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People Matter June 2017

457 all out

It’s had a good innings, but after more than 20 years, the 457 visa is being retired. This visa granted high-skilled foreign workers the right to employment in Australia, and to bring family members to live with them. Current visa holders will not be affected.

The 457 visa has been replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) which has been divided into 2 categories; a short term visa lasting two years with the option of a two-year extension; and a medium term visa which lasts four years. The medium-term visa will be targeted at those with specific higher skill levels.

So, what do employers need to know about the new visas?

The short-term visa will see a reduction in the number of relevant skilled jobs within its scope. Applicants for either visa will face more scrutiny under the new rules.

They’ll now be required to have two years’ relevant work experience, as well as to undergo a criminal history check. In addition, workers going for the new medium-term visa will need to demonstrate advanced English language skills.

The upper age limit for these temporary work visas will drop from 50 to 45. There will be no residency pathway under the short-term visa, and medium-term visa holders will see their permanent residency period increased from two to three years.

Companies must pay Australian market salary rates for all visa holders and need to meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold of $53,900.  Companies also face higher visa fees which are intended to fund more training for local workers. For the two-year visa the application charge will be $1,500 while for the four-year one, it will be $2,400.

The visa process can be complicated and difficult to understand, so if you need help navigating this new visa regime, then give The HR Dept a call. Our experts will be able to help you get the most from your workforce.

Why have a social media policy

Last August, a Melbourne-based salesman posted a crude Facebook status, containing an unpleasant comment about a manager!

Word got back to his employer and, needless to say, they weren’t pleased. Finding that it conflicted with their social media policy, they dismissed him.

The Fair Work Commission, however, considered it an unfair dismissal. They ordered $6,238 to be paid in compensation. Part of the reasoning was that the company had failed to communicate the social media policy effectively. In a further twist, it transpired that the employee was actually referring to a manager in his mother’s workplace.

Social media is ingrained in our lives, so this is a timely reminder to employees and employers to be careful whilst posting. For employers, it’s crucial not only to have a social media policy, but also to ensure that it’s well communicated to staff.

If you need help drafting a social media policy and/or distributing it, give us a call.

Coping with a widening skills gap

Do you have a problem recruiting people with the right academic qualifications?

In recent years, there has been a significant decline in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates in Australia. This shortage threatens the growth potential of companies that rely on these kinds of skillsets.

Who is responsible for encouraging young people to take up these subjects? Schools? The government? Universities? Employers? Well all of the above is probably the right answer.

Some businesses are taking a proactive role in developing the next generation of talent with skills relevant to 21st century business.

For example, Optus Business has teamed up with Macquarie University to create a cyber security hub. This will be a centre of excellence for research and development and teaching cyber skills. The aim is to train 1,000 people in cyber technologies over the next decade.

If you have the resource, such grand schemes can obviously pay dividends. But partnerships don’t have to be on such a scale.

For smaller businesses, it could be well worth the effort of reaching out to the alumni department of your local university. Often these will have initiatives for connecting their graduates and students with industry.

Sometimes you’ll have to accept that people of tertiary education age won’t have settled on a career. If they have the underlying ability, you may need to train them vocationally to get the desired skillset.

Looking beyond graduates to find the right talent, the Australian government also offers a comprehensive apprenticeship support scheme.

For companies, support includes commencement incentives, recommencement incentives, completion incentives as well as specific measures that support the training of adults, school-based people and those with disability.

And there is support for the apprentices too. This includes a Living Away From Home Allowance (if eligibility requirements are met), Trade Support Loans of up to $20,000 (only repayable when income rises above the minimum repayment level); as well as other assistance packages based on age and for Indigenous Australians.

If you need to develop strategies for recruiting 21st century skills into your business, call the team at The HR Dept.

Spotting an unhappy employee

In any organisation, however well run, sooner or later employees will want to leave. Sometimes it might be for the best – which is not an issue. But other times you may be at risk of losing a talented team member.

Holding regular appraisal/feedback chats can help you spot the signs that they’re not happy. Even then, make clear that the door is always open to discuss issues.

If you know there is a problem, discuss changing their job role, if practicable, to suit them better. But ultimately, if they do resign you have to respect their decision.

The pursuit of happiness

Most people spend a third of their time at work. So it makes sense to be happy there, right? Not just for the well-being of individuals. But also because it’s known that happy workers perform better.

So, aside from the obvious – like more money – what can employers do to promote happiness? Here are some pointers:

Explain the meaning. What are your workers creating? What benefit are they providing to customers? Seeing how they fit into the bigger picture will help people feel better about their job and be more productive.

Encourage smiling. On the phone, in meetings. Smiling encourages positive thinking and tone. And better still, it’s contagious!

Take a break. Teach people to recognise when to take a break. Too much stress is damaging, so promoting downtime to relax, stretch, exercise or meditate can work wonders for the employee and their performance.

Reliable references

Last year, Aussie radio hosts Hamish & Andy uncovered “the best bloke in the world” who was perfectly happy to give a job reference for a stranger. And (not knowing he was live on air) what a reference he gave!

Funny though it was, it drew attention to the validity of CV references and how much you can rely on them. As recruiting the right staff is crucial to the success of SMEs, it is certainly a concern.

Whilst we always recommend taking up written references, previous employers are often far more forthcoming about an individual on the telephone than they are on paper. 

The HR Dept can help with all aspects of the recruitment process. If you need any help, get in touch.


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