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“Life Admin” Is it ok to get personal at work?

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Written by Lee-Anne Hunt – The HR Dept Ringwood

On Friday I spent a good hour and a half on hold with a government department. During that time, I googled a little, replied to a few emails but I admit it was difficult to concentrate with that awful hold music and helpful messages about using their online services (which was the reason for my call; my online account doesn’t work)

It got me to thinking about life admin during worktime. And how much is ok?

We all do it. From a quick call to change an appointment with the dentist to lengthy searches on How much is ok? I polled a few people I know, and the average was between 3 and 7 hours per week. Not something I think most employers would want to hear and not something many employees would admit to.

So, is this a problem?

To some degree it depends on your job. If you are on the tools or in retail, hospitality, health/child care or any kind of customer facing role it would be obvious and very difficult to take time out to do any life admin while you’re working. And that would be a problem as your attention would be diverted and the appropriate care not taken.

So, I guess that leaves our colleagues in the office and behind their screens or closed doors furtively making a call or doing their internet banking.

Is it ok? What if those same workers start early, work back late or work though lunch to make up the time. Is it ok then?

I would have to say probably not. I’m not a fan of working through lunch as we all need a break. And I can say from experience that attention diverted to my personal life takes away more than just the minute or two it takes to make the call. It distracts me and takes away from the momentum of my work day.

So, what can we do? We could take a lead from Perpetual Guardian NZ and just acknowledge that life admin needs to happen and pay five days work for four days? They found that employees completed their work and were happier.

Or if that’s not possible do we consider implementing RDO’s, so our team know they have at least one day a month to get stuff done?

Or should employers be outcomes-focused (instead of micro managing) and be happy if the job gets done and only worry if it isn’t?

Or (at the risk of sounding like a penny pincher) should our employees work during work time and leave the life admin for after hours?

Interested to hear your thoughts. I figure there could be a little bit of give and take here as lets face it, not everything can be done out of hours and life happens, but it seems to me, just from those I’ve asked, that the pendulum may have swung a little too far in the ‘life admin’ favour.

It’s the new year – Are your employees already thinking of their next break?

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As the new year is now upon us and the shiny new 2019 diaries make an appearance, it’s likely that your team-members are already planning their next breaks.

January is the busiest time of year for booking holidays as we long for our next escape. As an employer, it is therefore good to get yourself prepared for the potential surge of annual leave requests over the coming weeks.

Prepare for a rare calendar quirk

If your staff can’t wait until later in the year, there is also a rare opportunity to have 16 consecutive days off work whilst only using seven days of holiday! This is due to three public holidays falling close together this year over the Easter break and ANZAC Day (19th April, 22nd April and 25th April).

It is likely that some will look to take advantage of maximising their precious holiday entitlement. This will be applicable for all industries where public holidays are not counted as a normal working day.

Managing the ‘Holiday Hack’ as an employer

It is worth being aware of this as an employer. Make sure that your acceptance of holiday requests is done fairly. Some staff-members may look to jump on the band wagon and bag themselves this extended period of time off work before their colleagues.

Before making the decision to sign off on this, think about the impact that this extended period of time off may have. How will the rest of your team left in the office feel? Is there a potential dip in service delivery to your customers?

One way to assist with this is to use an HR management system tool. The holiday management element of the system will enable you to clearly see who else has requested time off over the same period before you approve any requests. It can also avoid the confusion of the growing pile of paper requests.

If the Easter break is a busy time of year for your business, perhaps think about communicating this to your teams beforehand. This will help to avoid any last-minute disappointment if plans have been made without your approval.

If you need help with workforce planning or are interested in implementing a holiday management tool contact The HR Dept today.

Is HR really the Grinch?

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We’re not, not really. At the HR Dept Ringwood we love the Christmas Spirit. What we don’t love is the inevitable problems that arise when people indulge in too much Christmas spirit.

Starting with the office Christmas Party; should be a time of joy and celebrating the past year right? Well, not so much for HR. We’ve learnt the hard way that Christmas is often for everyone else not HR. As HR you are expected to fix every little problem. “The starter is seafood and Jane is allergic.” “Susan is crying in the toilet and won’t come out.” “You need to take Brian’s keys off him as he is way to drunk to drive home.” And that’s all before dinner’s even served!  And then come the office romances and the practical jokes – it all seems like harmless fun until Monday when you can’t meet each other’s eyes or there’s a hotline to the HR office as complaints come in thick and fast!

We don’t want to be the “fun police”, we actually want to relax and celebrate the year with our colleagues, rather than keeping our eyes and ears to the ground ready to catch the first drunk and whisk them away in a taxi before their boss sees. There’s some simple solutions, and it starts with ensuring your employees are aware of acceptable behaviours, have safe options for getting home from events, are provided with enough food, limited free alcohol, and that there are allocated people (who are sober) to supervise the event and know how to appropriately manage any issues that do arise.

To all our corporate HR colleagues – we hope you get your workplaces through the celebrations without a loss of licence, sexual harassment claim or any grievous bodily harm. And better yet, we hope you get to relax too and celebrate another year of hard work. Merry Christmas!

A laugh a day keeps HR away!

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Written by Lee-Anne Hunt, HR Dept Ringwood

Yep, I know I’m HR so I probably shouldn’t be writing this but the more businesses (and people) I’m in touch with the more I reflect on what makes a business successful.

All of the successful businesses I know ( including ours) share many characteristics but today I want to focus on one. Laughter!

As a HR professional I have been called in many times to counsel employees/teams because they are having “too much fun”.

I have to ask: “Are they achieving their goals? Are they contributing to the business growth? Are they team players? Are they being appropriate (not bullying)”

If the answer is “Yes” then what’s the problem? I’ve been told “it doesn’t look good to other departments or they’re too loud or they don’t look professional”.

I disagree. There is so much evidence bombarding us that happy employees are more productive and stay longer. It’s time for some of the “old school” to rethink what the workplace looks like.

For our little team at the HR Dept – Ringwood, well, we laugh every day! At ourselves, our families (mainly our kids!) and yes, I admit it, sometimes at the silly things people do at work.

We are happy professionals who are successful. I challenge you all to bring a little happy to your workplace ( and perhaps because you spend so much of your time at work; to your life).

Reducing bullying in Australian businesses

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Workplace bullying can have a devastating effect on individuals and an equally horrible and pervasive impact on the culture, happiness and wellbeing of the wider workplace.

It has no place in our businesses and business owners must work hard to ensure the right standards and conditions are set so that any bullying is called out and dealt with quickly.

So during #AntiBullyingWeek, we look at ways that businesses can reduce bullying in the workplace and stamp out intolerance.

Anti-bullying policies are widespread, but the problem is becoming worse, not better. In 1998, managers in 7% of workplaces reported grievances raised concerning bullying. This rose to 8% in 2004, and to 11% in 2011.

What is bullying?

It’s important to take into account that bullying is distinctly different from harassment. Bullying can be described as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

Bullying can involve conflict and rudeness, but can also be more subtle, such as excluding and ignoring people, making unacceptable criticisms and overloading people with work.

Why should employers take action to combat bullying?

Bullying is unacceptable in the workplace and can cause real issues such as:

  • Poor morale and employee relations.
  • Loss of respect for managers and supervisors.
  • Reduced performance and productivity.
  • Increase in absenteeism.
  • Higher staff turnover.
  • Damage to company’s reputation.

For the individual, it is even more damaging and is a major cause of stress and low esteem.

Aside from the cost to people’s wellbeing and your company culture there is a financial impact too! It costs the Australian economy up to $36 billion each year, with the average case amounting to $17,000-24,000 for employers.

What can businesses do about bullying and harassment?

Bullying is most common in organisations with poor workplace cultures. An anti-bullying policy works best as part of a company-wide strategy to build a positive workplace culture.

Make sure everyone knows and understands the anti-bullying policy so it becomes part of the way your workplace functions. This is then supported with clear procedures for dealing with grievance and disciplinary matters, making it known to everyone what the consequences are and that may be dismissal.

Provide managers with training so that not only is their management style improved but they learn to recognise the signs and can step in quickly. Managers that are good role models can go a long way.

Make sure you aren’t the bullying boss! Keep your eyes and ears open, your staff might not always raise a grievance, listen to conversations, rumours and pay attention and look into to any trends i.e. if a manager has higher sickness or turnover in their team than others.

How can I protect my business?

Grievances and disciplinary meetings can often be a difficult and overwhelming task for any manager. Making sure you get the process right can avoid a costly and protracted employment tribunal through the courts. With our monthly retained Advice Line service, you get a local HR professional and the market-leading insurance against all legal costs and any award. Get in touch to find out more.

Can you imagine how awful it would be to tell an employee’s family they won’t be coming home tonight?

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It’s a conversation no-one wants to have and certainly no family wants to hear that someone they love has been injured or died at work. Yet according to SafeWork Australia, 120 Australians have lost their lives in a workplace accident so far this year.

It’s not just the worker and their immediate family that are affected by a workplace accident. It also affects fellow workers, passers-by who may have witnessed the accident, managers and business owners who genuinely care for the health and safety of their staff.

The more serious the accident, the more traumatic it is for everyone.

The saddest aspect of a workplace accident is that it can often be prevented if only someone had noticed there was a potential problem. It could be as simple as missing a safety step in the rush to complete a project. Or it could be something you have been meaning to fix for a while – and just never got around to it.

Whatever the cause, most workplace accidents are preventable and that’s what National Safe Work Month is all about.

Being vigilant about safety and looking out for each other is something we should all do every day. But October is the month where we recommit to creating a safer, healthier workplace.

How could your workplace improve its safety standards?

Here are 5 simple ways to start you off.

  1. Talk to your team about how important it is to you that they return home safely after every workday.
  2. Consult with your team. They may have noticed a problem or two that need addressing.
  3. Walk the talk. Throughout the year, if you see a potential trip hazard or some other safety issue, address the problem with your staff and get it fixed promptly.
  4. Be mindful of the pressure some projects or workloads place on your staff and look for ways to alleviate that stress. If you don’t have the answers, your staff might so consult with them.
  5. Review your Work Health and Safety Policies and Procedures to ensure they are up to date and reflect any changes that may have occurred in workflows or equipment usage.


Unless you have experienced it yourself, you cannot imagine how guilty you will feel if one of your team members is injured (or worse) at work. So don’t risk it. Use October to kick-start a more focused approach to workplace safety and if you would like help, give our expert team a call on (02) 8052 3082.

Public holiday entitlement – The in’s and out’s and the impact on SMEs

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As a business owner, it can be tricky wading through the rules and regulations of public holiday entitlement. So, we’ve decided to provide an overview of the in’s and out’s.

When are the public holidays?

Public holidays vary depending on the state or territory your work in, but the days listed below are recognised public holidays across Australia:

  • New Year’s Day (January 1).
  • Australia Day (January 26).
  • Good Friday.
  • Easter Monday.
  • Anzac Day (April 25).
  • Queen’s birthday holiday.
  • Christmas Day (December 25).
  • Boxing Day (December 26).

In addition, there are state, territory and regionally declared public holidays.

Employees are protected by the National Employment Standards (NES), providing them with an entitlement to be absent from work on a public holiday, and guaranteeing them payment if they are absent from their normal hours of work due to a public holiday.

However, under our complex legislation, coupled with the blurring of what constitutes “normal” working hours, questions arise over the circumstances of when an employee is entitled to be paid for a public holiday.

The average Australian worker receives 11 days public holiday per year. These holidays take their toll on business whether they stay open or chose to close.

There is much debate about the cost of public holidays to business. Controversy surrounds the public holiday this Friday in Melbourne ahead of the AFL Grand Final. Business leaders claim that they and the Victoria economy cannot afford the financial impact with estimates at $15,000 lost trade per business that closes and for those that stay open $6,700 additional costs for increased salaries due to penalty rates.

Asking your employees to work on a public holiday

You can ask an employee to work on a public holiday –  and the employee can only refuse to work if your request is unreasonable or they have a valid reason not to. Typically, you may pay them a higher rate – a penalty rate – or offer them an extra day off in lieu of the public holiday.

However, you should think about several factors when asking an employee to work on a public holiday. You should consider their family responsibilities, the type of work they do, their usual hours of work and the notice period you give them about working. Partially to ensure your request is reasonable, and because it also shows consideration for your employees’ lives outside of work.

The Christmas, New Year break

Many businesses impose a shutdown period over the Christmas and New Year period, giving employees the chance to enjoy some well-deserved time off. The legislation provides for businesses to implement this across the entire business or a defined group. The business must, however, give its employees reasonable notice that you will be doing so – this allows workers to adequately plan their annual leave through the year and not be obliged to take unpaid leave.

How The HR Dept can help

Managing public holidays and leave requests in general, can be tricky business, that’s where HR Dept PeopleHub can assist by making and granting leave open and transparent while keeping a track of who has taken what! If you need any help, please do not hesitate to contact The HR Dept.

Four benefits of having a diverse workforce in your business

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A diverse workforce has the potential to not only benefit you and your staff, but your customers too! An inclusive team can harness new ideas and strengthen networks and communities.

A team with a diverse range of work and life experiences can enrich your company culture and brand.
And by becoming a more diverse workplace, you will open the door to new and wider talent pools.

But for some businesses, setting diversity as a key objective may lead to difficulties. Especially if their focus becomes blurred through the uncertainty of what it really means to form an inclusive and diverse workforce.

The benefits of a diverse workforce

Below we touch on some of the benefits of diversity. We provide a few tips on how to attract talent from a wider pool of candidates, as well as managing and retaining a more diverse workforce.

1) Be open to harnessing new ideas from your current staff members. Even a little change to the structure of one of your business processes can allow you to identify new and upcoming business trends.

2) When recruiting, ask to review CVs without knowing the name, gender, age, nationality, etc, of the applicant. This can help to minimise bias and organically grow a diverse workforce.

3) Create a diversity and inclusion strategy which goes beyond simply focusing upon legal compliance. This can add value to your organisation through boosting employee well-being and engagement. It also allows you to improve business performance through a wider focus.

4) Nurture the development of diversity in the workforce. Focus on new areas of growth in both your business performance and your staff members’ skill sets. These may become a new unique selling proposition for your business.

Having a diverse workforce, though, takes more than just recruiting the right people. Integrating the team and making everyone feel valued is essential if you are to gain the benefits.

Stay inclusive to maintain a diverse workforce and staff wellbeing

Focusing upon diversity can bring many benefits to your business. But make sure you are not pushing an idealised image of diversity. You don’t want to risk making your current staff feel they do not fit the mould of your new ‘diverse’ workforce.

It is important to remember diversity is about a range of differences – and these differences can be as big or as small as you like!

If you would like to find out more about recruiting a diverse workforce for your business, contact your local HR Dept expert.

Social media can get you in trouble

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We’re no stranger to a social media sacking story here at The HR Dept, and we’re sure you’re not either. They’re in the news more often than underpayment of workers!

The problem is, people often forget that what they put online in the virtual space can cause very real trouble in the real world. Just like the policeman sacked for sending abusive messages to a TV soap actress. Or this teenager fired for publicly stating online that she found her job boring.

Social media continues to go from strength to strength. And with it, so does its impact on HR. One of the most notable recent developments is how it’s starting to play a part at the beginning of the employment relationship, not just at the end. ‘Fair enough’ we say on LinkedIn, as it’s a social media platform designed to match applicants and recruiters. Not so when it’s the less professional social media channels that are coming into play.

Employers are starting to use Facebook and Twitter to vet potential applicants. But what are they looking for? Mostly, they’re watching for anything offensive or that could indicate a bad fit with the company. There are tools out there now to help them do it with the click of a button online (so if you’re a job seeker, make sure you’re watching what you post).

But for managers, is it effective? Usually when recruiting, the more you know, the better. Not the case though when snooping on social media. Making judgements about a person based on the content they have on their profiles is bound to be subjective and flawed, even more so the further back in time you search. Needless to say, social media profiles have never really provided an accurate representation of their owners anyway, especially of their ability to do a job. And how would you be being fair to those without profiles, or with private ones?

As the practice has become more common, the ethical debate grows. Remember our blog a fortnight ago on unconscious bias? The more personal details available to recruiters about an applicant, the greater the impact of unconscious bias on your recruitment pipeline. This ultimately affects the diversity of your workforce. Social media profiles can tell a recruiter how old someone is, about their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation. These are all protected characteristics which could land an employer with a Fair Work claim if they were to become the basis of discrimination.

There are much better ways to get the information you need to make the right recruitment decisions: properly structured interviewing and personality profiling to name just two. The HR Dept can help you employ the right methods to employ the right people.

Ever wondered what skill sets your staff have beyond their job roles?

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You employed your staff, so you know what they are good at, right? Well, maybe in some cases. But it is likely that several of your staff have hidden talents beyond their job description that could be mutually beneficial to both your business and your employees.

Whether it’s speaking another language or having a creative streak such as photography or blog writing, these types of talents exist and are potentially waiting to be unleashed!

Discover employee interests
When recruiting new staff members, do you always ask what types of interests they have outside of work? If not, start taking note of these skills, however obscure! You never know when you might need them – it might just be the next activity for your team building or fundraising event.

Alternatively, why not create a staff survey for existing employees and ask your team to tell you if they have any skills that they would be willing to share?

As you come to understand the types of talent your workforce has, you may be able to see some cost savings of not having to procure external suppliers. In these instances, you might wish to reward your staff for their expertise and time, reimbursing any costs for supplies or equipment they may need.

Get inspired
Of course, there will be some skills which cannot be used directly in the workplace and during work hours, but why not get creative? Maybe someone enjoys practising yoga in their spare time. So perhaps you could offer them a chance to put on a yoga lesson once a month for their colleagues – to enhance wellbeing and productivity.

Or you might have a budding artist in your midst. Give them the opportunity to demonstrate their talent by commissioning a piece of artwork to enhance your office décor.

Not everyone loves the limelight
Do bear in mind though that not all staff will be forthcoming and want to share their talents. So, as employers, that must be respected. But for those that do, you are giving them an opportunity to showcase their talents in a professional environment to their colleagues.

This can be extra useful if you have a small team and there are limited opportunities for professional development. Cultivating these skills could provide a chance for your staff to feel that you’re helping them progress, whilst they are still contributing to the business. This could ultimately lead to you retaining these talented employees for longer.

The HR Dept are here to help
These kinds of talents are almost inevitably present. Harnessing these skills for your business can encourage your workplace to be a more engaged and collaborative one.

If you would like to find out more about how employee engagement can assist your SME, contact your local HR Dept expert.