business. So how should you deal with it?  In the interests of fairness, would you act the same way if the employee wanted to join other significant protests? What if they don’t match your views?

Consistency in managing staff is very important and employees need to understand the rules before deciding to go AWOL. Their motivation is irrelevant.

If they have an approved holiday for their day of action it should be fine. Unless, that is, the media were to show your employee behaving badly whilst loudly proclaiming that they work for you. That could be considered bringing your company into disrepute. Let’s hope not.

Following a fair procedure

If they simply don’t show up for work and have been talking to colleagues about attending a protest, then the first step is to try to contact them and be sure to log your attempts.

Your absence policy will explain how they should report absence and you can take disciplinary action if they failed to follow your procedure. However, it is more likely that they will pull a sickie. In this case, a return to work interview must be carried out. Do ring The HR Dept for help in handling this.

Harnessing employee energy

It is wonderful to have staff who are positively engaged in things like conservation and climate change. Perhaps looking at ways the company can support these activities will result in more engaged employees. By feeling that they are making a positive contribution, it may lessen the urge to go join a protest.

Getting a second opinion

If you are thinking of getting involved this Friday, or at a future community event, and would like a second opinion on your people planning, give us a call. Equally, if you have questions surrounding unauthorised employee absence, we can advise you on an effective and legal solution.

Are you at risk from unpaid superannuation?

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The Superannuation Guarantee, which sees employers make mandatory contributions to employee super pots, has been around for some time now. Intended to help people think seriously about the future, these compulsory savings are essential for good retirement planning.

Although employer contributions are mandatory for all eligible employees, reports tell us that underpaid or unpaid super still happens. This is a big problem and leaves employees out of pocket whilst exposing employers to huge financial risk.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) aims to set things right. Their approach to non-compliance is to help employers get it right and correct those that don’t. From administering a super guarantee charge to further penalties, such as personal liability and risk of imprisonment for company directors, it’s a rocky road for non-compliant employers.

Paying super contributions correctly and on time is not only a legal requirement for employers, but it also follows ethical best practice. Employees are more likely to remain loyal to an employer that follows fair and correct procedures.

We have previously commented on the problems that can arise from incorrect payroll, and employers can find themselves with similar difficulties if superannuation payments fall behind.

Ensure your company is compliant

Whether or not you personally process payroll and super contributions for your business, you will be held directly responsible if obligations are not met. Therefore, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the ATO’s super checklist to ensure your company is compliant.

Paying the right amount, currently a minimum 9.5% of an employee’s ordinary time earnings, to the right place and on time is essential. You’ll also want to ensure that payments are being made in the right way as stipulated by the ATO.

Accurate record keeping is an important part of the process and can help your defence in the event of a dispute. Further guidance on compliance along with specific advice for small businesses can be found on the ATO website.

Get peace of mind on your payments

Payroll and superannuation compliance is essential for any successful business, but keeping on top of admin can be time consuming and take the attention away from other important business needs.

If you have questions about the process or would benefit from it being taken off your hands altogether, give us a call. We’ll make sure your obligations are met and give you the time back to focus on developing your business.

How to manage strong personalities in your business

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The first thing to remember is, there is no right or wrong personality type. And that employees with strong personalities have an important role to play in any successful business. As do those who tend to be more reserved. But without good management in place, dominant employees can disrupt the balance of your workforce.

Sometimes, though, passion and ambition can be mistaken for disruption and can derail the workflow of a wider team. Not getting the results they had hoped for from their co-workers can leave dominant employees feeling unfulfilled or misunderstood. Should they turn up the volume if it didn’t work the first time?

On the other hand, quieter colleagues can start to feel confused about their own work. Interruptions from others and seemingly urgent requests from their passionate co-worker can halt productivity. Beginning as a slight annoyance, this can feel like a continuous knock at the door and lead to stress or conflict.

Considering the above, does an employee spring to mind? Depending on the size of your business, you may even have a few names who fit the description.

Every workforce includes a mix of personalities, but not every manager has received the training required to know how best to deal with them. So just as we did with the negative employee, we have identified some useful tips on how to manage strong personalities in the workplace.

Avoid silencing them in public

Hushing a strong personality in front of their co-workers will do little to solve a problem. The employee may argue back and cause further disruption. Their point is important to them after all and you don’t want to squash their passion.

Rather than asking them to keep it down, practice patience and offer a suitable time and place for their voice to be heard. If they persist, make it an immediate 121 to discuss their conduct.

Take the time to listen

After suggesting an appropriate time for them to air their views, be sure to follow through with the offer. If you don’t, they will pop up like a meerkat at the next available opportunity and your patience will really start to be tested.

Discuss communication and structure

Use the meeting to provide them with an outlet for their pressing issues. These may be a stream of ideas. Discuss appropriate channels of communication and how their needs fit into the wider priorities of the department or business.

If their ideas can’t be pushed through, add context and explain why. Or if you spot potential during the discussion, think about how you might like to benefit from their energy and enthusiasm in a different role.

The outcome of your meeting will form the basis of your plan moving forwards. A good aim should be for the employee to leave the meeting knowing how best to communicate their needs in the future.

You may also want to task them with some activities that channel their energy and determination in the best possible way. Advise them on how to consider their co-workers and think about the needs of their wider team when completing the tasks.

Getting the team to work together

If you can create an environment where each member of the team feels valued and understands each other’s preferred communication style you will really benefit from the different personality strengths. Myers Briggs or DISC profiling is a well-known and amazingly good way of achieving this. If you feel this would be useful, give us a call. We can advise on how best to manage all sorts of personalities, both effectively and legally.

Why lifelong learning matters to your business

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As a business owner you would have heard that training employees boosts productivity and can take your business to the next level. Which sounds great! If it wasn’t for the time it takes, the expense incurred and then the risk of them leaving with all that knowledge only to go and work for a competitor. Yikes.

The alternative would be that you save the money and the time on training and employees carry on as they are. Except that they start to feel stuck and unmotivated, perhaps even start searching for another job with better opportunities for development. They begin to lack enthusiasm with their work and become less committed to projects and customer service. Worse still, your competitors who invest in training now have the edge over your business.

So, whilst a training and development plan may have seemed like an unnecessary expense, it saves money in the long run. Oh, and about employees leaving with all that knowledge to work elsewhere? Training is known to improve employee retention and there are legal ways to protect your investment and business interests.

The problem with most workplace training

Is that it is irregular and can be out of date. Ever dusted off an old DVD, put it on in the breakout room and wondered why staff didn’t retain any of the information? Aside from the fact that some of them may consider a DVD to be obsolete, this approach to training is limited and not going to give you the ROI you are looking for.

So, what will?

Lifelong learning can help

A successful training strategy will look ahead to identify the potential skills-gaps of the future, then aim to upskill current workers in order to close those gaps. A strategy for lifelong learning should not become obsolete because it continuously refreshes workers skills and adapts to the ever-evolving needs of the business. Rather than having everyone attend one training session and considering the job done, lifelong learning looks at regular and flexible training that can work around busy schedules.

In addition to skills courses, methods such as job shadowing and peer-based learning give employees the opportunity to apply learning to their actual working environment. Whilst deconstructing lengthy training seminars into bite-size sections can help them to manage their time and fit training around work.

Times have changed and so has workplace training.

Making it work for you

Devising and implementing a unique and effective training programme for your business can be a lengthy process. You’ll also want to be sure that your invested time pays off.

We can take this task off your hands. After taking the time to get to know you, your company and future business goals we can create you a training and development plan to meet your needs. We’ll assist with identifying potential skills-gaps and explain why certain clauses should be in your employment contracts to protect your investment. Contact us today to find out more.

How to manage a negative employee

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Negative employees can be real energy zappers. Their negativity can be contagious and halt productivity for the wider team. Blaming others for incomplete work or poor performance, holding up projects, criticising company procedures and complaining about, well, everything!

Have you got someone in mind?

Everyone has off days. A case of the Monday’s or a bad night’s sleep can be enough to throw the best of us off our usual course momentarily. But when it’s consistent, unproductive and somewhat toxic energy, you need to address it.

The risks of avoiding the problem

Persistent negative energy can impact the mood and stress levels of everyone, which can affect productivity and customer service. Anxiety feeds on pessimism and a chronic negative working environment can be harmful to both the mental and physical health of your employees.

You also run the risk of alienating customers and suppliers when letting negativity be the tone of your business.

Five steps to tackling negativity

We know that addressing negativity with an employee may be awkward and sometimes lead to a difficult conversation. If you have picked up on bad vibes in your business and are ready to approach the individual, read through our top tips first to make sure your process is effective and compliant.

1.Lead by example
Think hard about your own behaviours and attitudes – are you modelling the kinds of positive vibes you expect from your team? If not (and it’s not just one of those ‘off days’) then consider what needs to change for you to ensure you’re able to lead by example.

2.Have a quiet word
Challenging an employee about their negative attitude in front of others could make the situation worse, it would be safer and more respectful to have a private informal chat.

There is a chance that they hadn’t realised how their actions were being perceived. Or they may decide to use this opportunity to reveal a problem that they have been struggling with.

If they do reveal that there are genuine problems within the workplace, make it a priority to fix them in a timely manner.

3.Support and divert
If the employee fails to acknowledge their negativity and proceeds to blame colleagues, processes or anything but themselves, see if you can change their mindset. Explain the impact of their behaviour, suggest to them alternative ways of thinking and empower them to take control of their own behaviours. Make it clear they must change as the impact on the team cannot go on.

4.Schedule a follow up
Booking in a future 121 lets the employee know that you are monitoring their behaviour and wellbeing. Use the meeting to review any actions agreed from your previous catch up.

An unwillingness to change is bad for business. If you have tried to reason with the employee and they are not showing any signs of improvement, it’s time to start the process of exiting them from the business.

5.Consider the working environment
A proactive approach to dealing with negativity can include making small changes to the working environment. Natural light, vibrant colours and even plants have all been known to boost positivity, inspiration and morale. Could it be time to upgrade your workspace?

Eliminating negativity from your business is not only beneficial for your workforce, but for you too. Happy employees lead to better productivity, happy customers and more business. If you would like further advice or ideas on how to manage a negative employee, give us a call.

Could you be paying the price for incorrect payroll?

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A reminder for payroll cut-off pops up in your calendar. How does it make you feel? If you have someone in place to manage payroll for your business, you might dismiss it without a second thought. But, if you are managing payroll yourself, it could be an unwelcome interruption to your day.

Award calculations, tax, terminations and changes to Fair Work Legislation can make payroll a long and complicated process. The thought alone can instigate a headache.

Paying employees correctly and on time is not only a legal requirement but also an essential function of any successful business. To put it simply, you expect employees to turn up and work, and they expect to get paid. This agreement forms the foundation of your employment relationships. So if payroll goes wrong, it can cause all sorts of problems.

Whether an honest admin mistake or complications caused by a difficult situation with an employee, payroll problems can get ugly. They also come with a high price to pay. Along with time spent getting back on track, can come back payments and sizable fines.

There are many tricky aspects of payroll to be aware of, we have listed some of the riskiest below.

Withholding wages

There may be times when an employee fails to complete work to the standard expected and you feel it justified to deduct their wages. But be warned, this is a risky move. Failure to pay someone wages that they are entitled to is known as an unlawful deduction and can bring a Fair Work claim against you.

In fact, this bad practice is widely known, and the government is moving to criminalise wage theft.

Inaccurate calculations

Correct calculations are imperative for payroll. If an inaccurate calculation has been applied and left in place, mistakes can multiply. Celebrity chef George Calombaris faced this reality when Fair Work inspectors found his hospitality group to be owing employees $7.8 million in unpaid wages and superannuation payments. Chef Calombaris admitted that, “as a small business we did not have the necessary systems and processes in place, particularly as the business grew.”

Using payroll software should give you peace of mind that calculations are accurate, and that PAYG is being processed correctly. But if the tool you are using is not managed correctly, you could be at risk of underpaying staff. Anyone in charge of managing your payroll software needs to be informed on how to keep systems maintained.

Incorrect classification

We see this a lot. Misclassification of employment types, and the awards and entitlements that go with them, can result in underpaid wages. In addition to back paying employees to rectify errors, employers can be subject to huge fines from the Fair Work Obudsman.

Global Interactive Operations Pty Ltd are a recent example. The call centre operator missed vital casual loading payments and penalty rates for overtime. The result? They have been tasked with paying $77,286 in unpaid wages to employees.

Each employment type comes with specific entitlements and it’s important to know the difference when hiring staff for your business and processing payroll.

Need advice on payroll?

If processing payroll for your company has become a major pain give us a call. We’ll make sure you’re compliant and give you the time back to focus on developing your business.

Should you be paying your interns?

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In order to know whether you need to be paying interns, you first need to establish the nature of the internship that you have advertised. This is because the term “intern” in isolation does not provide you with the answer. Depending on the type of internship you are offering, the intern could be entitled to pay and further entitlements.

What is an internship?

Almost everyone has heard of internships. Perhaps you have even been an intern at some point in your life. But a varied approach to the employment practice over the years has skewed the definition for some. If your own internship was based on photocopying, taking lunch orders and not getting paid, you could be forgiven for thinking that’s normal.

An internship is a fixed period of work experience. It is typically of interest to students, graduates or those seeking a career change. It should provide an insight into a specific field or industry and typically offers on-the-job training. If an intern has performed well during their internship, you might think about offering them permanent employment when the internship ends.

An internship is not intended to be used to increase labour or resource by means of little to no budget. A falsely advertised and poorly implemented internship is exploitative and illegal. Some employers have found this out the hard way. Earlier this year a fashion start-up made famous for its Shark Tank investment deal was fined hundreds of thousands for underpaying workers, including an unpaid intern.

Even with the above explanation, we know that employment relationships can be confusing. So to make sure you remain on the right side of the Fair Work Obudsman (FWO) we recommend a refresh on the rules for offering internships at your business.

When an intern should be paid

The FWO states that whilst each case must be considered in isolation, there are key identifiers that establish if the internship should be paid.

If the intern is carrying out productive work that benefits your business, they have likely entered into an employment relationship with you and will be entitled to the minimum wage and National Employment Standards. This is especially true if they are expected to do so for an increased period of time.

Exceptions to paid internships

Whilst most internships these days will qualify to be paid, there are some exceptions. Students who are in education and partaking in a vocational placement as part of their course or training do not have to be paid. The student must come from an approved educational institute for this to apply.

Although in this instance pay is not a legal requirement, it could be a good incentive.

Other types of internships that don’t require pay include flexible work experience where the intern decides their hours and conducts minimal productive work for the business. Or shadow work which is purely observational training. It has been known for employers to confuse these types of internships with one which should be paid. But be warned, the FWO will be quick to correct you.

Do interns need a contract?

We believe it is best practice to have a contract for each person who works for your business, including interns. This is because a professionally drafted contract sets out the employment relationship and entitlements.

Additionally, contracts are a great way to communicate rules and expectations to workers. If any questions or doubts arise, they should do so before work begins.

If you’re preparing for an intern and have questions about the process, contact your local HR Dept today. We’ll help you legally recruit your new hire and advise on a comprehensive induction and training plan that is unique to your business.