Written contracts for employees may seem like burdensome paperwork. Yet another admin step prolonging your recruitment process. That is, until the full extent of their importance becomes clear to you when something goes wrong later on.
You may feel that a verbal agreement with an employee saves time. But it can also cause all sorts of problems for you should conflict arise later in the employment relationship. A mere misunderstanding has been known to develop into a full-blown Fair Work Claim. And without a written contract, you’d be left with little protection.
Protection for employees
Did you know that with a verbal agreement, all employees in the national workplace relations system are covered by the National Employment Standards (NES)? These include, but are not limited to, maximum weekly hours, details of annual leave, parental or carers leave and notice of termination. The employee may also be covered by a specific award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement.
Whilst the NES are in place to protect employees and provide a minimum safety net, your business can still be at risk in the absence of a relevant written contract. Therefore, it is wise to prepare one prior to an employee’s start date to reduce any misunderstanding before work begins.
A DIY contract can do more harm than good
Cutting corners with contracts holds as much risk as staffing your business with no contracts at all.
An employment contract is legally binding, but only if it has been drafted correctly. So, whilst an employment contract template downloaded from the internet might look professional, it won’t necessarily tick all the boxes for your business or provide you with the appropriate legal protection.
Add to the mix a variety of working hours and shift patterns, which is commonplace with today’s approach to flexible working, and you potentially have an entire workforce without the right contracts. A minor paperwork pain can quickly become a major paperwork nightmare.
It is also important to note that template contracts can be out of date and not reflect the most recent legislative changes or case law. But how would you know? Are you confident on the employment type for your new recruit, are they full-time, part-time or casual? Their rights are different.
What should be included in employee contracts?
Your contracts will need to be compliant with the Fair Work Act and must include, amongst other things, the business name, start date, details of the duties, conditions of pay, hours of work, leave entitlements and notice period. It is wise to also include who the employee reports to and who they can complain to if they have a grievance or other concern.
Depending on your business function, you may want to include clauses in your contracts that discuss IT, security, privacy and confidentiality, amongst other workplace policies to protect your business from harm.
Getting peace of mind on HR paperwork
Seeking expert advice will provide clarity on which policies and contracts are required for your business. If you’re about to hire your first employee or would like to review your current employee contracts, we can help. Contact us today for peace of mind, knowing that your HR paperwork is on the right side of the law.