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People Matter June 2019

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Can you fire staff for dodgy out-of-hours work behaviour?

Knowing when you can fire someone for what they do on their own time is vital in helping to prevent an unfair dismissal claim.

Unfortunately, the conduct of your employees outside of work can significantly impact your business. This was highlighted in a 2018 case involving a Qantas flight attendant – Luke Urso.

Luke was unable to work after recording a .205 blood alcohol reading and incurring a $20,000 hospital bill.

After a disciplinary process, Qantas fired him for breaching their code of conduct and safety policies due to ‘drinking excessively’. The Fair Work Commission found his dismissal was not unfair, as he had a duty to be ‘ready and able’ to work.

More recently, the controversy surrounding rugby player Israel Folau’s use of social media to express his religious views emphasises the issue’s complexity. Much is at stake. Folau stands to lose a contract worth $4 million and the Australian Rugby Union could wind up in a drawn-out litigation. The whole situation could take several years of Fair Work hearings to resolve.

As an employer, you want your reputation and brand to be in the media for the right reasons. So take steps now to review employment contracts and ensure your staff understand how their out-of-hours conduct can affect their employment.

It’s a wise practice to always document your dealings with staff. This is especially so for anything formal like contract reviews and social media training.

While you can dismiss an employee for their out-of-work conduct, you need to be sure their behaviour either:

  • is likely to cause serious damage to the relationship between the employer and employee; or
  • the conduct damages the employer’s interests; or
  • the conduct is incompatible with the employee’s duty as an employee

Understanding the rules about dismissing an employee for questionable out-of-hours conduct is confusing. Don’t risk a stressful and drawn out Fair Work claim. The HR Dept are experts in employment matters, including dismissal.

Contact them for advice about preparing comprehensive employment policies to help keep you out of sticky situations. They can also help if you have a staff issue and are unsure about how to proceed.


New employee experience impacts bottom line

Depending on where you’re at in business, onboarding staff might inspire feelings ranging from excitement to dread.

Around 86% of organisations lack a proper onboarding process according to an article appearing in HR Daily. Conversely, good onboarding programs can help staff become fully proficient 34% faster. In addition, 69% of employees were found to be more likely to stay with an organisation for three years after an excellent onboarding experience.

Author and business coach David Finkel recommends drafting a written action plan for orientating new staff with the onboarding process covering the first 3-6 months.

Ideally, onboarding should begin at the interview stage by clarifying role expectations and covering how performance will be assessed long-term.

It’s also important to give interviewees a chance to voice their opinions and ask questions.

The HR Dept can help with all aspects of recruiting. Contact them for advice about optimising your onboarding process to get your staff up and running fast.


Employee, trainee or unpaid intern? Why clarifying your workers’ roles is critical

If you use young workers, it’s vital to know the difference between an unpaid intern and an employee.

Failure to correctly characterise an employee could have serious consequences – including financial loss and reputational damage.

Start-up company Fashion Box recently found this out the hard way. The Federal Circuit Court ruled they were in breach of the Fair Work Act and fined them $330,000 for exploiting interns.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website notes that deciding whether a person is an employee happens on a case-by-case basis.  It involves working out whether the arrangement involves the creation of an employment contract or not. It states:

“An employment contract can arise even where the parties call the arrangement something else, say it is not employment or if a person agrees not to be paid wages for the work they do.”

Key indicators that an employment relationship exists include:

    • The reason for the arrangement – the more productive the work that’s involved (rather than just observation or training), the more likely the person is an employee.
    • Length of time – the longer the arrangement, the more likely the person is an employee.
    • Significance to the business – if the person is doing work that would otherwise be done by an employee, it’s more likely the person is an employee.
    • What the person is doing – they’re less likely to be an employee if they aren’t required to come to work or do productive activities.
    • Who’s getting the benefit? – if the business is getting the main benefit, it’s more likely the person is an employee.

Don’t risk reputational and financial damage. The HR Dept can provide expert advice on accurately clarifying your workers’ roles.


Employers! New minimum wage laws take effect from July 1

The Fair Work Commission has decided on a 3% increase to the national minimum wage.

This raises the weekly wage for Australia’s lowest paid workers by $21.60 to $740.80 or $19.49/hour (up from $18.93/hour).

The increase applies to modern award minimum wages for junior employees, employees under training arrangements, employees with disability and to piece rates.

Employers who pay staff under any of these arrangements will need to increase their employees’ pay in the first pay period on or after 1 July 2019.

If you pay employees under an industrial instrument, such as a collective or enterprise agreement, you should also review rates to ensure they meet minimum wage requirements.

It’s hoped the wage increase will ease cost of living pressures for financially struggling workers.

The HR Dept can ensure you’re always on top of Fair Work changes with accurate and up-to-date advice so get in touch before 1 July.


Employers! Are you ready for 1 July single touch payroll?

It’s been described as the biggest tax change since the GST. But new figures show that 70% of micro-businesses haven’t heard of single touch payroll (STP).

The survey also found that 55% of 517 business owners had “little knowledge” about how to become compliant.

More than 700,000 businesses with 19 employers or fewer are required to implement STP reporting by July 1.

Employers using software solutions that offer STP reporting will send employees’ tax and super information to the ATO with each payroll. No-cost and low-cost options are also available for employers not using payroll software.

For expert advice, contact the HR Dept.

People Matter May 2019

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New whistleblower laws take effect from July 1

From 1 July 2019, new laws about whistleblowing will impact many businesses. The bill, approved by Parliament in February, ushers in several key changes, including:

  • Broadening the definition of a whistleblower to include former employees, suppliers, unpaid workers, contractors and relatives
  • Extension of whistleblower protections to include their spouses and dependents
  • Scope for protected disclosures to be made to a journalist or member of State or Federal Parliament under certain circumstances
  • A requirement for larger Australian organisations to introduce a Whistleblower Policy before the end of 2019 (failure to comply will be a criminal offence)
  • Significant penalties – up to $10.5 million – for breaches of whistleblower protections
  • Increased civil and criminal penalties for disclosing a whistleblower’s identity or victimising them

The importance of maintaining a whistleblower’s anonymity was recently highlighted. It’s alleged the Registered Organisations Commission, which oversees unions and employer associations in Australia, accidentally sent an email containing sensitive information, exposed by a whistleblower, to the wrong recipient.

The legislation requires all whistleblower policies to be comprehensive, detailing:

  • The protections available to whistleblowers
  • The avenues for making disclosures
  • How the organisation will protect whistleblowers
  • How the organisation will ensure fair treatment of employees who are mentioned in disclosures
  • As well as other obligations

The policy needs to be in place before 1 January 2020, otherwise organisations could face fines of up to $12,600.

In addition, failure to maintain the confidentiality of a whistleblower’s identity could lead to fines of up to $1.05 million for individuals and $10.5million for organisations involved in the breach.

Victimising (or threatening to victimise) a whistleblower could result in fines of up to $1.05 million for individuals and $10.5m for organisations engaged in the breach.

Entities covered by the new laws include:

  • Companies registered under the Corporations Act 2001
  • Insurers
  • Life insurance companies
  • Superannuation entities or trustees

If your organisation falls into one of these categories, you don’t have much time to develop the wide-ranging policies required under the new legislation. The HR Dept can develop them for you or provide advice to ensure those developed in-house comply with your legal requirements.


Salary not the top choice for attracting top talent

When it comes to attracting and maintaining the best talent, you might be surprised to learn that salary alone isn’t enough.  In fact, the number of Australians opting for flexible work arrangements over a higher salary is increasing, according to Richard Fischer, Managing Director at ManpowerGroup Australia & New Zealand.

Factors that assist with ensuring your employees feel valued enough to stay include:

  • Providing strong leadership
  • Having a positive company culture
  • Valuing work/life balance
  • Investing in career development

While you might be concerned that you’ll spend money on upskilling your employees only to have them leave, a 2018 LinkedIn survey found that 93% of employees would opt to stay in their role if their employer invested in their careers.

It seems that when the C-suite focuses on talent generation, they are rewarded with employee loyalty.

The HR Dept understands the complexities of managing top-performing staff. Contact them for advice on attracting and maintaining the right people for your organisation.


How to avoid a wrangle over minimum wages

As the end of another financial year approaches, it’s vital organisations review what they are paying employees to ensure they are maintaining standards set by the Fair Work Commission.

Every year the minimum wage rates are reviewed and FWC set a minimum wage order for employees not covered by an enterprise agreement or modern award.

The onus sits with employers to be aware of any changes made to Modern Awards or increases in the national minimum wages. Changes must be applied from the first full pay period on or after 1 July each year.

The Fair Work Commission will publish any changes prior to this date on their website.

The minimum wage is the absolute lowest an employee can be paid. In Australia, it is currently, $719.20 per week, or $18.93 per hour based on a 38-hour week. This was set on July 1, 2018 and must be adhered to by all businesses operating in Australia.

The Fair Work Commission sets standards for minimum rates of pay as well entitlements such as penalty rates, allowances’ leave loading and overtime for different job roles across all industries. These entitlements vary according to industry, job type, experience in the role and other factors.

If you aren’t aware of your employees’ minimum wage requirements, you could risk underpaying them.

Don’t risk a wrangle with the Fair Work Commission. Contact The HR Dept for up-to-date advice on wages and entitlements.


Release me! What to do when employment relationships turn ugly

Sometimes, relationship breakups can be ugly and this is true for both working and personal relationships.

To help protect against a nasty fallout when employers and employees part ways, some organisations use a legal tool known as a deed of release. This is an agreement between the parties that they will release each other from claims arising from the employment or its termination.

However, matters of serious misconduct or unlawful activity that come to light after the deed of release is agreed can still be pursued by employers.

This was demonstrated recently when an employer successfully made a claim against a former employee who had stolen significantly more money than she admitted when the deed of release was signed.

Working through the troubles of ending an employment relationship can be painful and time-sapping. Contact the HR Dept for help to get it right and minimise the likelihood of an employment dispute.


Collaborative workspaces prove sharing is caring

They say sharing is caring and this is being confirmed with the rise of collaborative workspaces in Australia.

Shared workspaces have many demonstrated benefits.

For start-ups, they provide the amenities, equipment and supplies found in an office, without the lock-in contracts.

The biggest benefit, however, is the sense of community created by working alongside others. Managing a team in a shared workspace allows them to interact with a diverse group of colleagues and helps remove the social isolation experienced by remote workers. This enhances employee engagement.

Talk to The HR Dept about boosting your bottom line by creating workplaces that optimise employee engagement and productivity.

People Matter April 2019

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Over 80% of working mums are seeking flexible work

It’s no secret that satisfied employees are more productive. But a new survey has shown just how crucial flexible work arrangements are for keeping working mothers happy in their roles.

The study, by JustMums Recruitment, found that 83% of women trying to balance their career with parenthood wanted flexible work in their next role. Additionally, 70% of respondents said they wanted to change employers because they had been denied their request for flexible work. One respondent claimed she was given a flexible schedule, but only “ended up doing a full-time role in part-time hours.”

Significantly, nearly 50% of respondents said they had experienced unfair treatment or discrimination at work, like being overlooked for a promotion or pay increase. This unfair treatment can start early – 14% of respondents claimed they faced bullying or harassment during their pregnancy.

This was the case for Tania Zarak, a former Netflix executive who is suing the company after they reputedly fired her when she disclosed her pregnancy in November 2018.

JustMums said they were “shocked” to discover that almost half of working women were discriminated against.

Retaining parents in the workplace is a smart business decision – it enables companies to benefit from the skills of experienced staff. As JustMums said, “Employers who offer flexible work arrangements and a family-friendly workplace will continue to attract and retain the top talent in the market.”

Options that women are reportedly looking for include working part-time hours, working from home, working within school hours, job-sharing and working flexible full-time hours.

Maintaining contact with employees on parental leave can also help to reassure them that they remain valued members of the team.

When done well, a parental leave policy is a win-win – new parents can remain in the workforce, and employers benefit from retaining their experienced staff. This helps businesses to improve productivity and reduce staff turnover costs.

Developing family-friendly policies takes time and expertise. The HR Dept is experienced in all aspects of workplace policy development. Call us to help you develop a plan that’s beneficial for your staff and your business.


Can I fire an employee on probation without Fair Work fears?

Some employers have a misconception that dismissing an employee during their probationary period protects the employer against future claims. However, this isn’t always the case, and employers doing so risk legal proceedings being brought against them.

In a recent case, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia ordered an employer to pay $10,000 in compensation to a former supervisor who was dismissed five months into her probationary period.

The supervisor made a claim under the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act, which prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against an employee for prohibited reasons. In this case, the employer was unable to provide adequate proof of why they had terminated the employee and they were found to have contravened the Fair Work Act.

This case highlights the importance of always providing a reason for dismissing an employee, even during their probation.

The Fair Work Act is complex and shifting. Let the HR Dept help you with expert and up-to-date advice.


Workplace stress stealing hours of staff productivity

Stress is rife in the workplace and it impacts not only the wellbeing of your employees, but your bottom line. A report has shown that, on average, more than one in five employees spend at least five hours of work each week thinking about stressors. A further 50% lose at least an hour of work weekly due to stress.

Employees who are worried about their finances, job or health tend to be less focused at work, leading to underperformance.

The study of full-time workers, led by US insurance company Colonial Life, found that 41% of employees experiencing stress reported being less productive, and 33% were less engaged. 14% were absent more often.

Laurie Mitchell, the Assistant Vice President for global wellbeing and health at Colonial Life, noted that employers need to pay attention to the emotional wellbeing of their staff.

Stress also features prominently in unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. Unlike obvious injuries, stress-related issues can be difficult for employers to identify, and therefore to manage.

It can be risky to dismiss an employee due to a stress impairment. Your policies and procedures around managing stressed employees will be closely scrutinised. To minimise risk of facing a legal claim, employers should prioritise looking after their stressed employees.

More importantly, considering reasonable adjustments you could make to accommodate the needs of your workforce will enhance their wellbeing and the productivity of your business.

This could include strategies like providing flexible work arrangements and promoting mental health in the workplace.

The HR Dept can advise you on approaches to help keep your staff – and therefore your company – performing at their peak. Contact them today.


The secrets to attracting top Millennial talent

With Millennials being the fastest growing demographic in the workforce, you might be wondering how to attract and maintain their talent.

Millennials have different career priorities than their forebears, with flexibility and work-life balance being top factors.

Accounting firm Ernst & Young have heeded the advice for attracting Millennials and are offering employees flexible arrangements like working full-time during school terms and taking time off for holidays.

Ernst & Young’s employees can also take self-funded “life leave” for up to 12 weeks to pursue other interests such as travel, training or volunteering.

We’re innovating so we don’t lose these people while they pursue passions outside of work,” Kate Hillman, People Partner at Ernst & Young Oceania, told the Daily Mail Australia.

Attracting and maintaining top Millennial talent is different to recruiting other demographic groups. Contact The HR Dept for help with finding people who will be an asset to your company.


New guidelines for managing complex employment abandonment issue

Abandonment of employment is a complicated area. To help guide employers dealing with unexpectedly absent staff, the Fair Work Commission recently released a decision commenting on the procedural issues surrounding it.

They recommend employers take several steps before assuming that employment has been abandoned, including checking with all their managers and attempting to contact the employee by phone and then email or registered post if there is no response.

Employers need to be aware of the provisions governing their staff member’s employment and keep written records of the absences and attempts at making contact.

If you suspect abandonment of employment, The HR Dept can provide expert advice.

People Matter March 2019

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Offering internships is great, but caution is required

Employers offering programs that could be considered exploitative face potential prosecution under the Fair Work Act – regardless of whether they call them ‘internships’, ‘work experience’ or another name.

This was highlighted recently with Bradley Wells, the former operator of a Sunshine Coast business. He’s currently facing penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention for allegedly failing to pay an 18-year-old employee for 150 hours of work in 2017.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for Wells to back-pay the employee $3,945 in minimum wages, casual loadings, overtime and an industry allowance.

Any employer who fails to comply with their fundamental obligation to pay wages for work performed, will face serious consequences,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

The cost to organisations of questionable work practices can be more than financial. Just ask Muffin Break general manager, Natalie Brennan.  She suffered serious mainstream and social media backlash after an interview during which she expressed disappointment that more young people don’t take on unpaid internships.

While some companies are tempted to take advantage of perceived ‘free labour’, exploiting young workers could leave you in a position like Fashion Box, which was fined $330,000 for doing so.

Misclassifying employees as unpaid interns to avoid paying them for work will not protect you either. Under the Fair Work Act, anyone who undertakes productive work for a business is classified as an employee and entitled to relevant pay and conditions.

In contrast, unpaid placements are lawful “where they are part of a vocational placement related to a course of study,” Ms Parker said. “Their tasks should be limited to things that enhance learning or provide work experience, like observation, training or practising work tasks.”

The more productive the work completed by the intern and the longer the arrangement, the more likely it is that an employment relationship has been created.

This shouldn’t stop you from taking on workplace trainees. But knowing where the legal line is drawn can be tricky.

The HR Dept are experts in the ever-changing Fair Work Act. Contact them for advice.


Bullying or banter- can you tell the difference?

Workplace bullying is no laughing matter, as discovered recently by a man whose unfair dismissal claim was rejected by the Fair Work Commission. They upheld the StarTrack employee’s dismissal (after 17 years’ service) for racial slurs towards colleagues.

He claimed no-one had complained about the comments he described as “good-hearted banter” between colleagues.

However, the Commissioner observed that the racial components of workplace ’banter’ and swearing distinguished it from “robust language or verbal jousting”.

There have been several cases where the FWC has had to differentiate between banter and bullying, and definitions are constantly changing.

In 2018, one in five Australian employees reported being bullied. It’s a complex situation to assess and results in billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.

The HR Dept can help you with up-to-date advice on managing challenging workplace behaviours.


Workplace mental health

In Australia, working women are far more likely than their male counterparts to experience a mental health condition, a new report has discovered.

The research, by mental health organisation SuperFriend, found that nearly one quarter of working women were currently experiencing a mental health condition compared with 15% of men.

They surveyed more than 5000 business owners, senior managers and workers across Australia, using proven indicators of workplace mental health.

26% of women surveyed cited cases of bullying while 23% said they experienced a lack of flexible work arrangements. 23% also reported work-related insomnia.

Only one in ten women said they were strongly optimistic that the state of mental health and wellbeing in their workplace would improve.

SuperFriend chief executive, Margo Lydon said they found women had very different workplace experiences to men, “perhaps because men are more heavily represented in senior management roles with a higher share of voice in workplace policies and practices“.

She added that this represents a clear opportunity for organisations to better engage their female employees and improve their workplace experiences.

Lydon offered several ways for employers to change the current status quo including:

  • Having qualified female candidates on shortlists for management roles even while they’re on parental leave
  • Improving return to work policies
  • Analysing gender pay gaps and
  • Offering greater flexibility regardless of gender

The research also found improved practices would increase most working women’s feelings of being valued and of bringing their ‘best self’ to work. In fact 57% said it would increase their commitment to the organisation.

Mentally healthy workers are more productive, which in turn improves profitability.

For advice on building a healthy and productive workplace where all your employees bring their best, contact The HR Dept.


It’s coming… Employers, are you ready for the single touch payroll deadline?

If you haven’t heard, all employers will be required by law to implement single touch payroll (STP) from 1 July 2019.

The ATO wants increased visibility into employers’ payrolls to ensure they pay their PAYG withholding and meet super obligations.

From 1 July, employers will be required to send their payroll information to the ATO every pay period. To do this, they can choose to use their accounting or payroll software with STP or they can use a third party.

The benefits of digital payroll to employers include a reduced chance of errors and time saved at the end of the financial year, as they no longer need to issue group certificates to employees.

Figures from the Bureau of Statistics show there are approximately 782,000 businesses that will need to get STP-ready.

The HR Dept can help to ensure you are ready for the 1 July deadline.


The quiet form of discrimination damaging staff & profitability

Despite Australians staying in the workplace longer, ageism remains a leading form of discrimination. In fact, more than 25% of working Australians aged over 50 have experienced ageism.

Employers need to remember, older workers are frequently an asset, possessing years of knowledge and experience.

Tackling ageism in your workplace can be assisted by creating a culture where older workers are valued for their experience. They can be assisted with planning for retirement, while sharing their knowledge and skills with younger employees through mentoring and training programs.

The HR Dept can help you boost your bottom line by establishing a company where everyone feels valued and included.

 

People Matter February 2019

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How to deal with workplace romance

What do you do if love is in the air at your office? According to international leadership coach, Karen Gately, organisations need to acknowledge that workplace romances are common with many people meeting their life partner at work.

However, problems can and do arise when colleagues become more than friends, especially when relationship issues flow over into the workplace.

Another sticky dating area occurs when there’s a direct line of report or a power imbalance between involved staff.

“In those cases, HR has to address the relationship immediately – and that could mean people moving or leaving jobs – because there’s a very clear conflict,” Gately says.

“It can very easily undermine the confidence of the rest of the team because they start to doubt whether fair decisions are being made in relation to this individual, to their career, promotional opportunities, income and all the rest of it.”

A very public example occurred when Barnaby Joyce allegedly leveraged his position to get his mistress, Vikki Campion, a job in Senator Matt Canavan’s office in April 2017.

Gately suggests that the best approach is ensuring you create “a cultural environment that sets clear expectations around professionalism and conduct.”

Staff need to know from the outset that bringing personal dramas or arguments into the workplace is not acceptable. Nor is canoodling by the office coffee machine or in the breakout area.

Gately recommends making sure clear policies are in place, which can be referred to when dealing with any issues.

The last thing you need is a romantic conflict escalating into bullying or claims of sexual harassment. Nor do you want the worry of lost productivity and increased staff turnover that can be caused by office romances.

The HR Dept can help you create a ‘romance policy’ to suit your organisation. They can also advise you if you’re dealing with an existing issue.

For practical advice on how to avoid workplace romance problems, contact The HR Dept.


The remote working revolution is here. Don’t get left behind!

With 50% of workers expected to be operating remotely by 2020, businesses need to get prepared now.

This trend has been driven by changing family demographics, high housing costs and the rise of technology that enables remote communication.

When done right, remote working can be hugely beneficial for your business, leading to:

  • Higher employee morale
  • Reduced turnover
  • Access to a more diverse talent pool and
  • Savings on office space and overheads

Nonetheless, many organisations struggle with effectively implementing remote working. Key issues include creating a strong company culture, preventing employee isolation and tracking productivity.

With the right strategy, these problems can be overcome.

For example, productivity can be measured by results, quality of work and customer satisfaction.

Holding regular virtual meetings and annual company retreats can address employee isolation. Positive culture might include throwing virtual parties and celebrating employee achievements – both personal and professional.

Don’t get left behind! The HR Dept can help your business take advantage of all the positives a remote workforce can provide.


Whispering manager loses Fair Work claim

In the post-#MeToo era, there’s no excuse for any tolerance of behaviour that could be perceived as workplace sexual harassment.

This was borne out recently when a manager lost a bid to be reinstated after being fired from his job at a Queensland Coles.

52-year-old Peter Angelakos had faced 39 allegations of inappropriate conduct by multiple women.

The complainants told the Fair Work Commission that the manager stood “uncomfortably close” to female employees, touched them inappropriately, made remarks about their appearance and sent multiple Facebook friend requests.

One 17-year-old co-worker reported the manager touched her inappropriately and whispered “good evening” in her ear. She told the commission his actions made her feel anxious and frightened. When this behaviour was repeated the next day, she was prompted to make a formal complaint.

The manager denied the allegations, claiming another manager had conspired to mount the complaints and that there was “insufficient evidence” to prove them.

But Fair Work Commissioner Jennifer Hunt upheld Coles’ decision to fire him, finding his termination was not unjust or unreasonable.

The FWC found “at least two serious matters that constitute a valid reason for the dismissal.”

“When the complaints are compiled, the sheer volume is concerning,” said the commissioner, who also rejected Angelakos’ conspiracy theories.

In her judgment, Hunt cited the #MeToo movement. She noted that it had galvanised workers, particularly the female employees at Coles, to come forward so that sexual harassment allegations could be investigated.

Don’t risk a Fair Work hearing. The HR Dept can help to protect your business. They will work with you to develop clear and comprehensive policies about appropriate workplace behaviour and how to effectively manage complaints.


New reverse onus of proof laws begin to take hold

In the first case of legal action utilising new reverse onus of proof laws, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has instituted proceedings against two fast food outlets and their directors.

The new rules require employers to disprove underpayment allegations when they have failed to keep adequate time and wages records or issue pay slips.

These rules apply to conduct occurring after September 2017.

Previously, some employers had avoided facing litigation because the FWO could not present sufficient evidence in court to prove underpayments.

“Employers should be on notice that this loophole is now closed and the Fair Work Ombudsman will make full use of the new laws to protect vulnerable workers” said acting FWO Kristen Hannah.

The fast food outlets and their directors now face penalties of up to $63,000 per contravention.

Contact the HR Dept for advice on keeping accurate wage and entitlement records.


On-the-job training key to future-ready workforce

The need for workplace learning is set to significantly increase over the next two decades so employers need to ramp up their mentoring and on-the-job training.

Analysis by AlphaBeta found that by 2040, the average Australian will need to spend an additional three hours per week in education and training.

According to the new research, formal and informal workplace training will need to comprise nearly 42% of a person’s lifetime skills training.

The researchers recommend employers identify how technology and other forces are likely to impact their workforce and then investigate any gaps in employee skills or training.

The HR Dept can help with personalised recommendations for your business.

People Matter January 2019

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ABC’s latest casualty… casual staff underpayments

In a case that highlights the complexities of paying casual staff, the ABC has admitted to underpaying up to 2500 casual employees over six years.

Their Chief People Officer, Rebekah Donaldson, apologised and promised the ABC would remedy the situation.

“A detailed review is underway to confirm how penalties, allowances and loadings should have been calculated and applied over the past six years to about 2500 ‘flat-rate’ casual staff,” she said.

The ABC was notified about the underpayment issue by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). The ABC then notified the Fair Work Ombudsman about it.

This comes after the ABC confirmed last month that they had underpaid one casual staff member $19,000 over three years following a CPSU complaint.

The ABC Section Secretary at the CPSU, Sinddy Ealy, said she expected the broadcaster will face a hefty bill for the under-payments.

“If there are 2500 people affected and one individual with three years’ employment under their belt was owed $19,000, we’re anticipating the liability to be sizeable,” she said.

“We’ve had concerns about the ABC’s over-reliance on and payment of casual workers for years. As recently as 2016 the CPSU was assured by the ABC that it was paying casual employees in accordance with the terms and conditions of the ABC staff agreement. Clearly that’s not the case,” said Ealy.

The ABC isn’t alone in mismanaging casual staff payments. Last September, David Leslie Hinchcliffe was ordered to pay $25,000 by the Federal Circuit Court for underpaying three casual employees. His company was also required to pay $119,000 after the FWO took legal action.

The Court found Hinchcliffe and his company had:

  • Failed to make any payments for various periods of employment
  • Did not make and keep employee records
  • Didn’t provide payslips to the workers and
  • Failed to comply with a notice to produce records or documents

If large companies with dedicated HR teams (like the ABC) are making costly errors in calculating casual staff payments, how is your business faring? Don’t risk getting caught in a case with the FWO – contact The HR Dept for accurate and up-to-date advice on conditions and pay for casuals.


Bad behaviour. Could zero-tolerance help defence of unfair dismissal claim?

It seems that a zero-tolerance policy is your best bet when dealing with staff behaving badly.

Recently, the Fair Work Commission threw out an unfair dismissal case raised by an employee who was fired following repeated breaches of her workplace’s policies.

The dismissal centred on a May 2018 argument about office temperature, in which the employee suggested her supervisor had “natural, extra padding”. This followed two previous formal warnings about her conduct and being sent home on several prior occasions.

The company welcomed the FWC’s decision, saying, “ORC International values a respectful working environment and does not tolerate bullying, discrimination or harassment in its workplace.”

And with new research showing that “workplace incivility” – like rudeness and disrespect – can cause lost sleep for people dealing with mean co-workers, there’s even more reason to nip nastiness in the bud.

Contact the HR Dept for advice and assistance in writing policies that encourage a positive workplace culture. We can also assist by providing professional advice on how to deal with inappropriate staff behaviour.


Biased robots- the pitfalls of AI in recruitment

Everyone has unconscious biases and these can impact on our ability to conduct fair and accurate job interviews.

To overcome this issue, systems using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to determine candidate suitability are being explored.

While it might seem like a machine should be able to make an unbiased judgment, things are more complicated. A study at the University of Melbourne, for example, highlighted how easily AI could discriminate and make incorrect assessments.

Researcher Dr Niels Wouters created a “biometric mirror” – a computer algorithm which analyses personality traits and temperament based on characteristics in a photograph. The research then compared data from the perceptions of a large group of people reviewing thousands of other faces.

Wouters says the project illustrates how technology can be used to make assumptions that impact people’s careers.

“For instance, you might be perceived as aggressive or irresponsible and thus be denied a highly desired promotion or even rejected for an interview,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Imagine having no control over how these algorithms are used to rule you out for management positions.”

The serious risk of bias for employers using such technology was highlighted in 2017, when Amazon was forced to abandon research into an Artificial Intelligence recruiting tool after learning it was discriminating against women.

Amazon realised its system was favouring male candidates for software development and other technical roles because it was observing that most resumes came from men. In addition, programmers couldn’t guarantee the AI wouldn’t teach itself other discriminatory selection practices.

Recruiting the best person for your position is complex. If you are unsure how to fairly assess candidates prior to or during interviews, contact The HR Dept for expert advice.


How to stop your star performers from jumping ship

Retaining good staff is a key issue for HR leaders. With an average cost of $22,135 to replace existing staff, it makes even better business sense. But new research shows almost two in five employees (37%) are casually or actively seeking new opportunities. A similar number would consider changing employers if approached.

The Ceridian 2018 Pulse of Talent report showed that 37% of employees are likely to move on because of the financial offer, while 39% are looking for new career challenges.

Lisa Sterling, Chief People and Culture Officer at Ceridian, said “the real reason a person becomes a flight risk is because employers fail to focus on addressing career growth and development”.

She suggests companies wanting to retain their star employees should emphasise how their contributions make a difference.

The HR Dept can advise you on strategies for attracting and retaining great staff for your business.

 


CEO seeks champagne-quality PA on beer budget

In a job ad that recently went viral, a 28-year-old “entrepreneur” promised applicants the “most challenging” and “most rewarding position  you’ve ever had”.

Okay so far, but … it goes on to say that candidates will be held personally responsible for “making the CEO look good, feel good and perform at a higher level”.

Despite the position being part-time, candidates should “expect after hours and weekend calls” and includes an exhaustive list of tasks to perform – from “coffee to contract execution”.

Don’t make the same mistake. Use The HR Dept to craft a job advertisement that is engaging and appropriate.

People Matter December 2018

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Important changes to flexible working requests

At the start of December, important changes to flexible working requests were made by the Fair Work Commission. Under the new rules, employers must make a genuine attempt to reach agreement with eligible employees requesting flexible working arrangements. These requests can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

Eligible employees need to make a written request explaining what changes are being asked for and why.

Once employers receive the request, they must discuss it with their employee and try to reach an agreement about the changes. Employers need to consider the employee’s needs, the consequences for them if changes aren’t made and any reasonable business grounds for refusing the request.

A written response to the request must be provided within 21 days. If the request is refused, this response must include reasons for the refusal.

Employers can only refuse a request on reasonable business grounds, which include:

  • The requested arrangements will be too costly for the business to implement
  • An inability to change other employees’ working arrangements to accommodate the request
  • It’s impractical to change other employees’ arrangements or hire new staff to accommodate the request
  • The request would result in significant loss of productivity or have a significantly negative impact on customer service

 

Examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to working hours, location or work patterns (e.g. split shifts).

Employees (except casuals) who have worked for at least 12 months with the same employer can ask for flexible working arrangements for various reasons, such as caring for a child who is school-aged or younger, being a carer, experiencing family or domestic violence and many others.

Casual employees can also request flexible working arrangements if they’ve been with the same employer for at least 12 months and expect to continue working for them.

Employers agreeing to flexible working arrangements need to think about ways to ensure performance is not compromised and how performance will be monitored. They might also need to deal with situations where flexible working arrangements are causing problems.

The HR Dept are experts in negotiating flexible working arrangements. Contact them for advice about how to deal with the changes or if you’re unsure how to proceed when a request is received.

 


Prepare now for a sweltering summer

Australia is set to sweat through a long, hot summer, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting an 80% chance of higher-than-normal temperatures between December and February in most states.

With an El Niño likely to form before the end of 2018, the chance of even warmer conditions across eastern Australia is now estimated to be triple the normal risk.

It’s important for employers to understand the heightened risk associated with heatwave conditions and how they might impact your staff. For example, extreme heat can negatively affect the well-being of pregnant women or staff with certain medical conditions.

You need to support your staff though the heat by ensuring air-conditioning systems are working effectively and providing cool water. It may also be appropriate to modify the workplace dress code to help staff remain comfortable and productive.

The HR Dept can advise on appropriate ways to support your staff and business through a sweltering summer. So call us for advice.

 


Tips for a disaster-free Christmas shindig

While everyone’s been to a work Christmas party where someone’s got drunk and done something stupid, nobody wants to see their staff top Santa’s naughty list at the office bash.

Workers love to see their bosses relax the reins a little, but the last thing any employer wants to deal with is a party disaster.

Some potential pitfalls of allowing things to get out of control include:

  • Wrecked reputations – if an intoxicated colleague overshares it can have disastrous personal and professional fallout
  • Property or personal damage – no employer wants to deal with equipment that gets broken in a revelry, let alone someone getting injured
  • Unlawful behaviour – crimes committed during work events include drink driving, theft and sexual assault
  • Loss of life – it sounds extreme, but accidents do happen and people have died during work functions

Employers can minimise risk by laying down some ground rules for Christmas party etiquette as well as being prepared to deal swiftly with any inappropriate behaviour.

Explain to your team in the lead up to the party that you want them to have fun, but that doesn’t mean dropping the professional standards. Leaders should keep a lookout for any behaviour breeches and intervene when necessary.

Serving alcohol responsibly, and with food, can help reduce the chances of people making poor choices while intoxicated. You might also want to plan how to get any inebriated team members home safely.

If you’re going all-out with your end-of-year do (like one company that’s flying its workers for an all-expenses paid trip to Thailand) then you’ll have even more considerations around staff safety.

However your business will be celebrating Christmas, contact the HR Dept to ensure it’s memorable for all the right reasons.

 


Robots rule at Amazon this Christmas

You might have heard of Amazon box robots. Well this Christmas, the e-commerce giant is using real ones to keep up with seasonal demand.

Amazon are planning to hire 100,000 temporary workers over the holiday shopping period – 20,000 fewer than for 2016 and 2017. Instead, the online retailer will be relying more heavily on automation and the use of robots in their facilities.

These advanced tech solutions were first implemented a few years ago, and are making Amazon “more efficient”, internet analyst Mark May told CNBC.

In 2016, a Quartz report claimed that one Amazon warehouse robot took 15 minutes to sort, carry, pack, and ship items – tasks which a human worker apparently required an hour to complete.

Although Amazon are hiring fewer seasonal staff, they are reportedly focused on hiring full-time employees for their fulfilment centres and other facilities.

 


Want motivated workers? The answer lies in simple things

Reducing employee turnover is good for business but what can companies do about it? Recent research by Reward Gateway reveals some interesting answers.

A bad manager tops the workplace demotivating list at 46% followed by feeling invisible or undervalued at 43%.

74% of workers also believed their managers should do more to inspire them.

The results show simple things can make the biggest difference to employee motivation. For men, receiving a bonus improves their long-term motivation while for women it’s being shown appreciation for their work.

Contact the HR Dept for professional advice about building a healthy and motivated team.

People Matter November 2018

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Discrepancy between CEO earnings and average salaries sparks protests

If you discovered your company’s top dog was earning 435 times more than you, you’d probably be barking mad. That scenario is real and happening in Australia. Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the salary of Domino’s Pizza CEO, Don Meij, was almost 435 times that of the average Australian worker.

Mr Meij rakes in serious dough – $36.84 million to be exact – compared to the average full-time Australian salary of $84,661.20 per year.

Furthermore, research from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) found that 8 in 10 Australian workers haven’t had a pay increase that kept up with rising living costs in the last 12 months. In the same period, almost half of all Australian workers received no pay increase at all.

In October, nationwide rallies started with the organisers aiming to highlight “exorbitant CEO pay” and company profits compared to the “very low or non-existent” pay rises of many Australians.

We’re sick to death of CEOs telling low-paid workers they need a pay cut,” the ACTU posted on Twitter. “It’s time to give working people the tools they need to secure fair pay rises.”

Mr Meij isn’t the only one earning big dollars. The country’s top 100 CEOs have received an average annual pay increase of 12.4%.

Working people have had enough of businesses taking obscene profits and CEOs making exorbitant salaries at the expense of the pay rises and job security we need to get ahead of the cost of living,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said at the Melbourne rally.

Thousands of workers have attended rallies, with the last one having been held in Canberra on 20 November.

However, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has said unions are misinforming their members.

According to a report in the Guardian, ACCI’s chief executive James Pearson, said the “ACTU’s campaign is really about putting power into the hands of big unions, disempowering employees, and removing their choices.”

Negotiating wages that are fair and commensurate with workers’ skills and experience can be tricky. The HR Dept can give you accurate and confidential advice about fair wages and pay increases.

 


Work-life balance concept outdated in contemporary workplaces

“Work-life balance” has been a buzz phrase for years, but a new report shows the concept is outdated.

Researchers noted that “work” is based on the idea of permanent full-time employment – which is increasingly less common with the rise of part-time, contract and gig work.

“Life” usually relates to childcare responsibilities, but “people may want to balance work with pursuing education or religious responsibilities … or simply other activities or hobbies,” Curtin Business School associate professor Julia Richardson told HR Daily.

She says employers must consider the needs of individual employees if they want a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Neglecting the environment may drive away customers, but neglecting people’s lives may drive away key members of the workforce,” wrote management guru Charles Handy.

Ensuring employees have a happy work-life balance will not only protect your workers’ wellbeing – it’s best for business. Contact the HR Dept for help with getting the balance right.

 


Union push for sexual harassment to come under Fair Work Act

Employers could soon be obligated to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

There is talk that Unions NSW plan to call for legislative changes that would see sexual harassment treated as a health and safety issue because companies are currently not obligated to prevent their workers from being harassed.

The reality is, sexual harassment has a terrible impact on people’s health,” said Unions NSW Assistant Secretary, Emma Maiden. “We’ve seen it with the #MeToo movement, so there’s no doubt there should be an onus on employers to provide a workplace that is free from sexual harassment.”

The call comes in response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s national workplace sexual harassment survey, which showed that 25% of women and 16% of men have experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment in the past 12 months.

However, fewer than 1 in 5 people who were sexually harassed at work in the past 5 years made a complaint. Of those who did, 19% were labelled as troublemakers, 18% were ostracised or victimised by colleagues and 17% resigned.

Unions NSW want to see changes incorporated into industrial law. Then “unions (or groups of workers) could take complaints of sexual harassment, and failures by employers to address the problem, to the Fair Work Commission – an easy-to-access, no-cost jurisdiction.”

It’s in every employer’s interests to have policies that support their employees and maintain a harassment-free workplace.

Sexual harassment is a complex issue and laws are rapidly changing. Contact the HR Dept for up-to-date advice on developing workplace policies that address the issue and how best to handle any concerns.

 


Social media proving a snare for some businesses

Don’t be fooled into thinking social media conundrums are reserved for social interactions. Two recent claims to the Fair Work Commission prove otherwise.

Both cases revolved around claims of unfair dismissal. One involved a supervisor who posted offensive and threatening messages about a subordinate on Facebook, causing her distress and concern for her safety.

The other involved an OHS representative at a mine who posted on Facebook that “work shifts are off” over the Christmas holidays, without being authorised to do so. This led to significant confusion among employees who had volunteered to work during the break.

In both cases, the FWC ruled that dismissal was justified, but they highlight the importance of companies having social media policies that clarify expectations and explain consequences for failing to observe them.

The HR Dept can help you develop a comprehensive social media policy to protect your business and staff.

 


Yoga, naps and unlimited leave – workplace perks from top employers

Nap pods, onsite yoga and free cooking classes. It might sound like a health retreat, but it’s actually the perks some companies offer employees.

Google, Netflix, Virgin and others are providing these perks to help secure – and keep – the best talent. It seems to be working!

Businesses offering wellbeing perks and flexibility are topping LinkedIn’s list of companies Australians most want to work for.

Creating a culture where employees can discuss their needs for flexibility, along with prioritising their wellbeing, helps businesses attract great staff and reduce turnover.

Contact The HR Dept for personalised advice.

People Matter October 2018

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Senate inquiry says Fair Work Act is unfit for future

Australia’s Fair Work Act is at least ten years behind where it should be, thanks to the rapid rise of “non-standard” workers and technological change, according to a Senate committee report published last month.

The inquiry into the future of work in Australia concluded that significant reform and improved planning is needed to address growing workforce inequality.

A key problem area is “non-standard work” which includes people employed on a casual, temporary, on-call, labour hire and gig basis. The committee found that while these practices are now commonplace, they circumvent the traditional employer/employee relationship that has been the foundation of Australia’s workforce.

Furthermore, this type of work is frequently associated with low wages and limited access to entitlements like sick leave, holiday pay and superannuation, the report says.

Another issue raised was the “suboptimal” consultation by employers on technological change affecting employees. The report noted that under current laws, workers may not be able to negotiate collectively on the impacts of such change in their workplaces.

The committee recommended that Australia:

  • Reform the definition of ‘employment’, including broadening the term to capture gig economy workers.
  • Improve the superannuation rights of non-standard workers, abolish the $450 minimum threshold for superannuation contributions, improve access to flexible working and implement a portable leave scheme.
  • Reform the labour-hire industry with a licensing scheme, a test for owners/directors of labour hire companies, a transparent fee structure, penalties for using unlicensed labour-hire firms and giving labour-hire workers the same wages and conditions as employees.
  • Strengthen bargaining power and consultation requirements for workers and unions, including requirements for employers to consult with workers and trade unions before introducing major technological change.
  • Introduce a new government body and a plan to address workforce changes.

The committee was largely comprised of Labor senators, with a dissenting report released by Liberal National Senators saying it “turned the inquiry into a union directed Labor election campaign exercise.”

Concerned about how these workplace law changes might affect your business? The HR Dept can help ensure you stay on top of all your legal requirements.

 


Want to keep your workers happy? Lighten up!

While some workplaces go all out to keep their people happy – think gyms, unlimited caffeine and bring-your-fur-baby-to-work days – the solution may be far simpler. Recent research reported in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found access to natural light trumped these “modern day” perks.

This might seem a no-brainer if you’ve toiled under harsh flickering fluoros, but the benefits are backed by studies showing a connection between natural light and employee wellbeing.

The HBR reported that 47% of employees admit feeling tired from a lack of natural light, while 43% say it makes them feel gloomy.

This study found optimising natural light improves workers’ wellbeing significantly – those with daylight office environments reported a 51% reduction in eyestrain, 63% lower incidence of headaches and 56% less drowsiness.

Letting some light in could provide the boost your workers need.

The HR Dept are experts on employee satisfaction and productivity. Contact us to discuss ways to enhance the wellness of your workforce.

 


Why denying flexible work requests may land you in court

Australian employers will soon be forced to justify denying requests for flexible working arrangements, under changes to modern awards to be implemented by the Fair Work Commission.

Under the changes, employers must “genuinely try to reach an agreement on a change in working arrangements”, the Commission said in its decision.

The new rules will require employers to consider an employee’s individual circumstances, the consequences if changes are not made and alternative arrangements if a flexible work request is denied.

Workers will have the right to mount a legal challenge if an employer fails to adequately consider their request and provide a detailed written explanation about the business grounds for refusal.

The Commission said its decision was a response to “significant unmet employee needs for flexible working arrangements” in Australia, where about 25% of workers were unhappy with their working arrangements.

An exact date for the implementation of the change has not been set.

While the decision might seem like another burden for business owners, a report by Smart Company suggests seeing it as an opportunity to “future-proof” your business. Millennials are predicted to represent 75% of the workforce by 2025 and a Deloitte study shows 75% of them consider a “work from home” policy important. So this could be the catalyst to make some changes that will benefit your workers and your business.

Many businesses don’t have an HR department to manage these employee issues. But The HR Dept is dedicated to understanding them for you. Contact us to discuss how to use changes like these to build a better business.

 


Asleep on the job? Problem affecting 40% of Australians

If you’re yawning while reading this, you could be one of almost 40% of Australians getting inadequate sleep, as reported in a Sleep Health Foundation study.

For many, anxiety over sleeplessness is compounding the problem – adding to their difficulty in drifting off.

Another study explored the sleeping habits of almost 400 business leaders and found this “generally sleep-deprived population” were experiencing sleeping problems due to their inability to switch off from work.

This study also found evidence that respondents associated sleep loss with productivity and success, a “common yet faulty” notion in which sleep deprivation is expected in ambitious leaders.

If drowsy leaders aren’t enough, the implications of having exhausted staff driving or operating machinery could bring new meaning to the adage “you snooze, you lose.”

Efficiency and productivity don’t have to come at the sacrifice of sleep. Talk to The HR Dept about better ways of doing it.

 


Angry panda helping stressed Japanese workers

The Japanese have come up with a novel approach to dealing with the daily difficulties at work – Retsuko, a 25-year-old cartoon panda.

It is hoped Japanese viewers will identify with Retsuko as she vents her workplace frustrations. It’s another step in helping with Japan’s problem of karoshi – death from overwork.

Recently, a Japanese chairman resigned to take responsibility for the death of Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year-old employee who took her own life after complaining about excessive working hours.

You don’t need to become a cartoonist to look after your employees. Contact The HR Dept for advice.

People Matter September

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Pizza chain cheats 20 workers out of hard-earned dough


Domino’s have broken a new record, but it’s not a record good businesses will want to emulate. The Fair Work Ombudsman has issued Australia’s largest pizza chain with 17 formal cautions, following an audit of 33 stores over a one-month period.

Breaches of workplace law were found in 19 stores after inspectors interviewed 144 Domino’s workers and analysed 874 employee records. They discovered 20 workers had been underpaid a total of $1,978 in that month, along with other breaches such as non-payment for:

  • Hours worked
  • Delivery allowances
  • Leave entitlements
  • Unauthorised deductions and
  • Record keeping breaches

The findings have prompted the Fair Work Ombudsman to call upon Domino’s head office to take action as the results indicate systemic issues in the franchise. “It’s in head office’s best interests to set clear expectations with their stores, provide them with comprehensive training, support and regularly check that workplace laws are complied with,” Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker said.

Ms Parker explained that recent law changes mean franchisors can now be held liable for workplace breaches by businesses within their networks.

Investigations are ongoing with only four stores found to be fully compliant with workplace laws, while ten non-compliant stores are owned by one franchisee.

It’s not the first time this has happened. “The Fair Work Ombudsman has worked with Domino’s head office for several years to try to promote a culture of workplace compliance,” Ms Parker said. “While Domino’s have made some improvements to their processes, they should be closely monitoring their stores to ensure employees are being paid correctly.”

Receiving a formal caution puts a business on notice that future non-compliance could result in fines.

Ms Parker said the Fair Work Commission will “continue to closely monitor Domino’s across its network by responding to requests for assistance and assessing any intelligence we receive.”

Fair Work will undertake further compliance assessments of Domino’s within 12 months, including unannounced site visits.

Are you completely confident your business is compliant with Fair Work regulations?

Don’t take the risk! Your local HR Dept professional can help ensure you stay on the right side of workplace law. Contact them today.


The new Japanese cure for Monday-itis


The Japanese are known for inventions – think robots, reliable cars and karaoke – but their latest is a pearler. In a novel approach to improving work-life balance, Japanese workers could soon be taking Monday mornings off.

Named “Shining Mondays”, the proposal from the ministry of economy forms part of a broader plan to reduce employees’ overtime and deal with karoshi – death by overwork.

Under the proposal, employers will let staff clock on after lunch on Monday once a month. It will complement Premium Fridays, where staff finish early on the last Friday of each month.

Australians might not be suffering death by overwork just yet, but statistics from a 2017 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show we are struggling to achieve work-life balance. In fact we rank in the bottom third of OECD countries for working longer hours.

To find practical solutions for better work-life balance for you and your staff, contact The HR Dept.

 


Get more motion in your meetings (minus the risk)


Meetings may not be renowned for generating momentum, but a Sydney shared workspace is getting theirs on the move.

As part of “Step-tember” – an initiative encouraging people to take 10,000 steps every day in September – WeWork in George Street, Sydney ditched boardroom chairs in favour of treadmills.

Instead of sitting for meetings, staff walked or jogged in an approach aimed at getting people more active and increasing workplace productivity.

This seems to make perfect sense, given the strong evidence that good employee health and wellbeing boosts overall organisational health.

But…. what if someone sprained their ankle, or had a heart attack?

Workplace wellness programs need to be developed in light of Workplace Health and Safety regulations.

Contact the HR Dept to discuss ways to help your staff stay well while maintaining compliance with risk management and workplace safety.

 


How does investing in lifelong learning make smart business sense?


Just because your employees have the qualifications they need to do the work doesn’t mean they should stop learning.

Lifelong learning has proven to be the key to not just a sustainable workforce, but a profitable business. Research has found that companies offering structured training have an average 218% lower staff turnover rate and 24% higher profit margin.

While getting outside experts to run training is great, many companies already have an inbuilt multi-generational pool of knowledge waiting to be utilised.

Tim Reed, CEO of MYOB, says age is no barrier to learning. Rather, he sees incredible potential in his older workforce. In speaking with HRM, he says, “Knowledge is key in our business, and it’s built over time, so people who’ve been with us for a long period are some of our most precious resources.”

He even has a great grandmother on his team who has continued to thrive because she has never stopped learning.

Thinking ahead is vital when developing training. Reed recommends business leaders use foresight to figure out where skills-gaps might occur five years down the track so they can start training their existing people for those gaps now.

Future-proofing staff can reduce the risk of having major workforce challenges. And given that 7 out of 10 employees say that opportunities for training influences their decision to stay in the job, investing in training is a cost-effective way to keep your people.

The HR Dept offers training courses on a range of topics all designed to help your business thrive. The lessons learned will be invaluable to your staff. Contact us to find out what we offer and how you can benefit.


Can you dismiss staff for out-of-hours conduct?


An ex-Qantas employee has paid dearly for an alleged boozy binge with the Fair Work Commission backing the airline’s decision to fire him.

Flight attendant, Luke Urso, recently lost his unfair dismissal claim. He apparently consumed excessive alcohol while on what is called “slip time” – the time between flights.

Problems started when he collapsed, was hospitalised and recorded a blood-alcohol reading of .205. Urso was unable to work the following day and was suspended on pay during an investigation before Qantas dismissed him.

Because Urso’s employment was considered a “safety critical role”, his actions out-of-hours impaired his ability to safely conduct his job, legitimising his dismissal. Therefore the Fair Work Commission concluded his dismissal was not disproportionate to the gravity of the misconduct.

Unfair dismissal rules are complex – especially with staff out-of-hours behaviour. For reliable advice and assistance, contact The HR Dept.

 


NT auditor-general uncovers raft of expensive errors


A Northern Territory public servant has been overpaid nearly $500,000 thanks to a misplaced dot. Instead of $4,921.76, they were paid $492,176. This was one of over 700 overpayments made by NT government departments which were highlighted in a report by the auditor-general.

Further checks revealed one worker had accrued 4,775 hours (about $400,000 worth) of paid leave.

These findings emphasise the necessity of monitoring wages, leave entitlements and the need to deal swiftly with any issue.

The HR Dept can help you put strategies in place to make sure you avoid any expensive wage or entitlement errors. Contact them for professional advice.