People Matter September 2020
What are your obligations regarding employee
mental well-being during COVID-19?
Pandemic aside, 1 in 5 workers in Australia are affected by mental health issues. That’s huge! Add the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, and this rate is expected to increase. As employers, it’s essential to look after both the physical and mental health of our employees. In fact, employers have a legal duty of care for work-related mental health (also called psychological injuries).
Why does mental health matter?
According to Safe Work Australia (SWA), at least 6% of workers compensation claims, not including pandemic numbers, are for mental-health-related claims. Work-related stress has also been linked to absenteeism, presenteeism and poor work quality or performance. It affects not only the individual but their family, colleagues and your business because happy and healthy employees are more productive.
What causes work-related mental health?
According to SWA, “Stress is a physical, mental and emotional reaction that a worker may experience when the demands of their work exceed their ability or resources to cope.”
Work pressure, uncertainty or lack of role clarity, bullying and harassment, poor support, poor workplace relations, remote or isolated work are all factors that can cause or increase work related-mental health issues.
Navigating mental well-being across your business
The coronavirus was unexpected so there was no time to plan for it. Its impact will be felt across the board, by business owners, managers and employees alike. Yet, everyone will still be expected to perform at a certain level. Here are some tips to help you navigate the mental well-being of staff during this challenging time:
- Early intervention is vital in reducing the impact of mental health issues in the workplace
- Create a supportive environment that leaves no room for stigma or discrimination
- Keep in touch with all your workers – especially the remote ones
- Monitor behaviours, output and appearance so you can promptly identify potential issues
- Signpost support to those in need
Remember, it’s your obligation as an employer to ensure your employees have a safe and healthy workplace. If you need assistance or advice, get in touch with the HR Dept.
Re-hiring, redundancies and risk. What you need to know
What a year we’ve had so far! With many businesses hit hard by the pandemic, some employers have been forced to make staff redundant to stay viable. However, things are slowly picking up in most states. This means there are employers wondering when they can recruit for roles after making redundancies. Sadly, there’s no magic formula here. There are, however, a few things to take into consideration.
Were they genuine redundancies?
Fair Work Australia defines a genuine redundancy as:
- The employee’s job doesn’t need to be done by anyone in the organisation anymore
- The employer is unable to offer the employee another opportunity within the business
- The business followed the requirements of any relevant award, enterprise or employment agreement
In other words, the basic functions, responsibilities and duties of this role are no longer needed at all. Based on this definition, requiring someone else to fill the role of the redundant employee means it wasn’t genuine.
Choosing to re-hire the person who was previously in the role can also be tricky. Again, it calls into question how genuine the redundancy was. Employers must be wary of unfair dismissal claims and ensure their redundancy processes are fair and compliant.
When can I re-hire after redundancy?
If you have followed all procedures correctly and can prove that:
- The redundancy was genuine
- The need to reinstate the role was honestly unforeseen and due to changed circumstances
re-hiring for the position could be considered.
Redundancies are fraught with risk but the HR Dept is here to help you make the right decisions for your business. Ask us for help.
Don’t forget! Changes to JobKeeper come into effect from 28th September
From 28 September 2020, JobKeeper payments will be based on actual turnover in the relevant periods. To be eligible, business owners will need to demonstrate a significant loss of turnover during the September quarter.
To continue to be eligible for the March 2021 payment, businesses will need to show a significant loss in the previous quarter.
Payments will be made in two tiers.
From 28 September 2020 – 3 January 2021, employees working 20 hours or more per week in the four weekly pay periods before the reference period, will receive $1,200 per fortnight. Employees working less than 20 hours per week during the same period will receive $750 per fortnight.
From 4 January 2021 – 28 March 2021, employees working 20 hours or more per week in the four weekly pay periods before the reference period, will receive $1,000 per fortnight. Employees working less than 20 hours per week during the same period will receive $650 per fortnight.
If you have questions about accessing the JobKeeper scheme, contact the HR Dept.
Making employment decisions during COVID-19 is riskier than ever!
Since the pandemic hit our shores, the Fair Work Commission has had a significant increase in disputes. Six months down the track, the Commission has found a positive correlation between retrenchment levels, unemployment rates and unfair dismissals.
It’s fair to say employers are at a higher risk than usual of Fair Work claims due to COVID19. Many of these disputes concern how employers have rolled out JobKeeper payments and work directions.
Disputes have ranged from JobKeeper eligibility and payment processes to JobKeeper stand down enabling directions (including reduced or increased hours under these directions) and requests around annual leave.
From the disputes that have arisen so far, it’s clear. Employers need professional advice before making redundancies or changes to employee conditions such as their roles, hours, duties or wages. In addition, the recent JobKeeper provisions and the new category of ‘legacy employers’ included in the Fair Work Act, are creating even more complexity for employers.
The HR Dept is here to help you identify and implement the best course of action for both your business and your employees.
Team building tips for a socially distanced workforce
While COVID-19 has stunted our ability to socialise, it shouldn’t stop team building activities (even if your team aren’t in the same place)!
Before you start, ensure your team has an open channel of communication to share their ‘water-cooler’ moments. Once that’s in place, get creative.
Quizzes can challenge team members on a variety of fun topics; bake challenges can have the team sharing their creations on camera while remote Pictionary can be a hoot. For health and wellness, try a fitness challenge or share mindfulness moments.
The benefits of continuing team building, despite the distance, include happier working environments and better collaboration. Ask your team for their ideas and reach out to us if you need help.
People Matter August 2020
We’re all feeling this pandemic where it hurts – in our back pocket!
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly hit businesses and individuals where it hurts most, in the back pocket. It’s an economic and financial crisis that most of us have never experienced. Thankfully, we live in a country that has stepped up to help with continued financial and economic support.
In the recent mini-budget update from Treasury, further support measures were announced. They include:
- Expanded eligibility for income support payments
- Expanding eligibility and extending the JobKeeper program
- Temporary cashflow support for employers
- Increasing and extending the instant asset write-off
The Government is also investing $2 billion to give Australians opportunities to upskill or retrain as well as expanding and extending the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy.
The HomeBuilder program is designed to help the residential construction industry by encouraging new home builds and substantial rebuilds this year. Most State and Territory governments have also released additional financial support packages.
Yet, despite all the financial support coming from Federal and State governments, many individuals and businesses are still feeling the pinch.
Financial wellbeing is vital for both employers and employees. At a time like this, people may struggle with the stigma around discussing their financial worries. This can lead to loss of sleep, prolonged stress, reduced focus and even depression.
Employers should take advantage of the support available for their business and seek financial help or advice when needed.
To further support employees experiencing financial difficulties, and to help their overall health and wellbeing, employers can signpost the free financial advice available for employees through a range of charities and debt helplines. It’s also advisable to encourage open and approachable communication for employees struggling with debt.
The National Debt Helpline has compiled a COVID-19 Financial Survival Kit highlighting where and how individuals can get financial support right now. Beyond this, employers can help employees by implementing financial education and awareness programs as a part of their overall health and wellbeing strategy.
Call our team to see how we can support you and your employees at this difficult time.
Are your business decisions as objective as you think?
For many decades, modern businesses have been encouraged to become more diverse and accepting when it comes to recruiting. But did you know unconscious bias could undermine those efforts?
Without realising it, we often make decisions based on our past experiences, background and environment. Known as unconscious bias, this unconscious behaviour is detrimental in the workplace and often leads to favouritism and discrimination.
There are ethical and commercial considerations for mitigating unconscious bias. For a start, ethnically and culturally diverse workplaces are proven to work more effectively, delivering higher profits than their less diverse counterparts.
Unconscious bias can manifest in many different ways within the workplace. Some of the more common examples include:
- Affinity bias: when we have a distinct preference for people who are similar to us or display similar characteristics
- Beauty bias: we unconsciously select and like people who meet our image preferences
- Conformity bias: a tendency to make decisions that conform to the ideas and thinking of our colleagues
- Confirmation bias: when we look for evidence that backs up our opinion of a person
- Gender bias: where we make decisions based on gender rather than skill or characteristics
While it can be challenging to pinpoint and remove unconscious bias altogether, in the workplace there are strategies available to mitigate it. They include evaluating your decision making processes and investigating opportunities to assess the situation for unconscious bias.
You can also open up the conversation on biases to help employees and managers become more aware of their personal biases.
The HR Dept can help you identify workplace bias and put mitigating measures in place to help make your business better. Get in touch to find out more.
How do local lockdowns affect everyone?
If you don’t live in Victoria at the moment, you’re probably feeling very relieved as well as feeling concerned for any friends, family or colleagues who are under Stage Four restrictions. But don’t be fooled! While the lockdown is currently localised to Victoria, its impact will be felt across the whole of Australia.
Victoria makes up almost 25% of the Australian GDP and holds the country’s largest port for containerised and general cargo.
That means the impact of restrictions on Victoria will have a roll-on effect right across Australia’s supply chain. It will also affect the overall economy through decreased spending and potential job losses as businesses struggle to survive.
Travelling between States and Territories is also more restrictive which significantly impacts businesses who:
- Have suppliers in Victoria
- Need to travel across Australia for work
- Form part of Australia’s tourism industry
There is growing fear of another lockdown in other States or Territories too. Remember, we are in this together. That means we all need to do our bit to eliminate COVID-19 so everyone remains safe – financially, physically and mentally.
How do facemasks impact customer service?
The simple gesture of smiling is a salesperson’s best friend, but the need to wear facemasks is jeopardising all the good a smile can do.
So, how do you replace that all-important smile when dealing with customers face-to-face?
Start by helping employees understand that facemasks have an impact on their customer interactions. Then give them another solution – their eyes!
Eye contact can be a great way to communicate. Hand gestures are another alternative but need to be used with care. For example, a thumbs up in parts of West Africa, Greece, Russia and Sardinia is extremely rude whereas, it’s a very positive sign in Australia.
You should also prepare your front line staff for the possibility of increased abuse by customers, during this sensitive time. Helping customers remember staff are simply doing their job can help here. For additional advice and support, reach out to The HR Dept. We’re here to help.
Viruses aren’t the only thing that spreads like wildfire. Negativity can too!
You’ve heard it said that laughter is contagious, but did you know negativity can be equally contagious?
This spread of negative emotions is called emotional contagion and it can be unhelpful in this pandemic-fuelled environment.
Constant negativity can lead to an increase in worry, anxiety and mental health issues for your workforce. Being aware of the mood in the office and mitigating negativity is important.
Encourage your workplace leaders to demonstrate positivity. Follow this up with workplace programs such as:
- Positive thinking
- Stress management support
- Feedback mechanisms
- And helping employees become more emotionally aware
For help to deal with (or prevent) negativity in your workplace, contact The HR Dept.
People Matter July 2020
Temporary Award changes: what you need to know
In April this year, the Fair Work Commission announced several temporary changes by the addition of a Schedule X to 99 Awards impacted by COVID-19. While some changes have been extended to 30 September, others have been varied or ended on 30 June 2020.
This means employers must stay up to date with all Award changes and keep their payroll compliant. If you need assistance in identifying the changes and adjusting your HR practices, contact your local HR Dept, we’re here to help.
For most Awards, the temporary changes will continue. However, the Restaurant and Hospitality Award and the Clerks Award have new guidelines on when their variations can be applied. The Electrical Power Industry Award 2010, which had not been initially included in these changes, now has Schedule X applied. At the same time, the Retail Industry variations (including the Fast Food Industry, General Retail Industry, Hair and Beauty Industry, and Storage Services and Wholesale Awards) will only be applicable until 31 July 2020.
In Victoria and Queensland, additional support has been added for employees on COVID-19 sick-leave who are not receiving other financial aid.
What do employers need to do?
Employers need to regularly review their HR processes and stay abreast of any changes to Awards that will impact their employees. In particular, you need to know whether you need to
- Adjust your employee’s duties
- Change employee hours
- Make any other changes to remain compliant with the relevant Awards
It can also be confusing if the Award advice contradicts other requirements such as the Superannuation Guarantee – as in the case of the Hospitality Award and some others.
It is essential that you identify which changes will impact your employees and ensure you are applying those changes to your HR practices as soon as practicable. You will also need to clearly communicate the changes to your employees so they are aware of how their Awards are changing and how that will impact their employment.
Your local HR Dept can help you quickly identify which changes specifically apply to your business and situation.
How will COVID-19 change the future of your workplace?
2020 has been a tough year for most businesses, and there’s no end in sight. The breakout in Victoria shows us we’re on shaky ground so businesses need to be adaptable to survive. So how has the modern workplace changed, and how well does it function?
The lockdown earlier this year proved, for many businesses, remote working is doable. Businesses have an opportunity to define how they will function as restrictions ease, tighten again when needed, and eventually operate, once an effective vaccine is available.
That means it’s now an ideal time for businesses to identify how their new working models will look.
Could a hybrid-model be the right choice for your business?
A hybrid working model is one where some employees work from home (some or all of the time), while others return to the office or workplace permanently.
When making this decision, you need to consider a few factors:
- Which employees are needed on-site and when/how will you manage rosters?
- Who will work on-site full or part-time, and who will work remotely some or all of the time?
- How will you manage physical distancing for co-working staff?
- How will you manage employees and ensure equal treatment when some are working remotely, and some are working on-site?
While 2020 is proving to be tough, it’s also an opportunity to invest and plan your future workforce strategies to create opportunities for increased employee retention, flexibility and productivity.
If the task of planning your future workforce strategy feels daunting or you just don’t know where to start, give The HR Dept a call. We’re here to help you build a future-proofed business.
What are the requirements for handling contact tracing data?
As some businesses start returning to a more “normal” working environment, many are under new requirements from the States and Territories to collect customer or visitor details. This data is required for contract-tracing should a coronavirus outbreak occur. But it may surprise you to learn, this data is still governed under the Privacy Act 1988.
That means the information collected must be handled and held securely in line with best practice for handling data based on State and Territory law. Employers also need to ensure all employee contact details are up to date and safely stored.
The Office of Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) recommends:
- Only collecting the required information
- Notifying customers and visitors about the reasons you’re collecting their information
- Securely storing the information
- Only releasing the information to the relevant health authorities, when requested, for contract tracing purposes
- Appropriately destroying the information once it is no longer needed
How has COVID-19 changed workplace lunch breaks?
The concept of a ‘lunch break’ seems simple; yet it isn’t. Worldwide, busy employees feel the need to work through their lunch break. At some workplaces, there’s a stigma around regularly having lunch breaks, as they are seen as unproductive.
Coronavirus may be making this small necessity more troublesome.
For those working from home, snacking may be a coping mechanism and being close to the fridge could mean they’re eating more. Others may have started taking regular healthy lunch breaks. Either way, daily eating habits can affect work.
Returning to the workplace will again impact lunch break habits. Social distancing requirements and fear of COVID-19 may leave employees feeling nervous about business meetings and shared lunchrooms.
Here law intervenes. Awards generally require employees to take a 30-minute unpaid lunch break. Workers who work through these breaks may be owed overtime pay. For the award-free, if working long hours, health and safety legislation requires employees to have a break.
Viral video delivers an important message to employers
Lessons for business come in all shapes and sizes, as seen by a video posted to Facebook showing an Amazon driver following hilarious delivery instructions to the tee. The viral video shows the driver running to the door, knocking three times yelling abracadabra, and then sprinting back to her van. Unbeknown to the buyer, the instructions were slipped into the delivery instructions by her son.
The public has praised the driver for her commitment and attention to detail. The lesson? Acknowledging and encouraging those employees who go the extra mile is more important than ever because they are the face of your business!
People Matter June 2020
What happens when no one turns up for work?
As Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s 3 Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia is rolling out, employers are faced with a new challenge – will their employees want to return to the workplace?
While we don’t have enough data yet to confirm if working from home is the new ‘normal’, we do know there are some challenges getting employees back to the office.
For some workplaces, such as restaurants and retail, there is no question that employees need to physically return to their workplace for the business to operate. Physical distancing measures aside, many employees may be afraid to return to work due to health and safety concerns. For these employees, employers should share their COVIDSafe risk assessment and consult with employees about the new safety measures.
What about employees who have enjoyed working from home and found it works?
Some employees may want to delay their return to the office or may not want to return at all. These employees have realised they can successfully work from home, avoid the commute and forego workwear most of the time. For organisations that can facilitate long-term remote working, different considerations need to be discussed.
Businesses have several considerations when planning a return to work where some or all of the workforce wish to continue with more flexible working arrangements. In particular, employers will need to take into consideration:
- Whether they require employees to be in the office all or part of the time
- If staggered days or hours will facilitate physical distancing requirements
- Whether any cost savings from reduced office resources offsets the costs of ensuring employees are supported at home through cybersecurity measures, ergonomic workstations and insurance requirements
Finding the right balance for both the employee and the organisation could reap long-term benefits when it comes to retaining talent. Ultimately, it’s a business decision to enable flexible working arrangements for staff and how employees who don’t want to return to the office are managed.
If you need a hand, give The HR Dept a call. We’re here to offer help and guidance on putting together your COVIDSafe plans and preparing your workplace procedures for returning staff.
Casual work … clear as mud?
A recent landmark ruling by the Full Federal Court of Australia has left employers and unions asking for a clearer definition of casual employment.
According to current laws, a casual employee is someone who does not work regular and systematic hours. In the ruling between Workpac vs Rossato, the court looked at not only the contract and payslips of the casual worker, but also the actual working relationship and hours of work.
In this case, Rossato claimed he should have been classified as a permanent employee and was therefore entitled to the benefits of a permanent employee. The court found that although Rossato was on a casual contract, his work was regular and systematic and agreed he was misclassified as a casual.
His payslips didn’t provide clear evidence of receiving a casual leave loading so the employer was unable to deduct the leave loading payments from the additional benefits they were required to pay.
What does this mean for employers?
Even in the case where an employee is happy with their casual status and leave loading, the employer runs the risk that once their working relationship ends (especially if it doesn’t end well), the casual employee can make a similar claim as Rossato.
Reviewing your casual employees and their agreements to determine if their work has become more regular is important to ensure you are compliant. If you are concerned that your casual contracts and processes may be at risk, call us.
JobKeeper may be changing, are you prepared?
With lockdown ending sooner than originally expected, and only 3.5 million workers receiving JobKeeper payments, the Treasurer is reserving his right to vary the JobKeeper Payment Scheme. In fact, JobKeeper payments could end earlier than the original timeframe of September.
A full update is expected mid-July. Although for employees of Childcare Providers, we’ve already heard JobKeeper payments will end on 20 July. In this industry, there will be a transitional payment of 25% of their fee revenue from 13 July until 27 September.
With potential changes looming, including the possibility that JobKeeper payments will be stopped earlier than expected, employers should prepare now. By doing workforce planning and considering different outcomes, businesses can be ready for any potential changes that could be announced.
Contact us if you need assistance with planning for different workforce scenarios and outcomes – including how to manage staff reductions, if required.
Redundancies: make it personal
When you read the headline 3500 employees laid off in 3-minute Zoom call, you may think “what?”.
There’s no doubt coronavirus has impacted many businesses. But before making employees redundant, ensure you know your options which include:
- Can they take leave?
- Can you stand them down?
- Can you reduce their hours?
If there’s no other alternative and you must make them redundant, remember to show compassion and consideration for their mental health and wellbeing.
While coronavirus has changed many things, it hasn’t changed the requirement to act lawfully.
Where possible, tell employees in person, one-on-one. Give them some time to ask questions so they understand their situation and yours. Not doing so can lead to implications further down the track should employees lodge a grievance with their union or Fair Work Australia.
If you’re in doubt about your options and the best way to talk to your team, The HR Dept can help. We’re here to guide you and support all the way.
“That’s my stapler!”
Has coronavirus and social distancing ended communal stationery? One office retailer reported a 200% increase in label makers and other office supplies. It’s a trend they expect to continue into early next year.
It seems employees are deeply concerned about shared office resources such as cutlery, coffee makers, biscuits, staplers and other shared stationary. There’s even consideration for offering personal mini-fridges.
Is any of this taking things too far? Do employers need to get the labelling machines out?
Having protocols in place for high traffic areas and shared resources could help ease employees’ fear when returning to work. Contact us for advice on what to do with shared resources.
People Matter May 2020
New health & safety toolkit to help
your business return to work
Does the thought of sifting through all the information regarding COVID-19 feel overwhelming? You’re not alone. With changes coming thick and fast, it wouldn’t be amiss for you to have thrown your hands in the air to yell “what now?”.
Help is at hand. The Safe Work Australia website now has easy to access, industry-specific guidance around COVID-19. The comprehensive updates cover everything you need to know about ensuring your workplace is COVID-safe, including guidance around physical distancing, personal protective equipment, wearing masks, cleaning, workers compensation, how to conduct risk assessments and design emergency plans. There are even case studies to help explain how to manage coronavirus risks in the workplace.
Go to COVID-19 Information for workplaces. You can either start by using the drop-down lists at the top of the page to filter through content, or you can scroll down to specific information further down the page. The resources are tailored for:
- Employers, small business or workers
- The industry you work in (there are 23 industries covered and a general section if your industry isn’t listed), and
- Relevant health and safety topics
Physical distancing measures
One of the top considerations in your return to work planning is how to manage physical distancing (social distancing). Physical distancing helps to reduce the spread of coronavirus as it’s most likely caught by breathing in micro-droplets from another person sneezing, coughing or exhaling.
Current health advice for workplaces recommends four (4) square metres of space per person while still maintaining physical distancing of 1.5 metres from others where possible. The COVID-19 Information for workplaces details how to calculate this space and any other questions you may have regarding physical distancing.
Wearing masks in the Workplace
Whilst there are instances where face masks are appropriate, current guidelines from the Australian Government Department of Health indicate there is little evidence the use of masks by healthy people will prevent the transmission of coronavirus. When using face masks in the workplace, employees need to be trained on how to wear the masks and dispose of them correctly.
For comprehensive information on these topics and other questions, see COVID-19 Information for workplaces for more information or speak to us.
Can I ensure all staff are safe by making
the COVIDSafe app mandatory?
Latest figures show over 5.6 million Australians have downloaded the coronavirus tracing app. Called COVIDSafe, the Federal Government is encouraging millions more to do so to help ease restrictions. But can employers enforce downloads of the COVIDSafe app?
What is the COVIDSafe app and how does it work?
The COVIDSafe app is a public health initiative between the Australian Federal Government and the medical fraternity to help with contact tracing of the coronavirus. The app uses Bluetooth to look for other devices within 1.5 metres which have the app installed. The date, time, distance, duration of contact and the other user’s reference code are encrypted and stored on the device for 21 days, before being deleted.
When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, they will be asked for permission to have the data uploaded to the National COVIDSafe Data Store. The anonymised contact information captured by the app will assist the state and territory health officials to support their contact tracing process.
The app is entirely voluntary
Employers cannot legally make employees download the app. Downloading is voluntary. In addition, employers cannot recall work devices to unilaterally install the app on them.
The new biosecurity laws for the app go a step further. Employers cannot discriminate against or dismiss an employee for choosing not to download the app. Doing so can result in hefty fines and a five-year prison sentence.
Employers need to act cautiously to ensure the use of COVIDSafe by employees is voluntary. While you can encourage employees to download and use the app, you’ll need to find other ways to mitigate risk, for example, by conducting a COVID-19 risk assessment. The HR Dept can help you with that so please get in touch.
The impacts of COVID-19 on your
people as they return to work
The Government has rolled-out their three-stage plan to start easing coronavirus restrictions, including looking at transitioning employees back to their office or workspace. So, what will post-lock-down look like for your business?
After getting a good taste of the freedom and flexibility of working from home, employers might see a rise in requests to work from home. The successful trial of remote meetings via video conferencing paired with social distancing measures will now impact the way many business meetings are held.
Returning to work might leave many employees feeling anxious over their health and safety. Some may feel reluctant about carrying out certain duties. Carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment to identify hazards and make adjustments could help reduce some of this anxiety.
The Coronavirus has impacted us mentally as well – some more than others. It’s a good time to review your health and wellness policies to ensure they support impacted employees as best as possible. Get in touch with the HR Dept for help in making any necessary changes.
JobKeeper – modifying employment terms
These are not normal times and they require extraordinary measures to help keep businesses afloat. One of these measures is JobKeeper. The Fair Work Act of 2009 has had Part 6-4C, ‘JobKeeper enabling directions’ added to help employers who qualify for the JobKeeper payment, deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19.
‘JobKeeper enabling directions’ temporarily modify employment terms and conditions. These directions could be in relation to an employee’s
- location of work
- days and times of work
- duties to be performed
- use of annual leave under certain circumstances
JobKeeper registrations opened on 20 April and from 4 May employers have been able to identify their eligible employees. JobKeeper applications close on 31 May 2020 for those who intend to claim wages for the April and May JobKeeper fortnights.
If you have registered for JobKeeper payments, remember to submit your monthly business declaration.
When staff work from home, does it change
workers comp and insurance requirements?
Regardless of where an employee works, insurance and compensation still need to be covered and understood. That means, you’re still liable for workers compensation if employees get a work-related illness or are injured when carrying out their duties while working from home.
Device, equipment and furniture insurance can be a little tricky. Make sure you’re clear on what will be covered by whom should there be any damage to, or loss of company property.
Check-in with your insurer to make sure your equipment and devices are insured when employees work from home. Employees should advise their personal home and contents insurer if they are working from home.
People Matter April 2020
Summary of COVID-19 support for
businesses and their employees
Unprecedented times have called for unprecedented measures to support Australian businesses impacted by COVID-19. With the changes coming thick and fast, we’ve compiled a summary of the latest updates to help you navigate them.
The JobKeeper Payment
If your turnover has been impacted by the coronavirus, and you employ staff, you may be eligible to receive the JobKeeper Payment. There are a number of criteria you need to satisfy but essentially, the Payment is available to eligible employers including companies, partnerships, trusts, sole traders, not-for-profits and charities. The Australian Government will provide $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee for up to 6-months to businesses registered for the JobKeeper Payment.
You may find this Australian Government Fact Sheet useful and of course, you are welcome to speak to us.
Support to retain apprentices and trainees
Australian small businesses employ around 117,000 apprentices and trainees. The Government is keen to keep them employed and training so it has introduced a subsidy for trainees or apprentices who were in-training with a small business as at 1 March 2020. To apply, an eligibility assessment is required by an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider.
Flexibility for modern awards
Temporary changes have been made by the Fair Work Commission to enable more flexibility within modern awards. To date, 102 awards have been varied. Contact us for more information.
Free childcare to keep people in work
In a bid to ensure childcare centres stay open, the Australian Government has announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package. The package makes childcare free during the coronavirus pandemic and will be reviewed in three months’ time.
Businesses having to close, reduce hours or stand down employees
Not all employees will be eligible for JobKeeper Payments, and some businesses may need to close, reduce their opening hours or stand down employees. To support impacted employees, the Federal Government has added a COVID-19 supplement to JobSeeker payments, widened the eligibility criteria for the payment and increased the payment amount.
Financial support available to businesses
The Federal Government has continued to build on its economic stimulus plan, announcing the second stage of economic stimuli in a bid to keep businesses open and see households through this crisis.
Keeping on top of new information
With so many changes afoot and no slowdown in the amount of new information coming through the door, keeping on top of things can be a big ask. The HR Dept is here to help. Our capable team are here to provide expert support in a myriad of ways, from helping you understand changes to awards, through to business continuity, remote working support, managing absences, understanding pay, restructuring your workforce and more. Please let us know how we can help you.
How to discuss reduced hours or
job loss with employees
It’s no secret that many businesses and their employees have taken a huge financial hit thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. We urge you to be sensitive to the financial well-being of employees when reducing hours or standing down staff. After all, financial well-being is an important aspect of an employees’ overall well-being.
How do you handle these tough decisions right now?
Start by being open with your employees. Discuss their options with them, being mindful of the stress these discussions may cause. During discussions, signpost and highlight the support available to them such as emergency relief from community organisations, additional Centrelink support through JobSeeker payments, and early access to superannuation payments.
Additional support may also be available through their banks. Encourage them to approach their creditors to discuss their hardship provisions. If they are unable to manage or are overwhelmed, encourage them to access the free and impartial debt counselling support available to them.
Remember, if you are too uncomfortable or troubled by having this type of conversation with your employees, ask us for help. We can guide you through the process or have the conversation on your behalf.
Video conferencing support for
We’ve entered new territory, where working from home is the new norm for many. This transition may be difficult for some staff but once the novelty of working from home wears off, employees may need advice and guidance to help them stay motivated and productive.
It’s also the era of digital conferencing which could be unfamiliar territory for staff. Provide them with additional support by:
- Helping employees learn the basics of their video conferencing technology.
- Reminding them to dress appropriately – especially from the waist up!
- Asking staff to have a neutral backdrop to avoid embarrassing or humorous frames with family members or loads of washing in the background.
- Encouraging video-based meetings to be purposeful, concise and considered.
- Encouraging employees to maintain professional etiquette by removing distractions, keeping eye contact with the camera and to only unmute their microphone when speaking.
- Beware of chat facilities! Remind employees that the chat facilities will be recorded to avoid the chat area from becoming a private whinge fest.
When working from home, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and leisure, causing employees to work too much or not enough. So:
- Start the day with a call to help employees maintain a daily routine.
- Encourage employees to create sign-off rituals at the end of the day to help them switch off.
- Remind them to report sick days as per company policy.
- Keep an open dialogue on how they’re managing.
- Promptly discuss any behaviour that is not healthy or productive.
Most of all, let them know you are there to support them and work through any challenges together. If you need help to manage your team remotely, talk to us.
Crisis leadership and keeping your team motivated
In times of crisis, employees need strong leadership. But leadership has become a whole new ball game.
The secret to successful crisis leadership is to support your managers and team leaders and upskill them as you go. Pinpoint employees who show leadership capabilities and upskill them as well.
To keep your remote-working employees motivated during the lockdown ensure you:
- Keep communication lines open. Make it a priority to keep staff in the loop when it comes to what’s happening in the business and any changes that may be coming. An employee’s need to feel engaged and part of a team doesn’t change when they work from home. If anything, it becomes more important.
- Adjust your expectations. Be clear about what you need to do and how you’ll do it – taking into account each employee’s personal challenges.
- Keep an eye out for subtle changes in behaviour. Your team are under an immense amount of pressure, their reactions may not be positive.
- Upping your praise. Define what success looks like and be willing to praise any efforts made.
Everyone needs support from their leaders so if you are feeling challenged with this new era in leadership, get in touch. We’re here to help.
Boosting morale through community spirit
Australian’s have great community spirit. The principle of Australian ‘mateship’ often brings people together during a crisis or emergency in new ways to help those in need.
Volunteering is one way to do this. It presents many opportunities for business communities by:
- Boosting morale
- Offering physical and mental health benefits
- Providing employees with an opportunity to work on transferable skills such as problem-solving and teamwork
In the midst of our Coronavirus shutdowns, you can still volunteer to help others. In fact, in some ways, it’s even more important to do so. To sign up for volunteering during the pandemic, contact Volunteering Australia, or visit the Go Volunteer website to find current volunteering opportunities.
People Matter March 2020
Firing casuals – what you need to know
Hiring, managing, and dismissing casual employees is more complicated than you may think. To ensure you are safe from unfair dismissal claims, you need to be aware of the ongoing changes to what defines a casual employee.
Defining ‘regular and systematic’
Earlier this year Bed, Bath and Table was found to have dismissed a casual employee unfairly. The case led to the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) clarifying the meaning of ‘regular and systematic’ to qualify whether a casual employee is protected against unfair dismissal in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (Act).
When looking at whether a casual employee is working on a regular and systematic basis, the Full Bench determined that it is the ‘engagement’ itself that must be ‘regular and systematic’, not merely the hours and days worked.
In the case against Bed, Bath and Table, the employee had worked consistently for three days a week; however, the hours and duration of each shift varied greatly. Based on this information, the FWC concluded that the employee’s work was regular and systematic. Because of this, it was determined that she had worked the minimum employment period of six months of continuous service and was, therefore, entitled to protection under the Fair Work Act.
Rostering arrangements matter
Another recent claim of unfair dismissal (this time against MAS Australasia Pty Ltd) in which a ‘fly-in-fly-out’ (FIFO) casual applied for unfair dismissal, has highlighted the role of rostering in defining whether time-off counts towards continuous service or not.
In this case, the rostering of work and non-work periods formed an integral part of the work cycle and, therefore, counted towards the calculation of continuous service.
Both cases put a spotlight on the fact that casual employment can be complex and does not necessarily come with immunity from unfair dismissal claims. Make sure you understand your employee’s entitlements (under their awards, enterprise agreements and the Fairwork Act) to ensure your practices meet your obligations.
For support and advice regarding casual employment and staff performance, contact The HR Dept.
How to protect your workplace against coronavirus
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had an enormous impact on our supermarkets and, chances are, you’ll feel the uncertainty in the workplace as well.
Following sensible hygiene practices can help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus at your workplace;
- Ensure staff have a clean place to wash their hands with hot water and soap and encourage them to do so … OFTEN
- Supply hand sanitiser gel and tissues
- Remind staff to cough into their elbow, not their hands
- Increase your general cleaning routines for surfaces such as door handles, handrails etc.
- Communicate openly and regularly with your people. Provide the latest information from reputable sources e.g. health.gov.au and listen to their concerns.
- If you haven’t already got one, develop a business continuity plan and regularly review it as the situation changes. Consider what functions/roles are essential and what can be changed or stopped for a period of time.
- Test your systems and infrastructure so you know whether people can work remotely if required.
We advise you suspend non-essential international travel to high-risk countries. If travelling abroad, staff should practice good hygiene. Encourage them to use disposable gloves in public places and to take hand sanitiser to reduce the chances of infection.
While away and upon their return, encourage them to monitor their health. Get them to seek medical advice and diagnosis if they experience symptoms while travelling or within 14 days of returning to Australia.
For the latest travel advice, see SmartTraveller.
Navigating remote working option in uncertain times
Like it or not, remote working is here to stay; it can even be a drawcard in the recruitment process. A 2020 report on the state of remote work by Buffer and AngelList, shows working from home can be beneficial for employers and employees.
To optimise home working, employers should make an effort to keep employees involved and engaged. Make sure you have easy and open lines of communication to help colleagues connect.
Remember to track productivity, such as measuring task completion, to ensure workers don’t slack off. Have processes in place and clear communication should they not be meeting their targets.
A WFH (Work From Home) policy and process can help both with managing productivity and in times of disaster, such as the recent bushfires, floods and the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak.
For assistance in developing your own Work From Home policy so you’re prepared for any workplace interruptions, contact The HR Dept.
Respect@Work: What the report means for you
Movements such as #MeToo and #LetHerSpeak have sparked global discussions about sexual harassment. Added to this, the 2018 national survey on sexual harassment at work by the Australian Human Right’s Commission (AHRC) found a significant increase in sexual harassment in the workplace with:
- One in three people in the last five years have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace including sexually suggestive comments, requests for sex, indecent exposure and leering behaviour
- Less than one in five made a formal complaint.
Bolstered by the need for reform, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, initiated a ground-breaking, world-first, national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. The resulting report titled Respect@Work, was released just before International Women’s Day. It has important implications for employers.
The report outlines the impact of sexual harassment at work for both individuals and business. If left unaddressed, it can damage a person’s mental and physical health and result in costly fair work claims. The report conservatively estimated that sexual harassment cost the Australian economy around $3.8 billion in 2018.
The 55 recommendations put forward in the report to address pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace include the introduction of a ‘stop sexual harassment (SSH) work order” in the Fair Work Act. These changes will make sexual harassment ‘conduct amounting to a valid reason for dismissal in determining whether a dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable’ in the Fair Work Act.
Jenkins calls on “all employers to join in creating safe, gender-equal and inclusive workplaces, no matter their industry or size. This will require transparency, accountability and leadership. It will also require a shift from the current reactive model, that requires complaints from individuals, to a proactive model, which will require positive actions from employers”.
For advice on how the report could impact your workplace culture, contact us.
Employee mocks management and gets away with it
Who would have thought that being a larrikin could be problematic? Last month, BP was ordered to reinstate an employee after he was fired for mocking management in a Hitler meme. Say what? The Fair Work Commission (FWC) found that the employee had shared a private joke among mates out of office hours and had seven years of ‘unblemished work’ for the company.
To avoid claims of unfair dismissal in situations like these, where there’s a fine line, any instances of misconduct must be addressed by following the right procedures. Don’t know how to ensure you have it covered? The HR Dept is here to help.
People Matter February 2020
Do you know of a workplace where everyone gets along all the time?
No matter how extraordinary your culture and employees are, at some point conflict will rear its ugly head. When it does, you need to be ready.
Potential conflict trigger points
There are 4 trigger points you should be wary of if you want to stop conflict from escalating.
1. Poor communication (or lack of communication) can easily lead to misunderstandings. It can encourage gossip, lower employee morale and even impact productivity.
2. Personality clashes occur when people fail to understand or accept each other’s differences and are therefore easily insulted. This leads to conflict.
3. In some industries, competition between employees is encouraged; for example, when sales or production is linked to wages. Unhealthy workplace competition develops when the level of competition escalates into sabotaging behaviour. The outcome can be a hostile workplace in which teamwork is discouraged.
4. Differing values and work practices, such as those caused by generational gaps, can also lead to conflict. Again, an unwillingness to understand and accept different viewpoints can cause issues.
Unresolved conflict can harm productivity and company culture
Workplace conflict has been linked to absenteeism, poor customer service and the perception of poor company culture. This will negatively impact your ability to recruit great talent. Even worse, conflict can hurt your bottom line if it escalates into bullying or harassment allegations. In these cases, costly legal support may be needed to help resolve the situation.
Having a conflict plan and policies in place will ensure your managers are equipped to manage conflict. Your plan could include simple, cost-effective solutions such as:
- Regular 1-on-1 time with employees in which they can confidentially raise issues
- Objective investigations of any issues raised
- A willingness to take action should conflict arise
- A proactive approach to incorporating team building activities into your workplace culture as they assist in developing understanding and respect between team members
The HR Dept is here to help you put the right policies in place, and should conflict arise, show you and your team the best way forward.
Look around your workplace. What do you see?
Successful teams work together, sharing the same goals and values as each other. That’s why workplace culture is so important. But in the search for a cohesive team, many business owners mistakenly recruit a homogenous team.
So look around your workplace. Have you recruited the same “type” of person over and over again?
Diversity and inclusion offer tremendous possibilities to business because they provide an opportunity to harness greater creativity and innovation. How so?
Diversity and inclusion mean having people of different races, gender preferences, abilities (or disabilities), religious beliefs, and even ages within your workforce. Each can offer their own viewpoints and experiences to help broaden your team’s understanding, provide a different perspective and come up with fresh and inventive ideas.
Best of all, by shifting your attitudes on diversity from HR challenge to asset, you’ll open the door to a much broader pool of potential staff. That has to be great for business! Conversely, ignoring diversity and inclusion could lead to reputational harm to you and your business – especially if your customers, team or stakeholders value it.
A threat to diversity and inclusion
The Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) has raised questions regarding the Australian Government’s religious discrimination bills. They’re concerned the bills will limit the ability of organisations to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. DCA’s CEO, Lisa Annese, states that the DCA proactively supports their members in creating workplaces where religious belief is afforded the same dignity and respect as other attributes of a person’s identity. The new bills threaten this balance.
For advice on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, contact The HR Dept.
People get sick. It’s a given. Can you dismiss them for being sick or injured?
According to the Fair Work Act 2009, employees (not casuals) are entitled to paid sick leave if they are ill or injured. It’s known as personal leave. Under section 352 of the Fair Work Act 2009, it’s unlawful to terminate an employee who is on a temporary absence due to illness. An illness or injury is no longer a temporary absence if it extends for more than 3 consecutive months or accumulates to over 3 months in a 12-month period.
The employee has an obligation to notify their employer of their absence and provide reasonable forms of evidence. These include a medical certificate stating they’re unfit for work or a statutory declaration. They must be provided as soon as practicable when requested by their employer.
While failure to do so can result in the employee no longer being protected from dismissal for a temporary absence, they may still be protected by other workplace claims such as unfair dismissal, so tread cautiously.
Before considering dismissal, an employer must demonstrate they’ve made every effort to obtain evidence and considered reasonable adjustments to a person’s role.
If you have a similar situation at your workplace, contact The HR Dept.
Are you guilty and don’t know it?
A recent survey by the Australian Payroll Association has revealed some shocking stats that highlight issues within payroll. The survey of 630 payroll managers identified that underpayments continue to be a big problem. In fact, the survey found that millions of workers may be missing out on wages they’re owed.
The survey also found the larger the organisation, the more likely they were to have made payroll mistakes.
These findings come as Fair Work increases investigations into organisations across Australia. Most recently they completed national audits on emerging fast food, restaurant and café franchises. The investigation has recovered more than $730,000 in unpaid wages, finding that 50% of the businesses investigated were underpaying staff.
It highlights the risk to employers who underpay employees (even by accident). These risks include huge fines or possible jail time for non-compliance to payroll laws.
We can help you with payroll compliance. Don’t risk investigation and possible prosecution. Contact The HR Dept today.
The findings are in. Pot plants are heroes?
Research into the benefits of office plants prove they not only look good, they can help reduce sick days and stress. Reported benefits include:
- Purifying the air
- Reducing anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue
- Increasing productivity and creativity
- Reducing a small amount of background noise
Plants that have broad leaves and cope in low light are best. Ideally, there should be at least one medium-sized plant per 2.2m2. Avoid any plants that may flare allergies like hayfever.
Ask The HR Dept for more tips on how to combat stress and reduce sick days in your workplace.
People Matter January 2020
4 New year’s resolutions to kick start your business in 2020
January is the month for new year’s resolutions, so why not extend your focus and set clear goals for your business as well? Here are four great new year’s resolutions to consider for 2020.
1. Review your contracts, policies and procedures
Times change, making older policies, procedures and contracts out of date. By ensuring they reflect any changes in your business, the law and employee positions, you can prevent future problems.
If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of all that paperwork, don’t be. Choose the policies, procedures and contracts that matter most to your business. Then start with those. The most common policies and procedures for businesses to focus on are:
• Code of conduct
• Annual leave and leave requirements
• Working conditions
2. Review performance management
Maximising employee performance is a no brainer. Start managing performance during probation and continue for the term of their employment.
Employee appraisals are a great measurement tool to identify and deal with underperforming employees. They’re also good for business. If poor performance is ignored, it can negatively impact customer service, profit and culture. Conducting regular employee appraisals gives you an opportunity to address performance issues before they get out of hand.
If the thought of performance management makes you break out in a sweat, why not consider outsourcing it or investing in additional training? We offer training programs for managers and employees or we can assist you to manage all aspects of employee performance so you don’t have to go it alone.
3. Focus on employee retention
One of the best ways to boost employee retention is by having meaningful employee benefits. Flexible working benefits have been proven to improve employee retention. They include things like flexible start and finish times, offering part-time work, the option to work at another location or a combination of these. When considering employee benefits, choose the options that will work best for your business.
4. Invest in a training and development plan
Training can feel like a catch 22 – if you train employees, they leave for greener pastures; if you don’t, they stagnate. It doesn’t have to be this way. With the right policies in place, ongoing training and development can boost productivity and improve employee retention.
Consider creating an employee training and development plan that identifies future skills gaps and then upskills staff through regular training that works around your busy operational schedule.
To explore setting reasonable and meaningful people management goals for your business, talk to The HR Dept today.
Employee exhaustion and the knock-on effect of bad leadership
Employee exhaustion is officially a thing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised employee exhaustion as a chronic workplace stress in 2019. Not only that, it seems ‘bad leadership’ can contribute to workplace stress.
Bad leadership can come in the form of incompetence, abusive practices, poor management skills or questionable ethics.
In terms of your bottom line, employee exhaustion can cost your business between 20 – 50% of your turnover. The signs of employee exhaustion include:
● Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
● Increased mental distance from one’s job
● Feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
● Reduced professional effectiveness
How do you ensure your leaders aren’t causing employee exhaustion? Psychometric testing is a proven, scientific method for analysing the attributes of your leaders (and it’s cost-effective). We offer Psychometric testing to help you determine whether the people in your business have the right leadership qualities.
Ensuring you have the right people leading your business makes perfect sense. Call The HR Dept to get started.
Are employee financial problems affecting your bottom line?
Research shows when employees are experiencing financial stress, productivity drops. It can also cause presenteeism, low morale and absenteeism. These will all impact the bottom line of your business.
On a personal level, financial stress can negatively affect an employee’s mental and physical health.
In a nutshell, not addressing an employee’s financial wellbeing is bad for business.
What can you do to help?
Implementing a financial wellness program can make all the difference and it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Simple things you can do include:
● Placing information on a staff noticeboard or sending an email to all staff about external resources such as the free National Debt Helpline and counselling services.
● Being aware of the financial impact work social activities can have. Look at creating flexible options for social events that support financial diversity.
● Be mindful that financial issues are sensitive. Tailor your support to take into account the embarrassment some employees may have about discussing their financial situation.
● Look at your employee benefits mix. Which benefits will help employees who are suffering from a lack of financial wellness?
● Check whether your default superannuation fund provides any additional employee benefits like information sessions and financial planning.
For advice and support on how to include financial wellness in your health and wellbeing program, call The HR Dept today.
Many employees don’t feel heard, do yours?
Research shows having a regular feedback loop with employees has many benefits including:
• Greater employee engagement
• Reduced staff turnover
• Improved employee performance
Ultimately, all these things will positively impact your business so perhaps it’s time to implement regular employee surveys to give your staff a voice?
Creating regular feedback surveys may feel daunting and sound expensive, but that doesn’t need to be the case. We offer a cost-effective survey service to make sure your employees feel heard. Call The HR Dept today to discuss how you can implement employee surveys in your business.
Bushfires causing hazardous commute. What can you do to help?
As you’d be aware, bushfire smoke is creating hazardous air pollution. On some days, our air quality has taken us to the top of the list of cities with poor air quality.
The smoke is causing great concern for many employees and affecting the health of some. While P2 masks can help, they’re a poor alternative to avoiding the smoky commute altogether.
We recommend you give employees the choice of working from home if it’s feasible for your business. If you’re in an industry such as retail or catering where it’s impossible, consider the effects of the commute and do what you can to mitigate the risks for both you and your staff.
People Matter December 2019
Make the most of the new year talent explosion
Now is a great time to start thinking about recruitment. Why? For many people, the new year ushers in an opportunity to start afresh, and that includes looking for new work opportunities. This makes it an excellent time to bring in new talent.
But finding the right talent for your business can be tough, especially for smaller businesses who lack the resources of their larger counterparts. In recent research by a specialist recruitment agency, a whopping 78% of Australian business leaders believed finding qualified professionals will become harder over the next five years.
The survey found recruitment hurdles change based on business size. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, know what your recruitment barriers are and identify how to mitigate them.
What can we learn from recruitment trends?
According to insights from the LinkedIn 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, work flexibility, anti-harassment, and pay transparency were the top trends that impacted recruitment this year.
● 84% of Australian talent professionals believe that employees want greater flexibility
● 57% believe pay transparency during recruitment streamlines the process
● 91% of Australian talent professionals see soft skills as the most critical skills to assess during recruitment.
How does a small business find the right candidates?
A good starting point is to review your online presence and revisit your “work for us” content. But there are additional ways to effectively stand out from the crowd, such as:
1. Set goals. Have clear requirements, define success and set clear deliverables and expectations. In the interview phase, focus on tangible results.
2. Job descriptions. Both a good job description and person specification are essential when it comes to being clear about the role and the person you want to fill it. Consider the title and keywords that you are using to advertise your role. Check out the competition too. Is your offering as attractive as theirs?
3. Company culture. Company culture can be a big pull for candidates. Be open and honest about yours. Communicate your company culture and core values by including them in your job description and interviews. And remember to make sure the reality matches the sales pitch – nothing will send new starters back out of the door faster than a mismatch here.
Are you ready to get your recruitment right? Talk to The HR Dept team to get the best advice and support for your recruitment process.
Managing staff leave over Christmas and New Year
Christmas can herald a slow-down for some businesses and a peak period for others. This makes annual leave hard to manage. When deciding what to do, remember to consider the knock-on-effects and the implications of your decision.
The Fair Work Act 2009 states that forced leave (paid or unpaid) may be reasonable if a business is shutting down over the Christmas/New Year period. However, if it’s all hands-on deck to keep the business running, the Act states you cannot unreasonably refuse an employee’s annual leave request.
When it comes to leave, the Awards and enterprise agreements that apply to your employees will clearly indicate what you can and can’t do, and how much notice should be given.
Don’t forget the personal impact of leave. Forced leave could disrupt any travel plans staff have for later in the year and forced unpaid leave will impact their finances.
Ideally, annual leave requirements for the Christmas/New Year period should be included in the employee’s contract of employment. If you haven’t put a policy in place for this year, be sure to do so for next year. The HR Dept is here to help you prepare for the Christmas period.
Attract and retain great employees with manageable employee benefits
Attracting and retaining great talent is difficult these days and not every business can offer a Google-style benefits package. Surprisingly, cost and extravagance aren’t the keys to a successful benefits strategy. You can attract and retain employees simply by demonstrating your investment in them, and importantly, it doesn’t have to break the bank.
How do you put together a cost-effective, meaningful benefits strategy? There are six simple steps to help:
1. Communicate with existing employees. Find out what would benefit them. Listen to what staff say and identify what really matters to them.
2. Get the basics right. Start by meeting the statutory requirements for benefits and build upon them.
3. Align your benefits to your business. Your benefits strategy should always complement your business strategy and values.
4. Review the competition but don’t copy them. Instead understand what they offer and what your specific industry standards are. This may highlight some obvious options you hadn’t thought of.
5. Take a long-term, holistic approach. Build a benefits strategy that supports different areas of your employees’ lives and their changing needs over time, while working within the constraints of your business finances and workload.
6. Be flexible. Provide options to appeal to the needs of a broader employee base so staff can choose what works for them. Examples of benefits that work well include flexible working, team outings and health benefits.
Need help with creating a meaningful benefits strategy to recruit and attract great staff? The HR Dept is here to help.
“Can I refuse a job applicant with a criminal record?”
Checking a job applicant’s criminal record as part of the application process has become a widespread practice. Until recently, although it was unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because they have a criminal record, employers could argue an exception if they felt that simply having a criminal record rendered the applicant unable to fulfil the ‘inherent requirements’ of the position (such as trustworthiness or integrity).
A new amendment to the Australian Human Rights Commission Regulations 2019 (2019 Regulations), which commenced on October 1 this year, means it is now unlawful to discriminate against a job applicant because of their criminal record if the applicant has an ‘irrelevant criminal record’. In other words, you cannot refuse employment if the conviction is irrelevant to the role.
If you are unsure how to apply the changes within your recruitment process, contact The HR Dept to help you identify what you can and can’t do.
Paid breaks and the law – what gives?
A simple enquiry from an employee about meal breaks recently led to a courier company facing legal action for underpaying employees. The business, Couriers Please, discovered they hadn’t paid current and former employees for their 20-minute lunch break since 2010. The lunch break is part of their entitlement under the Road Transport and Distribution Industry Award 2010.
This was a significant breach of workplace law which resulted in a Court-Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The lesson? Be aware of employee entitlements and ensure you’re compliant to avoid massive fines, legal action and having to make back payments. If you’re unsure of your obligations, give The HR Dept a call.
People Matter November 2019
Beware! You could go to jail for underpaying your staff
If you’ve been listening to the news, you may have heard that Woolworths has been caught underpaying staff by as much as $300 million. And they’re not the only ones who have been exposed.
Companies such as Dominos, the Commonwealth Bank, Made Establishment, and Sunglasses Hut are amongst those who have been called out for similar indiscretions.
Wage underpayment and theft seems to be rising in prevalence, and the Fair Work Ombudsman is taking this very seriously as can be seen by the number of businesses who are being investigated and caught out. Underpaying your staff could have dire consequences for you and your business, especially if proposed changes to legislation are approved.
Current laws already include fines and possible jail time for offenders. However, after reviewing the effectiveness of current employment laws, the federal government is considering harsher penalties against wage theft.
Almost three-quarters of New South Wales businesses audited in 2018 were found to have made errors in payroll according to the 2018 Fairwork Commission Report. The complexity of the modern award system and mistakes in HR/payroll systems have been blamed for the increase in wage underpayments.
Excuses aside, a salary is a legal contract with an employee, and by not honouring it, you are breaking the law. The New South Wales Government is taking this issue seriously. This month, it’s launching a free legal service for migrant workers and temporary visa holders who are being exploited. The service will be funded for three years to help hundreds of workers each year who feel they have been unfairly paid or dismissed.
If companies such as Woolworths and the Commonwealth Bank get it wrong with all the resources at their disposal, how are small to medium businesses meant to get it right? We’re here to help!
The HR Dept are here to provide expert advice to help you get your payroll right and to comply with all regulatory requirements.
Reality TV star wins a case for compensation
It might seem crazy, but a recent court case with the NSW Workers Compensation Commission has defined a Reality TV Show Contestant as an employee, despite her contract stating otherwise.
Nicole Prince, a contestant in Seven Network’s House Rules, was awarded compensation for psychological injuries gained while competing on the show. The landmark court case ruled that contestants are employees, bringing into question what other benefits they are entitled to, such as mental health support.
The case highlights the importance of understanding the definition of an employee. Things to consider are:
- Remuneration – what are they being paid?
- What are they allowed to wear?
- Who provides the equipment and the resources required?
- Is this their only source of income?
- Who determines the person’s work tasks and hours?
- Where does risk and goodwill for services being performed lie – with the person or the business?
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it highlights the importance of understanding the difference between a contractor and an employee. We can help you avoid any confusion so get in touch.
What happens when managers date their subordinates?
McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, is the latest fatality for having a consensual workplace relationship. Easterbrook broke company policy governing workplace relationships. He’s not the first, and probably won’t be the last.
Having a policy around workplace romance might feel excessive, but these relationships can be fraught with danger. They can lead to favouritism and uncomfortable situations. Worse yet, what happens when the relationship goes south and things end badly. The impact on a business can be substantial.
When could a consensual relationship in the workplace be classed as harassment?
The answer really depends on the differences in seniority. The #MeToo Movement has highlighted a number of women who have been involved in ‘consensual’ relationships with their senior managers simply because they feared retribution if they said no.
According to recent research by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the world’s largest group of human resources professionals, one-third of American adults have had a workplace relationship. Work is a known place to meet people and start relationships. With this in mind, is it worth having a company policy that governs workplace relationships, and how complicated should it be?
A 2018 survey of 150 HR Executives by Challenger, Gray and Christmas, an executive coaching firm, found that 78% of companies surveyed have a policy discouraging dating between subordinates and managers. Perhaps all that’s needed is a policy that makes it mandatory to declare workplace relationships and requires staff to act professionally with no displays of public affection.
The HR Dept can help you identify what workplace policies will help you prevent and manage inappropriate staff behaviour.
Ghosting – The trend you don’t want to experience
A survey of job seekers and employers by job search engine Indeed found 83% of employers have been ghosted. Ghosting included:
● not replying to recruiters
● not showing up for interviews
● failing to sign the paperwork
● failing to turn up for the first day of work
The survey also identified these reasons for ghosting:
● An underwhelming offer
● They changed their mind and weren’t comfortable saying so
● They didn’t get along with the recruiter
● They didn’t know what to do
The HR Dept offers these tips to ensure candidates have a positive experience and don’t ghost you:
● Understand the job market. Is your offering competitive?
● Keep it simple. Long and arduous recruitment processes will disengage candidates.
● Sell yourself. You are probably not the only company they’ve applied to. Why should they choose you?
● Read the signs. Learn to spot a possible ‘ghost’ before they disappear.
Don’t get ghosted. The HR Dept can help you refine your recruitment processes to ensure you reach the right candidates and avoid being ghosted.
Work hours follow the law of diminishing returns
Research shows that work hours follow the law of diminishing returns. Productivity peaks and then starts to decline the longer an employee works. Long hours lead to a decline in employee health, significant increases in the risk of workplace injuries and increased mistakes that negatively impact client relationships.
The more your employees work, the less productive they are (in other words, you’re paying them more, for less).
Conversely, working less can increase productivity. Microsoft Japan and New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, both trialled four-day working weeks and were surprised at the productivity increase. Perpetual Guardian was so impressed it made the change permanent.
Talk to the HR Dept to see how you can maximise productivity to positively impact your bottom-line.
People Matter October 2019
6 Tips for hiring seasonal workers
With Christmas around the corner, many small and medium sized businesses are preparing for their most profitable season. For some, like those in retail and hospitality, this means hiring extra workers to cope with increased demand and longer trading hours.
To ensure you maintain service quality and customer satisfaction, it’s worth thinking about how you’ll recruit temporary workers. Let’s face it – retail and hospitality are stressful industries with high staff turnover. So the last thing you need is to re-hire in the middle of peak season. Or, worse still, disgruntled staff taking frustrations out on customers.
Here are 6 tips to help you get your casual hiring right:
1. Start early – As Christmas gets closer, you’re only going to get busier. Get your recruitment sorted early to ensure you have staff locked in and ready to start.
2. Write clear job descriptions – Save time sifting through applications by being clear about what you need from seasonal employees. This might include certifications (such as an RSA), relevant experience and required availability. Be clear about pay rates and other specific job requirements, such as the need to be available for work during certain hours.
3. Choose where to advertise – Consider where your ideal candidates will be looking. For young workers seeking seasonal employment, you might be more likely to find them through Facebook or Gumtree ads than traditional employment sites. If you’ve had seasonal workers before, contact the good ones and check their availability. This could save you time and money.
4. Consider group interviews – Especially if you need to hire multiple people. This is a fast way to ‘weed out’ candidates by presentation, attitude and the way they interact with others.
5. Start with the end in mind – You’ve made the effort to find seasonal workers, and you’ll need them for the duration. Incentives such as loyalty bonuses can help to ensure they stay.
6. Pay correctly – You also need to ensure you’re paying casual and temporary workers correctly, which can be complex with penalty and casual rates.
The HR Dept can provide expert advice to help you find great staff, maintain your reputation and comply with all regulatory standards.
Why flex is best for employee productivity and your bottom line
Employment flexibility is more than a feel-good thing – it’s good for business with obvious benefits to employees, such as reduced commute times and the ability to work around other commitments.
But did you know there’s evidence that shows there’s other benefits for employees?
Flexible working allows people to work when they are at their peak, which increases productivity.
The 2016 Willis Towers Watson Global Workforce Study showed that Australian employees with flexible work have:
• Significantly higher levels of engagement (35% were highly engaged, compared to 23% of employees without flexibility)
• A more positive overall experience, and
• Lower turnover intention
Conversely, a lack of flexibility can cause lost productivity – resulting from underperformance, reduced engagement, increased stress and higher turnover of experienced talent.
Importantly, employers are obligated to give detailed reasons for denying a flexible work request.
Concerned about implementing flexible work? The HR Dept can provide advice to ensure your policies are great for employees and your bottom line.
Workplace bullying – don’t let it cost your business
Incredibly, two-thirds of Australians experience workplace bullying, according to a recent University of South Australia study.
While 10% of workers self-identify as bullying victims, the researchers estimate the real number is probably much higher. The data suggests that two-thirds of those surveyed have experienced bullying, but either misconstrued it as another issue, or didn’t report it.
For employers, workplace bullying can have significant, negative consequences including:
• Harming worker mental health – depression, psychological distress and emotional exhaustion are common among bullied workers. This can lead to workers taking more sick leave and being less productive (presenteeism) which damages productivity.
• Increased employee turnover with the associated loss of quality talent and increased recruitment costs.
• A breach of workplace health and safety laws if employers fail to take steps to manage the risk of workplace bullying.
This year, there have been several prosecutions of workplace bullies under State and Territory workplace health and safety legislation. In one case, a South Australian electrical company supervisor was fined $21,000 (after a 40% discount for his guilty plea) for bullying an apprentice.
Workplace bullying is defined by Safe Work Australia as “repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”.
One potential cause of bullying is the belief that it can increase productivity, but it’s more likely to have the opposite effect.
A Safe Work Australia report from 2016 indicates the potential for widespread bullying is higher when an organisation’s management didn’t emphasise employee mental health and wellbeing.
Why risk a legal claim? The HR Dept can help you to develop a positive workplace culture and strategies for preventing and managing inappropriate staff behaviour.
Mental health – a $13 billion problem for Australian business
The results are out – mental illness costs Australian businesses an estimated $13 billion per year, according to new research by the Shared Value Project. The reason? Poor mental health affects productivity and therefore profitability.
Other research by WorkScore showed that 15% of employees are significantly affected by mental health disorders and 55% feel very depressed. The researchers discovered three key ways employers can promote mental health:
1. Engagement – Engaged employees experience 15% fewer mental health issues and are 30% happier at work than those who are disengaged.
2. Recognition – Employees with a strong sense of achievement are 30% happier, 20% less depressed and 15% less affected by mental health issues.
3. Concentration – Employees with low levels of concentration at work are 30% less happy than those with high levels of concentration.
Employers can help by encouraging staff to talk about their mental health and seek support. The HR Dept can advise on ways to promote the wellbeing of your workers.
Want a positive workplace culture with staff who love working together? Then you might need some team-building.
One in five Australian workers (21%) say they don’t have a good office dynamic, according to 2019 research. However, half of those aged under 45 years consider their colleagues as friends. So employers need to leverage these relationships to build stronger, more productive teams.
The research shows the most desirable outcomes from attending team-building events were improved relationships, better understanding of others and improved communication skills.
Workers valued activities that involved engaging with colleagues, education and active movement.
Talk to your local HR Dept to learn more about building healthy and productive teams.
People Matter September 2019
Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Most people are neurotypical, meaning their brains process information as society expects. But some, you could say, “think different” to quote Apple’s famous advertising slogan. They are neurodivergent.
Neurodivergent people are often diagnosed with a condition, which can come with stigma. The main examples are ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia. While they can each be associated with specific difficulties which are well documented, they also often give rise to strengths which come from thinking differently.
For instance, people with ADHD may be good at completing urgent tasks, those with autism at developing deep specialist knowledge, people with dyslexia at problem-solving and employees with dyspraxia at strategic thinking.
It all varies from person to person. But recognising neurodiversity and building a supportive working environment could give you a key advantage when trying to get the right blend of skills in your business.
So what kind of accommodations could you make to help neurodivergent people fit in and thrive. Recruitment is a sensible place to start and you could reflect whether there’s any unconscious bias in your recruitment process.
Consider how adaptable your recruiting techniques are. Over-reliance on traditional methods like CV screening and the panel interview may afford virtually no opportunity to people with dyslexia or autism.
We’ve already touched on some of the neurodivergent skills which will be attractive to businesses. But what about the kind of workplace environment that will be attractive to people who are neurodivergent?
Workplaces and business processes are often designed for the neurotypical. So again, some flexibility would be welcome. For instance, if someone is uncomfortable with the noise and movement of an open plan office, could they have a seat in a less busy area and be allowed to wear headphones?
Want to benefit from a more neurodivergent workforce? Speak to your local HR Dept
Working out how to boost employee productivity
It’s no secret that exercise helps the mind and body. But did you realise healthy workers are good for the bottom line?
Exercise has been linked to increased productivity and reduced stress. For example, a worldwide survey of more than one million leaders showed that exceptional ones exercise regularly.
The benefits are so impressive that some employers are encouraging staff to work out on company time. Workplace health programs have been linked with a 25% decrease in sick leave absenteeism and a 41% decrease in workers compensation costs.
Investing in employee wellbeing can also produce an almost six-fold return on investment.
Suggestions from Exercise & Sports Science Australia include:
• Have active meetings — talk while you walk
• Active deskwork — set hourly reminders for active breaks
• Active commute — cycle to work, get off the bus a stop or two earlier or park the car further away and walk
• Active lunch — walk during breaks
For advice on creating a workplace that’s healthy for business, contact The HR Dept.
The business benefits of closing the gender pay gap
2019 marks the 50th anniversary since equal pay for equal work was enshrined in law. Women, however, still earn on average $241.50 (or 14%) less than men per week. This means they must work an additional 49 days annually to achieve the same earnings!
Although the national gender pay gap has decreased slightly, new research suggests it could be halved by 2025.
The Closing the Gender Pay Gap report from the Chifley Research Centre models public policy interventions that would have the biggest and most rapid impact. They include:
- increased transparency to address workplace discrimination
- addressing underpayment of women in feminised industries and
- addressing the value of unpaid work and the role of men as carers
Benefits of equal pay
Achieving equal pay is more than the right thing to do. It has positive economic ramifications. With 6% more women in the workforce, Australia’s economy could gain an extra $25 billion annually.
For businesses, gender pay equity has other bonuses, including:
- creating a motivated, happy and productive workforce
- becoming an employer of choice to attract top talent
- improving staff retention and reducing turnover costs
- fulfilling your legal obligations and avoiding costly discrimination complaints
- inspiring consumer confidence and preventing negative PR from legal proceedings or allegations of gender pay inequity
The Fair Work Commission notes that gender pay equity covers more than wages. It includes allowances, performance payments, merit payments, bonuses and superannuation.
Best practice employers ensure that gender-based pay discrimination is not part of their remuneration system. The HR Dept can provide expert advice on how your business can meet Fair Work obligations and be an employer of choice for women.
Noise works? Not in the workplace!
Anyone who’s lived with noisy neighbours knows how annoying it is. But rowdy colleagues (and other workplace ‘noise pollution’) can up the irritation to new decibels.
According to Sony’s latest Sound Report, 80% of Australians encounter unwanted workplace noise – with noise from co-workers receiving the biggest complaints. For 54% of participants, unwanted noise made it difficult to concentrate, while 44% said it made them feel irritable or annoyed.
This stress can cause interrupted sleep, leading to reduced overall productivity.
Another study by Plantronics and Future Workplace showed that 81% of participants believe open-plan workspaces allow them to be more productive. However, 99% said they get distracted in that set up.
To combat this, employers can provide quiet working spaces, consider the acoustics of their office and provide noise-cancelling headphones to staff.
Contact The HR Dept for recommendations on creating a workplace that’s peaceful and productive.
Why overtime can deliver diminishing returns
It might be considered “normal” in some industries, but the cost of working overtime can quickly outstrip any benefits if it isn’t well managed.
Research shows that mental health tends to decline after working 39 hours a week.
Go beyond 48 hours and job performance will suffer, while signs of depression, anxiety and poor sleep can surface.
Working more than 10 hours a day increases workplace injury risk by 40%, and it doubles after 12 hours.
Talk to The HR Dept’s experts for advice on balancing your business needs with the wellbeing and productivity of your staff.
People Matter August 2019
Foul-tasting fare – how underpaying staff could land you in hot water
You’ve probably heard the news about high-profile chef George Calombaris underpaying staff. Not only has it damaged his reputation, it’s also led to a Court-Enforceable Undertaking between his company MAdE Establishment (MADE) and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Along with a need to backpay almost $8 million, MADE is required to make a $200,000 contrition payment. They must also self-fund external auditors to check workers’ pay and conditions and post public apologies on social media, their website and in several newspapers.
Serious breaches in relation to payments under a modern award can result in fines of up to $630,000 per breach. Company directors and even senior employees are also at risk if they are involved in the conduct.
Employers underpaying staff may soon face jail time, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating the Attorney-General is drafting laws to deal with criminalising worker exploitation.
Research from Ascender shows that 22% of Australians have been underpaid so
Calombaris isn’t alone. Several other well-known brands have come under Fair Work fire for underpaying staff, including Melbourne’s Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar, 7-Eleven and Endota Spa Sydney.
While the franchisee of the posh day spas admitted to making unlawful salary deductions and underpaying penalty rates and entitlements, often underpayments are unintentional.
Simple administrative errors or failure to keep up with Fair Work changes could potentially land you with serious fines and penalties.
Underpayment can also lead to significant problems for staff. They can cause financial hardship and stress. They could also damage trust, reduce motivation, and lead to a zero ‘care factor’ with staff.
Disgruntled and disengaged employees are likely to be less productive, which will negatively affect your business’s bottom line.
It’s important to remember that a salary is an agreement. You are breaking this agreement by not paying employees the stated amount.
Salaries, awards and entitlements are complex and constantly changing. As in cases like Calombaris’s, it’s easy to make mistakes.
At The HR Dept, we understand payroll. Whether you’re setting up new agreements or are concerned about potential problems, our experienced team can help to ensure you are compliant with all current regulations.
Clever ideas to prevent age stereotype
Some forms of discrimination might get more media exposure, but ageism in the workplace is one of the most common. The Australian Human Rights Commission reports that more than a quarter of Australians aged over 50 have experienced age discrimination in the last couple of years.
With Australians living and working longer, some workplaces now have four or even five generations of people working together.
Yet some workplaces maintain outdated and false assumptions about mature-aged workers such as, they are resistant to change or just waiting to retire.
Instead, employers should create a culture that considers the needs of workers of all ages. Some strategies to assist older workers include:
• offering flexible work arrangements, including things like job-sharing and phased retirement options
• providing career planning advice for all employees, including retirement planning sessions
• encouraging intergenerational collaboration and knowledge transfer by putting workers in multi-generational teams.
For specialist advice on helping your older workers, contact The HR Dept.
Oh baby! What you need to know about parental leave entitlements
For employers, navigating parental leave entitlements can seem more complex than life with a newborn!
While legal obligations are important, good employers will want to support their employees with expanding families. This helps to ensure they are keen to return to work so you can maintain their valuable skills and experience.
Parental leave allows employees to take 12 months (and up to two years) off when:
• they give birth
• adopt a child under 16 years of age
• their spouse or de facto partner gives birth
Best practice organisations are going beyond their obligations with family-friendly parental leave policies. They are including things like extended paid leave periods, offering return to work bonuses and topping up government-funded leave entitlements.
Some employers are even implementing policies that aren’t gender biased. Resource management company SUEZ, for example, is offering 14 weeks paid parental leave to the primary carer, plus four weeks paid leave for partners (secondary carers).
Kim Hall, SUEZ’s Australia and New Zealand HR Director, said the new policy would better reflect their workforce’s diversity and ensure equitable access to flexibility, career continuation and financial benefits.
Telstra have gone a step further, offering employees up to 16 weeks paid parental leave – whether they are the primary or secondary carer.
“We want every parent, regardless of gender, to be able to share caring responsibilities while maintaining their career,” explained Telstra’s Alex Badenoch. “This change removes the distinction between primary and secondary carers which are often linked to traditional gendered roles.”
The HR Dept can help you create parental leave policies that meet legal requirements and ensure you retain top talent.
Grappling with gripes? Tips for managing workplace grievances
Airing minor workplace hassles over Friday drinks is one thing, but what about when there’s a genuine grievance?
The way employers handle complaints can significantly impact the employer-employee relationship, workplace culture and the organisation’s reputation.
A workplace grievance is a formal complaint raised by an employee. It may be against another employee or the employer.
It can include allegations of harassment, bullying and discrimination as well as matters relating to employee management and organisational changes.
It’s essential for employers to recognise grievances and manage them fairly, transparently, confidentially and efficiently.
Employers are advised to have a current workplace grievance policy to define a grievance, outline the step-by-step resolution procedure and what happens once the situation is resolved.
This will reassure employees that a fair and formal process is available for their concerns.
For help in creating a policy that suits your needs, contact the expert team at The HR Dept
Device dilemmas? Managing personal mobiles at work
If you’re wondering whether your employees’ mobile phones are surgically embedded into their palms, you might have a problem. Workers of all ages may take their device habit into the workplace.
This is where a mobile phone policy is vital. Clearly laying out expectations around personal device use at work helps to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.
It’s also crucial to document that staff have received and understood the policy.
Last year, an unfair dismissal claim around zero-tolerance mobile use was upheld because of inadequate documentation.
Contact The HR Dept for help to create a clear personal device policy.
People Matter July 2019
5 Tips to attract & retain great staff – even on a shoestring budget
Findings from the latest Randstad Employer Brand research show the biggest motivator for Australian employees is money.You might be wondering, then, how to keep employees motivated when your budget is already stretched to the limit.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to keep your staff happy and keen to stay with your organisation.
Offering flexible work can be a powerful incentive. In fact, 84% of Australians say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer it. Employers, therefore, are increasingly adding flexible work to their talent attraction and retention strategies.
“Flexible work is considered by many to be the new norm for any business that is serious about productivity, agility and winning the war for top talent,” Damien Sheehan, head of IWG in Australia, told Human Resources Director magazine.
Flexible work can include working part-time in a satellite office, co-working space or working from home. It also includes working outside the usual weekday hours.
Aside from flexible work, there are various other ways to keep employees content and loyal. Some other incentives include:
1. Training – offering on- and off-site training not only builds your people’s capabilities, it keeps them happy.
2. Recognition – this simple strategy is a highly effective way to reward your staff. But carefully consider how you go about it. Some people prefer quiet praise while others will relish recognition in front of their peers.
3. Health and wellbeing rewards – investing in your workers’ health proves you value them, plus boosts productivity and reduces sick leave. Ideas include gym memberships, yoga classes and mental health supports such as counselling.
4. Food – everybody loves to eat, so this incentive has universal appeal. Simply take the team out to lunch or organise food from each team members’ favourite cuisine or country of origin.
5. Charities and volunteering – allow time off for staff to work on passion projects or give a donation to a charity of the employee’s choice.
The HR Dept are experts on staff attraction and retention. Contact us for advice about becoming an employer of choice for top-performing talent.
Fully Sick! How to handle workers misusing leave entitlements
The “sickie” may seem to be enshrined in Australian culture, but it’s costing the economy $34 billion per year.
Public holidays are a particular problem. New research from the Australian Payroll Association found that 85% of businesses say employees take sick leave around them with payroll managers expressing concerns about this misuse of sick leave.
Another well-known ‘trick’ is employees using up their sick leave just before they quit or are fired. Some are reportedly using their doctor to legitimise taking leave that won’t be paid out on termination.
While some staff – such as those with chronic illnesses – are taking leave for legitimate purposes, others are abusing the system. Employers having this problem need to get to its root cause and consider what they can do to better engage their staff.
The HR Dept can provide expert advice on making your workplace more engaging and provide guidance on how to deal with staff who are misusing their leave entitlements.
Got the booze blues? What to do when alcohol consumption affects your workers
A drink with colleagues after work is one thing, but what if your team has a boozy night out that affects their work the next day?
Research reported in the Medical Journal of Australia found one-third of Australian workers have experienced negative effects from their co-workers’ drinking. 3.5% reported needing to work extra hours to cover for their hungover colleagues.
This extra work is estimated to cost the Australian economy $453 million annually.
Aside from the financial cost, alcohol can have significant health and social costs for workplaces. An employee may be affected by alcohol at work due to a hangover or ongoing intoxication after a big night of drinking.
This can be an occupational health and safety issue when it affects a person’s judgment, coordination, motor control or alertness. It can also lead to heightened risk of injury and illness.
Intoxicated staff might be rowdy and rude to other team members, creating an atmosphere of hostility that lasts well beyond the night out. Impaired judgment might lead to behaviours that cause irreparable reputational damage.
Nobody forgets the boozed-up employee who groped the boss’s partner or lap-danced their colleagues. Worse still, intoxicated staff could get seriously injured.
If your team is on a night out sponsored by your organisation, the damage to your brand caused by the behaviour of your employees could be irreversible. Employers have a legal duty of care to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for their staff which includes out-of-hours work events.
To avoid issues like these, The HR Dept can help you develop policies that clarify workplace expectations around alcohol use. If you already have a problem in your team, we can help you manage it without ruffling too many feathers. So get in touch.
Toy salesman finds alleged worker exploitation no fun
For the first time since they came into effect in September 2017, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has used Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws.
Melbourne man Eyal Israel (and his company), are about to face the Federal Circuit Court. Allegedly, Eyal paid eight workers unlawfully low rates – and didn’t pay some at all – for their work at Uncle Toys pop-up stores in various shopping centres.
Under the laws, the maximum penalties for serious contraventions are $630,000 per breach for a company and $126,000 for an individual. These are 10 times higher than for traditional contraventions.
The FWO also used new reverse onus of proof provisions. These require employers to disprove underpayment allegations in Court if they have failed to adequately comply with time-and-wages records and pay slip obligations.
Don’t risk a run-in with the FWO. Contact the HR Dept for accurate and up-to-date advice about all things pay-related.
Why connected staff are more productive
Humans are wired to belong – even in the workplace. A lack of connection with others can lead to feelings of isolation and effect a person’s mental health. It can lead to serious problems and is one of three factors to affect those at risk of suicide.
A sense of belonging is important for good mental health and can also boost loyalty and productivity. University of Queensland research shows employees who feel part of a group report increased positivity, motivation and overall health.
Leaders can improve productivity and wellbeing by creating a shared sense of purpose.
For guidance on how to create a collaborative workplace culture, contact The HR Dept.
People Matter June 2019
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
People Matter August 2018
New family and domestic violence leave entitlements – all you need to know
In recognising the serious and widespread problem of family and domestic violence in Australia, the Fair Work Commission has updated awards to include a new leave entitlement.
Family, domestic and sexual violence are a major welfare issue. Recent statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have shown that violence by an intimate partner causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 25–44.
Nor are men immune, with one man each month being killed by a current or former partner in the two years from 2012–14.
The new clause will allow most employees to take five days of unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence. It’s aimed to empower victims to seek the help they need, without threatening their work situation. It took effect on 1 August 2018.
Employees can use the leave to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence, including things like making arrangements for their own (or a loved one’s) safety and attending court hearings.
Some of the key things you need to know about the leave include:
- It will apply to all employees, including casuals
- The full five days will be available to all employees, regardless of whether they work full-time, part-time or casual (in other words, it is not pro rata for part-time or casual employees)
- It will be available in full at the start of each 12-month period – rather than accruing over a year of service
- It will not accrue from one year to the next
There are some exceptions to the entitlements, such as enterprise awards. If an employment contract or workplace policy provides less than the minimum entitlement in the applicable award, the award entitlement still applies.
The HR Dept can help you understand the implications of the new leave entitlements for your business and work with you to ensure you comply with implementing them.
For further advice on ensuring victims of family and domestic violence in your workplace can receive their entitlements without unnecessary business disruption, contact The HR Dept today.
Essential tips for a happy and healthy workforce
It’s no secret that mentally healthy workers are more productive. Promoting good mental health is not just a nice thing to do – it’s a smart business decision.
The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance was established in 2013 to encourage – and provide resources for – mentally healthy workplaces.
Their suggestions for managers include:
- Using online resources to educate your employees about mental health
- Speak openly about mental health in the workplace and encourage others to do the same
- Communicate your commitment to privacy and equal opportunity
- Develop a mental health and wellbeing policy
- Minimise workplace risks to mental health, such as job stress
- If you are concerned about an employee, have a conversation with them
Contact The HR Dept for advice on making your business a mentally healthy one.
Manager’s email goes viral (for all the wrong reasons)
Ever dreamed of having your emails to employees go viral? It happened to one Sydney boss, for all the wrong reasons.
The outrageous outburst by Marcus Wood, the director of Mars Recruiting, was reported in The Guardian.
Wood’s email to staff included a rant about under performing staff “getting on my tits” and threatening they would have their “sorry asses fired and slung out the door in under 3 months”.
After confessing he was the author of the self-described “Gordon Ramsay meets Donald Trump-style email rant”, Woods claims to have learned from the experience after the leaked email went viral.
Moral of this story – if you want to avoid making a public apology (or winding up in court), think before you press send.
When staff performance issues get you down, don’t deal with it yourself. Contact The HR Dept for help.
What to do when an employee doesn’t return from holidays?
Everybody looks forward to their annual holiday. So much so that some find it a struggle to return to work and the routine of everyday life afterwards. But if an employee heads off on holiday never to be seen, or heard from again, this could be abandonment of employment at the employee’s initiative.
As an employer, how will you know that an employee has abandoned their employment?
It can be hard to prove as there could be many viable reasons as to why they have not returned to work. Abandonment of employment can usually be concluded when an employee’s actions (or inactions) indicate that they do not wish to return to work.
A lack of communication on the employee’s part can make this a cloudy situation. So you will want to make sure you have followed all the necessary steps before concluding the employee has no intention of ever returning to work.
Before you choose the dismissal route, it’s worth noting that all employees are protected against unfair termination under the Fair Work Act. So, to cover yourself, you’ll want to be sure that you made every effort to clarify the situation before making any risky assumptions.
There are a series of steps that you must follow before concluding abandonment of employment:
- Consider the circumstances of the absence, including its length and the reasons surrounding it. Has the employee tried to make contact?
- Attempt to make contact with the employee. Try calling or emailing the employee and keep a record of attempted contact.
- Send a letter. Explain via letter that the employee is taking unauthorised absence and that an explanation of absence is required. Set a date for the employee to respond or report to work by, otherwise employment abandonment may be accepted.
- Repeat the previous steps to show every effort has been made to communicate with the absent employee.
- Send a final letter. If no contact has been made by the employee after following the above steps, send a signed for letter which clearly determines that after several attempts to contact the employee, you have accepted they have abandoned their employment.
For advice on what to do if the employee responds, or to check the process against a specific award, call your local expert at The HR Dept.
Is your Fair Work statement up to date?
With updates to the Fair Work Statement every year, keeping on top of yours can be a hassle.
The Statement forms part of the National Employment Standards (NES) and gives employees a clear framework for understanding their employment.
A vital part of the Fair Work Statement is the National Employment Standards. These outline ten mandatory employment standards that must be given to every employee, regardless of their award, contract type or contract length.
WorkPro – an online platform for managing workforce compliance – enables you to deliver the Fair Work Statement as a mandatory online task for your worker to read and accept. It also records their response.
WorkPro also automatically updates the Statement each year, making it a quick and easy way of ensuring compliance.
The HR Dept offers WorkPro so speak to us about how it can streamline the key aspects of your workplace compliance.
More work in less time? Lessons from the four-day week
While most employees dream of working less without sacrificing income, one New Zealand company made this a reality. The company’s founder had the idea for the trial after reading that workplace productivity could be as low as one-and-a-half hours per day.
The results were surprising. Not only was job performance maintained (even increased) over four days, stress was reduced by 7% and work/life balance improved by 24%. Job engagement and satisfaction also increased.
The four-day week may not be for everyone but offering flexible work arrangements can be a great start towards achieving the same outcomes.
People Matter July 2018
Why SMEs should act on workplace sexual harassment
Celebrity sexual harassment allegations in the entertainment industry have dominated the news since October 2017 and triggered an unprecedented global reaction. The worldwide #metoo movement has evolved as women, in particular, feel empowered to speak out on social media about their experiences of workplace sexual harassment.
Now attention will be on Australia as the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has announced a ‘world first’ enquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. Kate Jenkins, the sex discrimination commissioner, will lead the enquiry. In comments to the ABC she said:
“The timing was right, the appetite for change is there and we have all the functions to make sure we can help Australia lead the globe in finding new solutions for sexual harassment.”
The enquiry will explore the reasons behind the growing number of incidents of workplace sexual harassment. It will investigate what businesses are doing to address them and the impact of existing Australian laws. Special attention will be given to women who are affected financially when workplace sexual harassment causes them to change employers or miss out on promotion.
The Federal Government supports the 12-month AHRC enquiry and is funding half the estimated $1m cost.
Every Australian will have the chance to lodge a submission with the enquiry and public consultations will be held in major cities as well as regional centres. Workplace sexual harassment policies and procedures used by businesses around the country will be under scrutiny, as well as the outcomes of complaints.
The HR Dept can help you understand workplace sexual harassment laws and review your policies and procedures, so your employees and your business are protected. Read on for some top tips on stamping out sexual harassment in the workplace.
– Set the tone. Make it undeniably clear to all of your employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.
– Lead by example. Ensure your company culture is inclusive and fair to all.
– Communicate. Provide training with clear instructions on behavioural expectations and how to report harassment.
For further advice on how to address sexual harassment in your workplace contact your local HR Dept professional today.
July 2018 brings minimum wage increases
With the new financial year underway, have you updated your payroll to comply with the increase in the national minimum wage?
At the beginning of June, Fair Work Commission (FWC) President, Justice Iain Ross announced the following changes to the minimum wage, effective from 1 July 2018:
- 3.5% increase
- New hourly rate – $18.93 per hour
- New weekly rate – $719.20 for a 38-hour week
- Weekly increase – $24.30 per week
The weekly increase was nearly double the Australian Industry Group’s preferred amount of $12.50. But the figure fell well short of the $50 per week sought by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
Union secretary, Sally McManus, conceded the rise was “a step in the right direction” but felt it didn’t go far enough.
Justice Ross said the commission had delivered an increase in real wages for minimum wage employees, without adversely affecting employment or putting pressure on inflation. Workplace Minister Craig Laundy agreed, describing the FWC’s decision as “carefully considered and balanced”.
The HR Dept recognises the financial impact that this will have on small businesses and can advise on ways to staff your business in the most effective and cost-efficient way whilst not getting the wage rates wrong and falling foul of the Fair Work Ombudsman. Not only could you face huge wage back payment bills you could face hefty fines and small businesses are not excused or out of the line of fire from the FWO!
If you have employees who are receiving the minimum wage, you must make sure you implement the new hourly or weekly rates.
Robots find a new way to take your job
Imagine discovering a robot had terminated one of your staff and you were helpless to intervene. If this sounds like a scene from a sci-fi action movie – it’s not. This actually occurred recently at a company in California.
Software developer, Ibrahim Diallo was mistakenly sacked by a seemingly malicious robot that gradually shut him out of every online system at his workplace.
So, while the management team wanted him to keep working, it became impossible. Even the company director was unable to roll back or override the system.
An investigation eventually revealed the glitch was caused by an ex-employee who had failed to update Ibrahim’s details prior to a system upgrade.
Ultimately, human error was to blame. But, if you want to stop the robots from running riot in your workplace, make sure any automated HR systems are reversible
Changes to Disability Employment Services have arrived
Have you created a workplace that supports employees living with disabilities? Did you know Disability Employment Services (DES) help Australians with a disability prepare for work and find a job? They can also assist employers with implementing practices that improve workplace conditions.
Now, after consulting with people living with disability, disability peak organisations, disability service providers and employers, the DES program is changing. From July 2018, DES participants have more choice about the services they use and how they’re delivered.
The changes will help people living with disability, injury or a health condition get work and stay employed. They include:
- Improving participant choice and control
- Engendering competition and contestability in service delivery
- Improving incentives for providers to place job seekers in employment
- Introducing indexation of provider payments and
- A trial of expanded DES eligibility for students in the last year of school
Contact us if you are seeking advice regarding support for a disabled employee.
How to win over employees with workplace wellness
It’s not a cliché! Your employees genuinely are your most valuable asset. But looking after their wellbeing at work by introducing wellness benefits delivers a win for you, and them. It’s no wonder wellness benefits are becoming increasingly more common in Australian workplaces.
In the US, wellness benefits are more frequently offered as a means to improve employee recruitment and encourage retention. But there are many other advantages to keeping your staff healthy and happy at work, such as:
- Productivity increases
- Less work-related ill-health and fewer injuries
- Reduced workers compensation costs
- Less absenteeism and staff turnover
- Employee relations improvements
- Healthier workplace environments
- Developing your reputation as an employer of choice
Would you like to boost the wellbeing of your team and increase workplace productivity? Ask us how we can help you introduce wellness benefits for your employees.
Avoid an expensive case of mistaken identity
Did you know that mistaking an employee for a contractor can cost you up to $63,000 per person in fines? And that’s just with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). The Australian Tax Office (ATO) can bring other penalties for unpaid tax and/or superannuation.
Many businesses may never recover from such high fines!
The problem is, it can seem difficult to know who is a genuine contractor and who isn’t.
If you feel unsure, we can help. Contact your local HR Dept professional today for advice.
People Matter June 2018
Culture is king – how to win millennial loyalty
It’s official. The days when jobs were for life are long gone. But it’s not employers driving this change in attitude. The modern millennial workforce is proving increasingly hard to retain.
Results from the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey of over 10,000 millennials, across 36 countries, revealed millennials are feeling disillusioned with self-serving businesses.
In Australia, monetary rewards are important but they aren’t the top priority for millennial job seekers. The survey indicated their most highly-rated job considerations were:
- Work environment
- Financial rewards/benefits
Millennials – anyone born between 1983 and 1994 – will soon make up the majority of our Australian workforce. Their concerns are not only relevant but also an indication of what employers must do to attract and retain them.
The cost and disruption of high staff turnover have a bigger impact on small to medium enterprises as they have fewer employees and smaller budgets.
Almost half (44%) of millennials surveyed anticipated changing their employer in under two years, with only 22% considering tenure of over 5 years.
According to Deloitte Australia’s chief operating officer, David Hill:
“While pay and culture attract this cohort to employers, it’s diversity, inclusion and flexibility that keep them there… Those working for employers perceived to have diverse workforces and senior management teams are more likely to want to stay five or more years.”
Millennials are also aware of what’s sometimes referred to as Industry 4.0 – more digital technologies including Artificial Intelligence introduced to the workplace. They feel employers should provide training opportunities, particularly in more human-centric soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity or innovation.
So how can you make your workplace more appealing to millennials so they want to work for you, and more importantly, are happy to stay?
- Build a diverse workplace and a culture that offers meaning beyond financial gain
- Offer attractive financial rewards
- Include flexibility in your work practices
- Provide more professional development opportunities
The HR Dept can help you with these and other initiatives to grow a loyal millennial workforce. Call us on 1800 473 378 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Process fail delivers unfair dismissal win
When is a resignation not a resignation? It sounds like a trick question, but for the Fair Work Commission (FWC), the answer is very simple.
In March 2018, a nail technician working at a Melbourne beauty salon lodged an unfair dismissal claim, despite having resigned from her job. The FWC found in her favour and the business was ordered to pay over $20,000 in wages and superannuation.
So, how did a resignation lead to a successful unfair dismissal claim? Two hours after receiving her resignation, the business fired the employee via email, stating she’d altered a medical certificate, giving them grounds to terminate her. Fair Work Commissioner Michelle Bissett ruled this email invalidated the resignation and opened the door to an unfair dismissal claim.
At the hearing, the FWC accepted the technician resigned because she felt bullied by her employer after making enquiries about her wages. There was evidence she had previously contacted the ATO and the Fair Work Ombudsman about pay and superannuation she believed she was owed.
The employer offered little proof the technician had backdated her medical certificate and the dismissal was found to be harsh and unjust.
If you want to avoid a similar situation in your business, it’s important to remember you can accept a resignation but still reject the reasons given. However, you should avoid countering a resignation with a dismissal.
For help with termination questions contact The HR Dept.
We can develop thorough processes to ensure your employee-related activities – from performance management to suspicions of fraudulent behaviour – are always documented.
Should candidates keep mum about their pregnancy?
For women, when it comes to revealing pregnancy or even marital status, it can feel like the recruitment playing field is far from even. Credit report specialists, Credit Angel, recently revealed that around one in three female job applicants don’t wear wedding rings when attending job interviews.
And a woman on a parenting website ignited debate when she asked forum members whether she should reveal her pregnancy during a job interview. She was concerned she might not be offered the job if her potential employer knew she was seven months pregnant. Responses were split between people urging her to be honest, while others believed the employer would discriminate.
Despite the concerns, Australian employment law is clear – neither an applicant nor an employee can be discriminated against because of their gender.
For employers, negotiating employment law and ensuring you’re protected against discrimination claims can be tricky. To be sure, contact The HR Dept today.
Is your business affected by Single Touch Payroll?
From July 2018, Single Touch Payroll (STP) will be mandatory for ‘substantial employers’ (defined as businesses that employ 20 or more people).
New processes can bring new challenges, so how should you prepare for STP? Here are 7 tips:
- Establish whether you’re a substantial employer. (No need to submit your headcount to the ATO.)
- Speak to The HR Dept and/or your payroll software provider about STP help and reporting.
- Subscribe to ATO updates about STP and make sure your contact details are current.
- Review your payroll processes, to ensure payroll staff understand and are prepared for STP implementation from 1 July.
- If you won’t be ready in time for rollout, contact the ATO and ask for an extension.
- Once your software and systems are set up, begin reporting to the ATO.
- If you encounter problems, get in touch with The HR Dept who will be able to help.
Strategy essentials for remote working success
Has your business embraced the idea of employees working remotely? In recent years, working from home has become a well-established practice in many companies. A study by Remote.co revealed working remotely has grown by 115% since 2005.
There are some challenges such as isolation and accountability. But remote working also delivers benefits for businesses and employees alike, from improved productivity to cost savings, greater job satisfaction and healthier employees.
Founder and CEO of Remote.co, Sara Sutton Fell acknowledges that the success or failure of remote work depends on how it’s executed.
“There are critical strategies and management techniques necessary to make remote work a success, whether it’s applied to one worker, a team, or an entire business.”
Are you interested in developing a remote work policy for your workplace? Avoid the challenges – speak to us.
Embracing sport to build winning workplace teams
Australia has a worldwide reputation as a sports-mad nation. From Test cricket to football – sport consistently outranks other entertainment in the TV ratings and around the water cooler.
When major events like this year’s football World Cup draw near, it’s an excellent opportunity to boost employee engagement.
Start by injecting some fun into your workplace:
- Install a TV in the breakout room
- Organise a World Cup sweepstakes
- Hold a ‘wear your team shirt’ day
Introduce some flexible work options. You’ll reduce the likelihood of employees arriving bleary-eyed and distracted and you’ll demonstrate your commitment to work-life balance.
People Matter May 2018
Act now – the Real Estate Award has changed!
On 2 April, the Real Estate Award changed so if you operate a real estate agency, you need to act quickly to ensure compliance.
Here’s an overview of the main changes but for a detailed breakdown, visit Changes to the Real Estate Award.
Employment classifications and weekly wages
Four new classifications have been introduced as follows:
- a new Real Estate Employee Level 1 (Associate Level)
- a new Real Estate Employee Level 2 (Representative Level)
- a new Real Estate Employee Level 3 (Supervisory Level)
- a new Real Estate Employee Level 4 (In-charge Level)
Commission only employment
Minimum employment conditions for commission only employees have changed. To be eligible, employees:
- Need to be a Real Estate Employee Level 2 or above.
- Need to have worked in property sales or commercial, industrial or retail leasing as a Real Estate Employee Level 2 or as a licensed real estate agent for at least 12 consecutive months over the previous 3 years.
- Who are engaged after 2 April 2018, need to meet the new minimum income threshold amount rules.
- Who are already engaged before 2 April 2018, can continue their commission only arrangement as long as their arrangement is reviewed each year and meets the new minimum income threshold amount rules.
Payments on termination of employment
Employees may be entitled to a portion of these payments where employment ends:
- Because of their serious misconduct, if there was an enforceable property sale or lease contract in place before the date the employment ends.
- For any other reason, if there was an enforceable property sale or lease contract in place before the end of the exclusive agency period.
Annual leave for commission only employees
Commission only employees are still not paid annual leave loading. However, the award now confirms annual leave should be paid at the employee’s base pay rate for their classification at the time of taking leave.
The HR Dept can help you manage Awards in your workplace. Call us on 1800 473 378 or email email@example.com
Racial bias in recruitment – are you guilty?
Badly written job ads are a waste of everyone’s time and money. The employer doesn’t attract the right applicants for the role, and the applicants spend time applying for jobs they won’t get.
Last month, a job ad posted by Optus attracted a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. The ad, which stated a preference for ‘Anglo Saxon’ applicants, was not just badly written; it was offensive and discriminatory. It was removed within 24 hours but had already been shared, discussed and criticised widely on social media.
Optus was forced into damage control and publicly stated their commitment to equal opportunity employment and diversity. Optus’s vice-president of human resources, Vaughan Paul released an apology stating:
“This error is completely unacceptable and a clear breach of our advertising standards and commitment to equal opportunity employment.”
Whether the appalling word choice was caused by error, poor judgement or a combination of the two, it revealed a failing in Optus’s internal processes. After all, why was the ad posted without being reviewed first?
The public outcry was a clear indication that there’s no place for racial bias in Australian recruitment culture. Employment law reflects this attitude, so Optus could face more than just reputational damage.
The Fair Work Act 2009 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against an employee or prospective employee on the basis of race. A corporation faces a maximum penalty of $63,000 for a single contravention of unlawful discrimination protections. For individuals, the penalty is $12,600.
To ensure your job ads meet legal requirements and attract quality candidates, seek professional help to write them.
Don’t let zombie contracts come back to bite you!
Are your employment contracts, or lack of them, a ticking time bomb for your business?
Recently, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCCA) ruled a casual plant operator, working for an earthmoving business for 15 years, was actually a permanent employee.
The court ordered the employer to pay the operator for untaken annual leave accrued over the 15 years.
The employer argued the worker was paid a casual loading. However, there was no contract in place to support this position.
Another area of risk for employers is “zombie” contracts. These are contracts put in place during the Work Choices-era that, in some cases, haven’t been updated. This situation is allowed if both the employee and employer have agreed the contract can continue.
However, new employees should not be engaged using “zombie” contracts as many include work conditions that aren’t aligned with modern awards.
Contact us if you’d like help reviewing or updating your contracts.
Costly cybercrime committed by bored employee
Most businesses today are at risk from Cybercrime. Attacks usually involve data being held to ransom by anonymous entities. But sometimes the perpetrator can be closer to home.
When Tek4’s managing director received emails threatening to delete critical company data unless a ransom was paid, he called the police. They traced the crime to a trusted employee who claimed he acted out of boredom.
The ransom wasn’t paid, but it’s estimated the attack cost the company and its insurers over £1.5 million in fees, lost turnover and profit.
It’s good practice to safeguard all your sensitive data!
Nearly 50% of staff shop online during working hours
Most employees would never slip out to the shops during working hours. But many view online shopping differently.
When Finder.com surveyed 2085 employees, they discovered nearly 50% had shopped online at work. The results show some states have a bigger problem than others:
- 70% in New South Wales and Western Australia
- 67% in Victoria
- 64% in Queensland and South Australia
While employees do work and respond to emails outside business hours, Finder found the annual estimated cost of lost productivity from online shopping is around $31 billion.
So, if you want to reduce costs and deter staff from sneaking off to their favourite shopping platform:
- Develop a clear policy for online activities and ensure all employees have seen, understood and agreed to it.
- Build a workplace culture where employees feel valued and engaged so they’re less likely to drift off to an online store.
Adaptability more beneficial than cultural fit
If you want employees who’ll bring long-term benefits to your workplace, look for applicants who’ve travelled or lived overseas or been exposed to different work environments.
It sounds counter-intuitive but Amir Goldberg, associate professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business, says adaptability is more important than instant cultural fit.
According to Goldberg, recent research used linguistic analysis of internal emails sent within a tech company over five years. The results suggest candidates who are able to adapt to your culture are a better choice.
“We find that what predicts who will stay, who will leave, and who will be fired is not so much initial level of cultural fit as much as their trajectory, the degree to which they adapt.”
If you’d like help recruiting the right staff, speak to us today.
People Matter April 2018
Should employees have the right to choose their working hours?
Could your workplace function efficiently if your employees dictated the hours they were available to work each month? Employer groups say ‘no’! But the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) disagrees.
The ACTU has been campaigning to change the Fair Work Act to give employees the right to access flexible, family-friendly hours. Last year, the union brought their Family-Friendly Work Arrangements Case to the Fair Work Commission.
Not surprisingly, peak employer organisation, The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) opposed the change and took the lead in representing Australian employers against the ACTU’s case.
On this occasion, the full bench of the FWC agreed with employer groups that the move would be detrimental to business operations and ruled against the ACTU’s case.
Innes Willox, chief executive of Ai Group, reacted to the ruling by stating:
‘If the ACTU’s claims had been accepted, all awards would have been varied to give employees the right to dictate to their employer what hours and days they work, with the employer having no right to refuse, regardless of the circumstances’.
In her response to the outcome, ACTU secretary Sally McManus claimed:
‘The proposed changes were a common-sense solution to the situation that so many workers find themselves in, sandwiched between caring responsibilities and work.’
Ms McManus also highlighted that the ruling would have a greater impact on women, who bear the brunt of carer responsibilities. She accused the Commission of choosing to ‘maintain a broken system which leaves women with nowhere to turn’.
“It goes against the culture I thought the tax office was trying to develop – of staff working together to help administer the tax system”.
The ACTU believes the current law that gives workers the right to request family-friendly work arrangements doesn’t go far enough. They want employees to be able to appeal their employer’s decision if their request is refused.
Interestingly, despite the FWC’s rejection of the ACTU’s case, it did not dismiss the issue of flexible hours. Instead, it encouraged employers and employees to keep discussions open and find solutions that are mutually beneficial.
The price of policing work-life balance
If some of your staff consistently work additional hours, it might be a cause for concern rather than celebration.
After all, what can appear as dedication to the job might, in reality, be a sign that they’re struggling to manage their workload. How do you know when to intervene and insist on some work-life balance?
In France, a baker has fallen foul of local employment laws aimed at enforcing healthy work practices. Cédric Vaivre, who owns Boulangerie du Lacin in Lusigny-sur-Barse, has been opening seven days a week when the law restricts him to six.
Cédric refused to comply, so he was hit with a €3,000 fine. But his community supports his determination to fight the rule, as they believe he has valid reasons for staying open.
When you’re dealing with employees who regularly work long days, whatever the reason, it’s essential to encourage healthy levels of work-life balance as a long-term strategy.
Backup social media policies with employee education
As social media platforms become more integrated into the workplace, it’s essential to proceed carefully when investigating potential breaches of your social media policy.
In the unfair dismissal claim between Clint Remmert and Broken Hill Operations Pty Ltd T/A Rasp Mine, the commissioner ruled there were grounds for dismissal. But, poor HR procedures resulted in the employer having to pay Mr Remmert $28,000 in compensation.
The Fair Work Commission found that Mr Remmert contravened the company’s detailed social media policy by participating in a Facebook discussion outside work, belittling another employee.
However, it also found he had never been adequately trained or consulted on the policy content. Consequently, the company was ordered to pay him compensation.
So, a comprehensive social media policy is not enough without a robust process for sharing it with your staff.
Modern awards to include domestic violence leave
If you employ staff under a modern award, it’s a good idea to start preparing your business for the introduction of domestic violence leave.
Last month, while conducting its 4-yearly award review, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled to include five days unpaid domestic violence leave in all modern awards.
This is more than the 2-3 days suggested by employer groups but much less than the incident-based, uncapped option the ACTU supported.
While the introduction of domestic violence leave will bring relief to many, it will mean workplaces affected will need to alter their leave entitlement processes.
If you’d like to get your business organised before the changes to legislation are finalised, here are some questions to consider:
- How will you incorporate domestic violence leave into your existing leave policies and processes?
- When and how will you share details of the entitlement with your staff?
- Should you organise training for personnel who may be required to handle requests for leave from employees experiencing incidents of domestic violence?
- What sort of evidence will you require to support a request for unpaid domestic violence leave? The FWC suggests evidence that “would satisfy a reasonable person” such as documents issued by police, medical staff and/or courts.
- How will you ensure privacy and store this confidential evidence?
Initially, domestic violence leave will be available to all permanent and casual modern award workers. But, the Federal government is working on amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 to make domestic violence leave available to all national system employees.
Need help understanding or implementing the new domestic violence leave entitlements? Contact The HR Dept.
How much reference checking is enough?
How deep should you dig when checking a reference for a potential new hire? An employee of Linfox thought recruiters should have questioned a negative reference, so he took the matter to the Fair Work Commission.
Initially, he claimed his application for an internal vacancy was unfairly treated because Linfox had a policy of preferring internal candidates but filled the role externally. The Commission ruled Linfox had acted fairly because the external applicants had better references.
The employee appealed this decision as he claimed he’d received a reference that wrongly attributed several negative incidents to him.
The Commission again ruled that Linfox’s process was fair, as it’s not normal recruitment practice to investigate the legitimacy of references. Recruiters make final decisions based on the references received.
If you’d like help with reference checks or managing your complete recruitment process, speak to us today.
Unpaid intern or employee? Get it wrong at your cost
If you want to avoid attention from the Fair Work Ombudsman, or damage to your reputation, you should exercise diligence when offering unpaid internships.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, an unpaid internship must be a vocational placement, which it defines as, ‘a formal work experience arrangement that is part of an education or training course.’
Even when this stipulation is met, the intern can be deemed an employee if you’re not clear about the conditions that apply.
Don’t risk prosecution, financial liabilities or reputational harm. Contact us for some expert help setting up your unpaid internship contracts.
People Matter March 2018
Does dobbing on your colleagues damage workplace culture?
How do you manage employee lunch breaks? Would you feel comfortable asking team members to report a colleague who comes back late?
Encouraging your employees to ‘dob’ on each other doesn’t sound like a strategy that would build workplace harmony. And yet, it’s been widely reported in the media that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is doing just that.
According to the ABC, in December 2017 the ATO issued a memo to employees asking them to report colleagues who waste time or fail to record time off properly.
The memo gave examples of scenarios that might need reporting and subsequent monitoring.
“A colleague makes a habit of taking long lunches; or regularly leaves early; or spends the first hour at work eating breakfast and reading the paper… or all of the above…”
Like many government agencies, the ATO is always focused on improving workplace productivity. The ATO claimed the memo was merely meant to urge public sector workers to talk to their managers about any issues that arise in their workplace.
It’s probably true that a colleague who appears to take advantage of flexi time or is consistently late back from breaks can cause resentment within a team. But is introducing a system that encourages workers to report on each other’s activities the best way to address the issue?
Could asking employees to report these small incidences create a culture of mistrust that makes teamwork impossible and harms productivity?
Jeff Lapidos of the Australia Services Union certainly thinks so. When asked about the ATO’s memo, he told the ABC,
“It goes against the culture I thought the tax office was trying to develop – of staff working together to help administer the tax system”.
Every workplace needs a fair system to manage breaks as they affect everyone. If you want to avoid service gaps, why not draw up a lunch break roster – then stick to it.
Alternatively, talk to the HR Dept about time management systems that will keep you and your staff happy. Call us on 1800 473 378 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t be caught out by 457 Visa changes
The abolition of the 457 visa program will impact workforce planning in businesses around Australia. Do you understand what it means for your workplace?
From 1 March, the 457 visa has been abolished. Its replacement, the new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, has been introduced by the Australian Government through the Department of Homeland Affairs.
The changes have been brought about to ensure that temporary overseas workers aren’t creating a disadvantage for Australians seeking employment. According to the Department of Homeland Affairs:
“This new visa is part of the Government’s significant reform package to strengthen the integrity and quality of Australia’s temporary and permanent employer sponsored skilled migration programs.”
If you currently employ overseas workers using 457 visas, new applications will no longer be processed but existing 457 visas will continue to remain in effect.
The new TSS visa offers employers three options categorised as follows:
- Short-term stream to source genuine temporary overseas skilled workers for up to two years
- Medium-term stream to source highly skilled overseas workers for up to four years
- Labour-agreement stream to source overseas skilled workers in accordance with a labour agreement with the Commonwealth
Each category has conditions attached – detailed information is available from the Department of Homeland Affairs
The TSS visa includes more rigorous requirements than the previous 457 program.
One such requirement is for visa applicants to have at least two years’ work experience in their skilled occupation. Employers will also need to pass a new non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure they are not actively discriminating against Australian workers.
Higher penalties for businesses with poor record keeping
Would your business records stand up to close inspection? The Fair Work Ombudsman’s recent investigation of the Caltex service network uncovered record keeping and pay slip breaches by some franchisees.
Whether intentional or not, the cost of failing to maintain proper workplace records is going up. Following the introduction of the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017, fines have increased.
The maximum penalties that can be imposed on employers who fail to keep proper records have doubled to:
- $63,000 for companies
- $12,600 for individuals
Repeated instances of underpayment and other ‘serious contraventions’ of the Fair Work Act also attract significantly higher penalties of up to:
- $630,000 for companies
- $126,000 for individuals
To avoid hefty non-compliance penalties:
- Regularly review your payroll and record keeping practices
- Ensure workers are being paid correctly
- Retain required employment records for a period of seven years
Should new pet owners have the same leave rights as new parents?
Is welcoming a new pet into your home on a par with bringing home a new baby? Some animal lovers believe it is and they want the same considerations as new parents.
Sydney-sider Monique Gibbons is one of a growing number of Australians taking leave while she settles her puppy into her home. She doesn’t have children but she feels the act of becoming a new pet owner is just as significant.
“My dog will be like a surrogate child for me so I don’t see why I shouldn’t treat the dog’s arrival as if it were my own baby.”
Although some employers in the UK have introduced pet leave under certain circumstances, this type of leave doesn’t exist in Australia … yet!
Family-friendly policies are a must in the modern age. But for now, the best advice for animal lovers who want to spend time with their pets is to take annual leave.
Don’t let a data breach catch you by surprise
Have you considered the impact a data breach could have on your business?
First of all, you run the risk of losing the hard-won trust of your customers which could lead to the loss of their custom. This is why, when breaches occur, companies (think Uber) sometimes try to keep it from their clients.
In Australia, from 22 February 2018, this ceased to be a legal option for businesses subject to new mandatory data breach notification legislation.
If your organisation is affected by these reforms, you must report data breaches in circumstances where serious harm could occur to an individual whose data has been compromised. Otherwise, your business could face financial penalties of up to $1.8 million.
So, don’t wait for a breach to happen – manage your risk and response with clear data security policies.
Simplify managing staff leave
Are other people’s holiday plans a source of stress for you?
The range of climates in Australia means we can find a spot for a getaway all year round. But weather is only one consideration. School holidays and annual celebrations such as Christmas can mean most staff members want time off around the same dates.
It can be tricky keeping track of holiday applications and ensuring your customers don’t experience a drop in service.
Simple software like PeopleHub can make it easy to see who’s away or identify service gaps. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.
People Matter February 2018
Why the gender pay gap matters
Do celebrity gender pay squabbles over millions of dollars get on your nerves? It’s easy to roll your eyes and scroll down the page. But the truth is, the salary itself isn’t the issue. It’s the persistence of the national gender pay gap in like-for-like jobs across all industries.
So, when a celebrity like Lisa Wilkinson is forced to put her job on the line for equal pay, it’s relevant for everyone. It draws widespread attention to an issue that’s still prevalent in Australia,100 years after women won the right to vote.
And while the gender pay gap is sometimes hotly contested, its existence is well documented. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) monitors the gender pay gap, drawing on data from the ABS.
In 2017, WGEA’s figures revealed that the national full-time gender pay gap was 15.3%. In states like WA and the NT, it was around a third higher. The Financial and Insurance sector was the worst performing industry with a gender pay gap of 29.4%. The Public Administration and Safety industry led the way at 5.9%, but it seems clear that gender pay parity is still a problem.
In fact in 2017, the World Economic Forum predicted it could take more than 200 years to reach gender pay equality globally.
In the lead up to International Women’s Day on 8 March, people are being encouraged to use #PressforProgress to share how they’re helping gender parity.
This is relevant because when you examine the gender pay gap, you find it’s not so much a workplace issue as a societal one.
Three of the issues that disadvantage women in the workplace are:
- Leaving employment to have a family
- Fewer flexible work options for women in senior roles
- The continuance of gender stereotypes around work suitability
According to WGEA, if you run or manage a small business, tackling gender pay parity can be more difficult. You have to deal with:
- The significant impact of parental leave costs
- Challenges in implementing flexible work options
- Limited resources to develop gender strategies and management systems
- Limited data collection systems and processes
- Limited or no human resource support or function
The HR Dept can assist with developing a gender pay policy for your workplace. We’ll help you avoid unconscious bias and manage the complexities of the gender pay gap. Call us on 1800 473 378 or email email@example.com
Can longer hours at work mean less productivity?
Death by overwork has become so common in Japan that people have invented a name for it – ‘karoshi’.
The Japanese government wants businesses to encourage employees to work fewer hours. Some Tokyo local governments have resorted to turning out the office lights at 7pm to force staff to leave!
At the heart of the issue is a workplace culture that values workers who stay later than their colleagues – especially their bosses.
In Australia, the average working week has recently decreased. But in 2017, we still ranked 9th compared to other OECD countries, for our share of long-hour workers –doing 50+ hours per week.
Some employees wear working longer hours like a badge of honour. As a manager, you can inadvertently create a workplace culture that appears to value the ‘workaholics’ over the people who stick to regular hours.
Casual praise for someone who’s always first in and last out can send the wrong message. Likewise, emailing your team outside working hours sets up an expectation they must be available to you 24/7.
The reality is, a workaholic culture can harm your workplace. Employees who constantly work long hours, forego lunch breaks and rarely take leave, can be ineffective or struggling in their role. Tired employees are less engaged and more impatient with co-workers or customers.
If you want a team that’s productive and focused at work, rather than simply present for long hours, here are some steps you can take:
- Encourage regular breaks and discourage working through lunch
- Discreetly ask employees why they’re consistently working long hours
- Use performance reviews to discuss high leave balances and encourage taking leave
Are you risking data security when staff use their own devices for work?
We’re more connected to our laptops, phones or tablets, than ever before. It’s one of the reasons Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) options are gaining popularity with employees and employers.
There’s a potential cost saving for your business if you don’t need to provide IT equipment for your workforce. And, because they’re already familiar with their device, employees will be more productive and efficient.
But have you considered the risks of introducing BYOD to your workplace?
- In the beginning, your employees might view BYOD as a bonus – but this could change if their use of some programs or apps is restricted.
- How well is your data protected on a personal device? Can you rely on individuals to keep security up-to-date?
- How quickly can you remove system access when employees leave? Your data could be left unprotected or shared with your competitors.
If in doubt, get help to develop a comprehensive BYOD policy.
Why jargon-free job titles speed up recruitment
Recruiting the right people for your team can be a tough gig. A little bit of creative writing can give your ad the edge that attracts your dream applicants.
But in recent years, some recruiters have gone to extremes when inventing new titles for simple jobs. Apparently, newspapers are delivered by media distribution officers and your rubbish bin is collected by sanitation engineers!
The problem is when you include ‘gobbledygook’ in recruitment ads, the applicants you attract won’t be the people you need for the role. Meanwhile, the person seeking work as a rubbish collector will never apply for the role of sanitation engineer. So, you’ve missed the mark, wasted everyone’s time and you still have a vacancy to fill.
We can help you attract the right talent for your business. Speak to us about our plain English approach to recruitment.
Smart bosses care about staff commute times
Did you know long journeys to work are a significant reason people change their jobs.
Long commutes can be damaging to an employee’s health, relationships and workplace productivity. When your employees face a long journey between home and work, it leaves less time for exercising and keeping fit.
Similarly, the longer the trip to work, the longer your staff are away from their families which can increase tensions or stress at home.
But when your employees have a daily travel time that’s under 30 minutes, not only are you more likely to retain them, but they’ll be more productive.
So, how can you reduce commute times without reducing the distance your employees have to travel? One time-saving option is to introduce flexible working arrangements that combine working from home and travelling outside of peak times.
Is poor lighting dimming your bright sparks?
Did you know that workplace lighting can impact your staff’s morale? According to research by Michigan State University, poor lighting can negatively affect people’s ability to learn and remember new things.
This study reveals how spending time in different light alters the structure and function of the brain.
Rats that were subjected to four weeks of exposure to dim light demonstrated reduced learning abilities and poorer memory performance. This was remedied by returning them to bright light for the next four weeks.
If you want a workforce bursting with lightbulb moments – make sure your workplace is brightly lit.
People Matter: January 2018
Is workplace romance ever good for business?
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and, with love in the air, there’s every chance cupid could strike at your business.
Many people spend more hours in the workplace than anywhere else so it’s not surprising romance occasionally blossoms between co-workers. In fact, a survey by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed 43% of HR staff had experienced an office romance.
There can be an upside for your business when colleagues start dating. Couples who fall in love at work collaborate well and are more understanding of the challenges they each face in their roles. They’re likely to approach work with enthusiasm and a positive attitude – both of which boost productivity.
But, it can also be problematic when co-workers become romantically involved – especially if the relationship is between a supervisor and their subordinate. Perceptions of favouritism can upset other team members, causing them to feel unhappy about the relationship and reducing productivity.
While all workplace romances have the potential to generate sexual harassment or discrimination claims, the risk is higher between supervisors and subordinates.
According to SHRM’s survey, 99% of workplace romance policies ban relationships between supervisors and their direct reports. And 45% forbid relationships between employees of vastly different rank.
Of course, when a workplace romance ends, the former couple still has to work together. The person who didn’t want the breakup might struggle to perform or even show up. They might behave inappropriately or choose to resign which is disruptive for your business.
It’s clear that a romance between colleagues, whether fleeting or long-lasting, can unsettle your workplace. Yet research reveals only 12% of company managers receive training on managing workplace romances. So what can you do if you’re concerned about how a workplace romance might affect your team dynamic?
A good starting point is to give all your employees the tools to negotiate the good, the bad and the downright ugly of workplace romances. Training for managers and a carefully developed code of conduct can make life easier for you and your team. Contact us for help on this delicate issue.
Don’t let small workplace spats lead to big pay-outs
Ignoring little workplace spats can have big consequences, especially if you run a small business. A recent case before the Fair Work Commission highlights the need to nip small workplace disputes in the bud before they escalate.
In this case, a café employee, Phillip Coffey, referred to his boss as a ‘racist bitch’. A colleague overheard him and reported his comments to the boss, Marii Stanley and the business owner, Kristie Foreman. At a later date, Mr Coffey was told there were no more shifts available for him.
According to Mr Coffey, the comments came after he had already emailed a complaint to Ms Stanley and Ms Foreman about the ‘cultural exclusion’ he felt was occurring in their workplace.
Mr Coffey advised that the Eastern European employees, who shared Ms Stanley’s background, received preferential treatment. He complained that they often spoke to each other in Estonian, which excluded English speakers like him from participating in the conversation.
Mr Coffey lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission and was awarded $3,898 plus superannuation. Fair Work Commissioner Michelle Bissett ruled that sacking Mr Coffey was an overreaction.
She said that he used language that “can at best be described as inappropriate and unprofessional” and which “warranted some reproach and warning”. But she was “not convinced they warranted dismissal”.
Ms Bissett acknowledged Mr Coffey contributed to the frustration Ms Foreman experienced over the dispute. However, she felt the business owner had not managed the issue properly, early on.
The best way to avoid or manage workplace disputes is to develop a clear code of conduct for your business.
3 HR trends expected to shape 2018
If you want your business to have a healthy, happy, more productive workforce with lower staff turnover, pay attention!
Based on their latest research, global HR think-tank, Reventure has predicted three overarching HR trends for 2018:
Health & well-being
With 25% of Aussie workers choosing improved well-being over perks, it’s clear that feeling better at work is a priority. For 85% of workers, combating workplace stress is considered an employer’s responsibility.
Small businesses seeking to make wages savings could trigger an increase in automation-related redundancies.
Purpose and meaning at work
44% of Aussie workers and 77% of millennials said a sense of meaning was important to their well-being. This is one of the top reasons people change jobs.
Reventure believes the key to improving your workplace lies in making changes that deliver genuine long-term benefits to your employees. In other words – avoid fads and focus on outcomes your workforce cares about.
5 steps to help you manage a bullying claim
When an employee claims they’re been bullied through their performance management, you have to take it seriously. A thorough investigation is required before any further action is taken – especially termination.
It’s important to follow these 5 steps.
- Acknowledge receipt of the complaint and advise the employee that an assessment is being conducted. Clearly explain the process.
- Treat the performance review and the bullying claim as two separate issues.
- Determine whether an investigation is required – including whether the claim, if substantiated, would be deemed bullying.
- If proceeding with an investigation, don’t use the manager involved in the claim – pick someone independent. An external investigator is even better.
- Follow your investigation policy and procedures. Keep a paper trail and be consistent.
Don’t risk a visit to the Fair Work Commission. Get expert advice on managing employee performance. Contact us today.
Is there room for more diversity in your recruitment practices?
How diverse are your hiring practices? Australian businesses are being urged to recruit with diversity in mind, as statistics show the employment gap for Indigenous Australians is widening.
The Close the Gap initiative created in 2008 hasn’t reduced inequality between the numbers of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the workplace. Research suggests the scheme underperformed because it lacked clarity and failed to adequately involve Indigenous community members.
Going forward, the government may consider implementing quotas and constitutional reform to compel businesses to improve diversity. Norway adopted this approach to address gender bias in company boards. Although controversial at first, it’s been highly successful in increasing the number of women on boards.
Does diversity feature in your approach to recruitment? If you need help to review and update your recruitment practices, get in touch.
47% of Aussies return to work wanting a new job
If you’re hiring, here’s some good news. According to research by Seek, many workers are contemplating job changes in 2018. Here’s a snapshot of their findings:
- 47% of Aussie workers are thinking about a new job – with 38% focused on moving up the career ladder
- 24% want a similar role in a different company
- 23% are seeking a complete career change – of these 39% plan to undertake further education to help them achieve that goal
Job sites in Australia are expecting a huge boost this January. Call us to learn how our recruitment services can help your business.
People Matter December 2017
Sacking by text is bad news for everyone!
If you need to dismiss an employee, the message from the Fair Work Commission is clear. Don’t do it by text! The Commission has ruled on several occasions that sacking by text goes against good practice.
In March this year, a specialist tour company sent an employee a single text message that read, ‘Your services are no longer required.’
The company believed the woman was running her own business during working hours. They claimed she told them in January 2017 that she hoped to start a business. But on her LinkedIn profile she was listed as a Personal Concierge and Lifestyle Manager for her business from December 2016.
The company claimed her behaviour at work changed and she increasingly stepped outside the workplace to take private phone calls. The woman denied any misconduct and filed an unfair dismissal claim. The Commission found the dismissal was harsh, unjust and unreasonable stating:
“It was harsh because (the employee) had not engaged in the alleged misconduct. It was unjust because (the employee) was denied procedural fairness by (the employer) and was given no opportunity to defend herself.”
By taking a shortcut and sacking their worker by text, the company failed to:
- Follow a process to investigate and verify their claims about the employee’s behaviour
- Provide evidence to back up allegations of serious misconduct
- Allow the employee an opportunity to defend herself against the claims
- Inform the employee of the reason for her dismissal before sending the text
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Mark Stone AM said:
“Even with the benefit of a robust investigation process, it is a fundamental part of the unfair dismissal process to give the employee an opportunity to respond before any conclusive decision is made on disciplinary or dismissal action.”
The message to employers is clear. Have a process in place, complete a thorough investigation and gather strong evidence BEFORE you attempt summary dismissal.
We can assist in developing rigorous disciplinary and grievance policies to help you manage cases of suspected employee misconduct. Contact us on 1800 473 378.
Perth electrician foils employer’s GPS tracker!
A Perth electrician accused of putting his love of golf ahead of his $110,000 per year job, has lost his claim for unfair dismissal!
Last year, Aroona Alliance received an anonymous letter about one of its employees, Tom Colella. The letter stated Mr Colella had repeatedly been seen on the golf course when he should have been at work.
The company began an investigation. It discovered that Mr Colella frequently placed his GPS tracking device inside a foil Twisties bag to block its signal and mask his location.
They were unable to prove that he’d been spending work days on the golf course. However the investigation uncovered 21 occasions in the first half of 2016 when Mr Colella claimed he was at work but failed to swipe into his workplace.
He disputed these ‘fraudulent work claims’ by suggesting he’d merely used an alternative entrance that didn’t require a swipe card. Aroona Alliance determined that Mr Colella had been absent from work on at least three of the 21 days. He was sacked but filed a claim for unfair dismissal.
Commissioner, Bernie Riordan stated that Mr Colella ‘openly’ stored his work GPS device in a Twisties packet. As an experienced electrician, he knew this would interfere with the GPS and had acted to deliberately distort the tracking data.
The Fair Work Commission rejected Mr Colella’s unfair dismissal claim and ruled Aroona Alliance had given him a fair go.
While you can’t always eliminate dishonesty from the workplace, a staff handbook sets clear expectations relating to employee responsibilities. For help reducing your risk of employee disputes, speak to us today.
Performance ratings up 8% for every extra 10 hours of leave taken!
When you need to improve workplace performance, encourage your staff to go on holiday! According to accounting firm Ernst & Young, employees’ annual performance ratings increased by 8% for every additional 10 hours of leave taken.
If your business is quiet over Christmas, you might close for a fixed number of days or weeks. The average Australian only has five days’ holiday remaining at the end of each year. But, around 5.3m workers will take, on average, 8.3 days of enforced leave this Christmas.
Compulsory time off means some employees see their leave balances dip into the negative. This makes it harder for them to take time off throughout the year, and it presents a financial risk for your business.
One solution is to develop flexible working arrangements for your employees, so they stay refreshed and productive all year long. Get in touch to discuss how flexible working arrangements could benefit your business.
Research reveals best incentives to increase productivity
Have you wondered about the best incentives to increase productivity or encourage specific behaviours in your workplace? Getting it wrong can be costly and can cause the opposite outcome, leaving staff feeling unmotivated and less engaged.
UK print company, Purely Digital decided to poll workers around the nation to learn which incentives were most valued. Here’s what the survey revealed:
- 39.1% ‘Small financial reward’
- 36.9% ‘More annual leave’
- 16% ‘Activity days’
- 15% ‘Free product’
More money and leave are rewards that give workers greater freedom of choice, which could account for their popularity.
But, regardless of the rewards, does a short-term employee incentive scheme bring about real change or does it only produce short-term results?
If you’re looking to increase productivity and workplace engagement over the long-term, consider offering options such as flexible working. Ask us how to develop rewarding employee benefit schemes.
Staff money worries cost businesses $33bn in lost productivity
Although, ‘Christmas comes but once a year’, for some the financial hangover lasts longer than the festivities.
After Christmas, staff can feel worried and anxious about their finances as they face the reality of their seasonal spending.
This can affect their productivity and behaviour at work, or even their ability to go to work. AMP’s most recent Financial Wellness report reveals Australians experiencing financial stress lose 6.9 hours of productivity per week. And they miss four days from work each year due to stress-related illnesses.
If you want to support your staff and reduce the impact employee financial stress has on your workplace, why not consider:
- offering flexibility on pay dates after Christmas
- offering payday advances
- talking to staff about practical ways your business can help them focus on work and worry less about money
As you head into 2018 – don’t forget your recruitment planning
As Christmas approaches, don’t forget about your staffing requirements for 2018! Adding this to your to-do list now can save you time and help you get organised for the new year.
Ideally, forecasting staffing levels and recruitment needs should form part of your business planning for each new year. It can also serve as a prompt to review your onboarding processes while looking for opportunities to improve or streamline them.
We can assist with recruiting and onboarding new staff. Why not give us a call? We’ll help you get the new year off to the best start possible.
People Matter November 2017
Don’t flush money down the toilet – keep employee information safe!
Recent compensation paid to a teacher whose health information was revealed to her colleagues, is a timely reminder to all employers. Regardless of your intent, if you don’t adequately protect your employees’ personal details, you risk steep financial penalties.
The Victorian Department of Education and Training learnt this the hard way. They were ordered to pay $11,000 to a teacher whose health information was accidentally disclosed.
An acting school principal wrote a note during a call to a Department of Education legal advisor. The note contained short prompts relating to the teacher’s work history, request for a compassionate transfer and complex medical history. The teacher’s name wasn’t mentioned.
However, the note was later found in the staff toilet by another teacher who shared it with a colleague. Based on the information included, they guessed the employee’s identity and left the note in her pigeonhole. When she discovered it, she was so upset she left work and did not return.
The acting principal couldn’t explain how the note ended up in the staff toilet, so it was evident the information had not been properly protected. Consequently, through its employee’s actions, the Department was deemed to have breached Health Privacy Principle 4 under the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).
The case went before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. They ruled that the loss and subsequent disclosure of the health information caused the teacher distress, prevented her return to work and harmed her mental health. They ordered the Department of Education to pay her $11,000 in compensation.
This case demonstrates how failure to protect your employees’ personal information can hurt them and your business. Apart from financial penalties, you risk damaging the trust between you and your workforce. The flow-on impact to staff morale can be just as costly if it causes reduced productivity or an increase in staff turnover.
Our cloud-based application, HR Dept PeopleHub is the perfect solution to keep your employees’ information safe and secure. Contact us on 1800 473 378 to find out more or to arrange a demonstration.
Should paid parental leave policies contain compassion?
According to the Stillbirth Foundation, six babies are stillborn every day in Australia. This tragic statistic highlights the fact that stillbirth is a common social issue that could affect one of your employees. Sadly, when this happens, people who have been preparing for their new baby’s arrival are suddenly faced with organising a funeral instead.
When things go wrong for your employees, you want to be as supportive as possible. But you might not know what assistance to offer someone dealing with a loss of this magnitude.
It can be difficult to assess how to accommodate their needs and wishes, especially as everyone grieves differently. Flexibility is key. Some people will want to get back to work as soon as possible. Others will need a longer absence before they feel ready to return.
In times of high emotional distress, you might find it hard to discuss workplace practicalities. But you still need to manage your business and take care of the rest of your workforce. A clearly defined parental leave policy will enable you to start the conversation. It will help you and your employee to understand the support and return-to-work options available to them.
Employer-funded paid parental leave policies are often written with the sole focus of supporting new parents to care for their baby. The Stillbirth Foundation suggests these policies should include provisions for people who have lost their child to stillbirth. These inclusions would help align business-funded policies with existing government-funded paid parental leave schemes.
The HR Dept can help you develop comprehensive policies that make difficult situations easier to manage. Get in touch today.
Workaholics aren’t good for business!
A dedicated team with a strong work ethic is every employer’s dream. But an employee that seems to prioritise work ahead of everything else in their life risks burn out. That’s not good for them or your business.
People who never switch off from work will eventually become exhausted and unhappy. Despite long hours spent in the workplace they’ll struggle to be productive, which will cause them more stress.
If you have a workaholic in your team, here are 3 practical ways you can help them find some work-life balance:
- Encourage them to take their lunch break away from their workstation. If they make time to relax, they’ll come back feeling refreshed and energised.
- Offer them assistance with their time management so they can identify urgent tasks and prioritise accordingly.
- Remind them that although extra hours are sometimes necessary, this is only a temporary requirement – not a long-term situation.
It’s a dog’s life!
Last year, the Australian Veterinarian Association estimated there were at least 24 million pets in Australia. With many Australians believing their pets are important family members, should employees be allowed sick leave when their animals are unwell?
Last month, a judge in Italy said ‘yes’! An academic took her employer to court after she was refused paid sick leave when her dog was ill. Her lawyers argued the university’s policy permitted absences for ‘serious or personal reasons’. The judge decided the dog’s illness constituted a valid personal reason for the woman involved.
For many, the idea of using sick leave to care for animals is controversial. Ultimately, the expensive tribunal in Italy could have been avoided with clearly defined policies and a touch of compassion.
Call the HR Dept for help in developing policies and handbooks to avoid controversy and tribunal hearings.
An unfair dismissal claim happens every 3 minutes
Every day in Australia, 127 unfair dismissal claims are made against employers – that’s around one every three minutes.
Alarmingly, a Fair Work Commission report reveals Australian employers defending an unfair dismissal case have a success rate below 40%. It’s never been this low before!
Unfair dismissal claims always outnumber other Fair Work Commission applications, but the number of claims has never been so high.
Recently, several controversial decisions by the Fair Work Commission have gone against employers who believed they had valid grounds for dismissal. But, it’s clear any employer who terminates an employee must comply exactly with the Fair Work Act. Otherwise, they risk an unfair dismissal claim.
Our HR Solution comes with an insurance policy designed to protect your business from possible employee claims resulting from disciplinary or grievance procedures. Contact us to learn more.
AECOM introduce flexible work hours to return lost talent
How often have you watched talented employees walk away from successful careers to focus on their families? Now, global infrastructure giant AECOM has launched a flexible work scheme to entice them back.
AECOM chief executive for Australia & NZ, Todd Battley said there is a significant pool of talent who have stepped away from the industry because they were unable to nurture their families and their careers at the same time.
Commencing in 2018, AECOM’s pilot program offers flexibility to new and existing employees across Australia and New Zealand. Their term-time contracts include 12 weeks of school holiday leave!
People Matter October 2017
Do you have a social media policy?
Have you heard the old saying you should never discuss politics, religion or money in polite company? A modern adaptation of these cautionary words would probably include, ‘on social media or in the workplace’.
The sacking of a Canberra-based employee who posted her opinion about marriage equality on Facebook shows that employers can and do take notice of their staff’s social media activity.
Most employers research a potential new hire’s social media accounts as part of their recruitment process but tracking existing employee social media use is a huge task. Often, controversial posts are only discovered when an employee shares them with their colleagues.
The Canberra sacking has attracted national attention because of Australia’s ongoing marriage equality debate. However, when an employer perceives their business and/or their reputation has been damaged by an employee’s social media activity, they’re likely to react strongly and dispense some harsh consequences.
Sharing political or religious views in the workplace might not reach the same audience but it can also cause upset and disruption.
Of course, we are entitled to hold different viewpoints to our colleagues and employers. But it’s not appropriate to engage others in debates, or worse, arguments about these topics at work. It can result in people feeling bullied or harassed if they hold conflicting views. It can also negatively affect workplace harmony and productivity.
In some industries, employees receive a financial benefit from their employer for using their own device for business purposes (such as a mobile phone or laptop). Often, the user’s activity is then monitored to ensure they aren’t sharing any sensitive material.
Recently, a young banker was fired when messages he sent via a dating app on his own phone were read and deemed inappropriate by his employer. Once again, this case demonstrates individuals can be held accountable by their employer for behaviour outside the workplace.
When you have clear policies in place to manage social media use, it’s easier for employees to understand what’s appropriate and act accordingly. For help with your employee social media policy, talk to us.
Childcare strike emphasises need for flexible work arrangements
Childcare union, United Voice, estimates 10,000 families were affected last month when childcare workers went on strike to highlight their poor pay conditions. Parents were forced to make other arrangements or leave work early as childcare centres closed their doors at 3.20pm.
While parents and carers were given notice of the planned industrial action, many struggled to find emergency childcare alternatives. The strike demonstrates the need for employees to have access to flexible working conditions.
According to Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman, requests for flexible working arrangements form part of the National Employment Standards (NES).
This means employees who care for children of school age or younger can request flexible working arrangements. These requests can only be refused on the basis of ‘reasonable business grounds’.
For assistance in developing family friendly and flexible workplace policies, employee contracts or handbooks, talk to The HR Dept.
It’s too damn hot – why we need to talk about menopause
With around 46% of the Australian workforce now made up of women, more consideration is being given to menopause-related health and well-being issues. There has even been some debate about introducing menopause leave.
It’s controversial. However approx. 17% of women in the workplace are over 45 which means many will be struggling (or soon will be struggling) with the unpredictable and sometimes debilitating symptoms of menopause.
By introducing simple changes such as providing employee education, flexible work practices and access to fans and cold water, employers can help these women maintain their physical and mental well-being while at work.
Payroll Fraud – Are You at Risk?
A recent court case revealed Sally Woodall, a former payroll manager, regularly and repeatedly committed payroll fraud. Over a combined period of nine years, she stole $737,000 from her employer but her offence was not discovered until after she left the organisation!
Woodall is now facing three years in jail but, in addition to losing the money, her employer, Hassell, also experienced reputational damage due to the media attention surrounding the court case.
According to Tracy Angwin from the Australian Payroll Association, while most payroll professionals approach their work with honesty and take their position of trust extremely seriously, payroll fraud regularly occurs in Australia.
Protecting your business from the risk of payroll fraud is challenging. You want your payroll staff to work efficiently without feeling they are under suspicion. Here are 4 practical tips to help you.
1. Recruit staff carefully – don’t rely on a solid looking résumé and good references alone – Woodall had both! Payroll staff may have access to your funds and your employees’ bank details. Ask for a police clearance before you engage any new payroll professional.
2. Develop thorough payroll processes and procedures – this will ensure your payroll personnel understand their role and responsibilities when preparing and managing the payroll.
3. Implement robust checks and balances – reviewing the payroll should be more than a box-ticking exercise. There should be another person who checks the details and they should have a sound understanding of your payroll process.
4. Outsource your payroll – engage an independent payroll specialist to manage your payroll requirements.
The HR Dept offers cost-effective solutions for managing every aspect of your payroll. Call us to explore your options.
Bigger fines for employers after Victoria amends OH&S laws
Employers in Victoria will now face hefty penalties if they flout workplace health and safety laws after the state parliament passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
The Act has increased fines – up to $38,000 for individuals and up to $190,000 for corporate entities. These fines relate to significant safety breaches such as failure to preserve the site of a serious accident or failing to report an incident to WorkSafe.
Victorian Minister for Finance, Robin Scott said, “It’s our priority to protect the health and safety of all Victorian workers and to support them if they get injured. Safety must always come first.”
While the majority of employers are dedicated to prioritising employee well-being, managing your State’s complex safety laws is challenging.
October is National Safe Work Month, so it’s the perfect time for you to assess your safety policies, procedures and practices. Need some safety management help? Contact the HR Dept.
Global Leaders in Workplace Diversity
CEOs in Australia and New Zealand are more likely to have Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategies than their global counterparts.
According to a worldwide survey of over 2000 senior executives conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates, 60% of Australian and New Zealand companies are focused on creating a diverse workforce. Globally the average is just 47%.
Further research has shown diverse teams that include people of different ethnicities, genders and races are more likely to perform well. However, implementing Diversity and Inclusion policies can be tricky for SMEs. Here are 3 tips to get you started.
1. Lead by example – when leadership teams are actively engaged in D&I initiatives, they are more successful.
2. Understand diversity – diversity includes race, culture, community, gender and LGBTI.
3. Get professional help – to build D&I into your recruitment and staff retention strategies.
People Matter September 2017
The place of employment references in SME businesses.
Let’s face it, we all ask potential new staff members for a reference. However, when it comes to giving a reference for a past employee, a business does need to be aware its obligations and risks.
Providing a fair and accurate assessment of an employee should be foremost in the mind of the referee. It may be tempting to give a past colleague a glowing report but if the report is inaccurate there is potential to leave the business exposed. The same can be said for a maliciously negative or damaging reference that cannot be supported by objective evidence.
A question arises as to whether a reference is a right of current or past employees. In general, employers are entitled to exercise an option not to provide a reference. This approach by-passes either providing a false-positive or negative reference and potential liability to the worker or potential employer. There are only limited circumstances where an employer is obliged to provide a reference. Generally, where a worker, in the absence of a reference, is unlikely to find employment, the courts may rule that the right to a reference is implied.
Before providing a reference ensure:
- Statements either positive or negative can be supported by examples
- Use neutral comments where necessary; thus allowing the interviewer to form their view
- Consider omission rather than providing false-positives
- Avoid any response where worker safety may be at risk
- Remember that you too expect accurate references
- Provide good judgment and accurate information, do not hype, exaggerate or denigrate a former employee when the reference call is put through.
Follow these simple tips to minimise business exposure and avoid potential problems.
How good is your onboarding
According to some sources, a total of $A47bn is lost annually in the UK and US on unproductive employees who don’t understand their job. After a quick online search of poor onboarding, it’s easy to see why. We came across one lady describing how, when she arrived at her desk on her first day, she was immediately told to visit HR to sort out paperwork… in a different building. When she got there, they didn’t even have her name on file!
One employee stated how they were escorted to their desk without being introduced to anyone or shown around. Another described an onboarding session consisting of the owner talking non-stop about themselves – for eight hours.
For a meaningful employer-employee relationship, it’s important to take time to settle new starters. And don’t forget to tell them what their job is! Need help with onboarding? Give us a call.
Tidy desktop, Tidy mind
Let’s consider clearing out our digital space. Do you have spreadsheets gathering cobwebs on your hard-drive? Are your Microsoft Windows in more need of a clean than the windows of your premises? Maybe your computer desktop is cluttered beyond belief with files? One way to dust your digital space down is to switch your HR files to our neat and tidy HR Dept PeopleHub and PayHub. This cloud-based system intuitively sorts out much of your HR admin, freeing you up to deal with other things.
Catching out the great Australian tradition of the “sickie”
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently ruled that a former employee of Tassal, who was terminated for calling in sick after drinking too much alcohol on Anzac Day, be awarded more than $8,000. FWC found the termination was valid however she was treated harshly, resulting in the settlement.
Possibly there has been no more famous excuse for a sickie than after Australia won the Americas Cup in 1983, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke said, “any boss who sacks a worker for taking the day off tomorrow is a bum”. It’s uncertain how many people relied on this as a defence.
Some may recall this, again from the 1980s. A man requested and was granted time off to attend his grandmother’s funeral. The problem came about the next day when his picture, in a rowdy state with several mates, appeared on the front cover of The Telegraph. His boss was most surprised but not as much as his very much alive grandmother who was heard to quote Mark Twain saying “Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”.
Now it’s social media catching people out too. A barman who took two sick days around New Year’s Eve was sacked after the boss saw a Facebook photo of him celebrating the occasion. Or Sydney call centre worker Kyle Doyle who made headlines after his boss caught him bragging on Facebook about chucking a sickie, with an email exchange between the two going viral.
However, amusing as these anecdotes may be, the reality is that the great Australian Sickie is extremely disruptive for the business and unfair on the other staff that have to pick up the extra workload. While there are no reliable statistics on unjustified “sickies” overall employee absenteeism is estimated to cost the Australian economy $33 billion in lost productivity.
Most people who ask for time off when sick have a genuine need, however, the introduction of return to work sickness interviews and measuring tools, as well as training managers on how to use them, can lead to a significant improvement in reducing “sickies”.
Workplace Body Language – Recognising Stress
Alan Pease is Australia’s definitive body language expert; writing numerous books and giving many an introduction to the science of Body Language.
There are some staples that everyone can pick up on. Eye contact, fidgeting and a favourite, the handshake: the power-projecting crusher grip, the wishy-washy dead fish or the intimate double hander.
Body language cues can help managers in other ways. Some can give you an indication that staff are suffering from stress, even if they won’t tell you directly.
An eyelid twitch, hair loss and changes such as acne or recurring illness, can all be signs of underlying stress. Notice them early and you could intervene before an employee reaches breaking point, thus reducing their suffering and disruption to your business. Many of these warning signs are quite personal, so it’s crucial to handle them sensitively. For guidance on dealing with stress in your workforce, speak to The HR Dept.
Gone to Lunch
Do you or your employees take an actual lunch break? If the answer is “No” you are not alone. Apparently, the average lunch hour now only lasts about 26 minutes and almost half of workers take less than 20 minutes (at their desks). Making such sacrifice equates to losing 19 days’ pay a year. The motivation is obviously to get more done – not enough hours in the day and all that – but is it a false economy? Do the costs outweigh the extra time gained?
There are undoubted benefits to taking the time to have a decent lunch break. Experts say that eating the right foods like oily fish, whole grains and avocado can boost afternoon brainpower, while some downtime away from a desk helps to sustain concentration. Worth reflecting on next time you consider your office culture.
People Matter August 2017
Joint responsibility for employment practices on the horizon for franchisors and franchisees
There are 79,000 franchise units in operation in Australia with a whopping 470,000 people employed within the sector. That’s a lot of small businesses and a vast amount of employment practice to get right, and unfortunately many franchisees in many franchise systems have fallen way short of the mark.
So, the Senate has recently been debating the Protecting Vulnerable Workers Bill which aims to provide mutual responsibility, with Franchisors to be held accountable for franchisees’ conduct regarding employment practices.
The Bill has come about due a number of high-profile cases involving franchise businesses underpaying workers. If the bill passes un-amended franchisors will be held liable for the breaches committed by their franchisees “where [they] should reasonably have been aware of the breaches and could reasonably have taken action to prevent them from occurring” likewise franchisors will be held accountable where their business model leads to bad employment practice.
Take the much publisised 7-Eleven case; according to former consumer watchdog, Professor Allan Fels, “The [existing]Fair Work Act system just imposes fines and very limited compensation on the individuals whose cases are considered. But the court system works quite badly for systematic underpayment of thousands of people”. While 7-Eleven’s head office was not held responsible for the conduct of its franchisees that had underpaid workers, it volunteered to repay workers what they were owed in back pay. Fels went on to say “The far stronger deterrent effect for others is if they know they have to make up the underpayments in full – in this case $110 million plus, compared to if they just have to pay a fine.”
If you are a franchise owner your franchisor will be looking to limit their liability and may start to expect a lot more from you in terms of your compliance and reporting when it comes to your employment matters.
In reality, franchise owners should be ensuring they get this stuff right anyway, whether the franchisor wants evidence of it or not! It is the right thing to do by staff and the business. If you want to get ahead of the game before this bill passes, get in touch for a free HR health check today.
Science of seating plans
How much thought do you put into where employees sit? If the answer is not much, then you could be missing a trick. Mixing things up can have a dramatic effect on productivity. Flexi-desks, also known as hot desks, are one way to ensure that people do not get too cosy in established spots.
However, if you want to get more scientific, research from Cornerstone On Demand – a US-based consultancy – will be of interest. They categorised workers into three camps:
1. High productivity, low quality
2. Average productivity, average quality
3. Low productivity, high quality
They found that if you sit 1’s and 3’s together it helps them bring out the best in each other – improving quality in 1’s and productivity in 3’s. The same benefit was not seen in 2’s, so they are best seated together. They found that adopting this method could lead to a significant 15% boost in organisational performance. Worth investigating!
What’s causing the absence?
It’s essential for a well-run organisation to manage absence effectively, and often helpful for employees’ well-being too. However, the cause of absence may not always be down to the employee.
When examining absence data, it’s helpful to look for patterns beyond the behaviour of individuals. For example, do people from one team display more absence than average? That could point to a bad line manager, causing absence through poor management technique.
Where this, or other factors, might be the underlying cause, the quicker it’s identified the better. We run training courses on managing absence. Get in touch for more information.
Employers recount the worst interview
A recent Reddit post asked employers to reveal some of their most painful experiences with interviewees. And the results might astound the most seasoned of hiring managers. We selected some of our favourites to highlight just how interesting the world of HR can get!
One manager asked a candidate, “What would you do if you had a conflict with another co-worker?”. The applicant responded with an anecdote about how a previous co-worker had had an affair with his then-girlfriend and he’d had to encounter him every day at work and “resist beating his ass”. The candidate then felt the need to follow this statement with, “I mean, I got him outside of work, but I never touched him at work!”.
Another hiring manager reported the downright brashness of one candidate who said, “You guys would be lucky to have me. Google is trying to recruit me too!”. The manager promptly wished him the best of luck at his job at Google.
During an interview for a restaurant position, one candidate was asked to give an example of his leadership abilities. The candidate replied by telling the interviewer how, in his previous job, he disliked the head chef so much that he organised the kitchen staff to walk out during the Friday night rush. There’s no denying this shows leadership qualities – but maybe not the right kind!
The hiring process can be just as frustrating for those on either side of the table. If you need advice on how to avoid car crash interviews, contact The HR Dept.
A Coffee a day means productivity is here to stay
Want a 7% increase in productivity? Get a coffee machine! That’s according to Survey Partner ONE. And there are plenty of other indications that coffee can be the lifeblood of the workplace:
It fights off sluggishness – It’s well-known that caffeine is a stimulant that enables employees to remain focused for extensive periods of time.
It can lower the risk of depression – Of course it is a serious condition, but a Harvard study found that women who drink four or more cups of coffee per day have a 20% lower risk of developing depression.
It improves employee relations – A chat over a coffee is the perfect way for employees to develop good relationships – and that’s according to MIT.
It could even maintain integrity – Fortune reports that employees are less likely to adopt unethical practices if they are awake and alert
Working from home is a great perk. Although sometimes we can get distracted – perhaps the TV or the cat wanting to be fed.
Several millennials believe they do their best work outside the office. Flexible working has also become an identifier of a good employer, demonstrating their compassion for employee needs – particularly for those with families or a difficult commute.
You may be a little anxious about introducing flexible working, due to the potential for your staff to push the boundaries of their freedom.
But, having a consistent approach in line with your documentation is recommended. Also, keeping in touch regularly, allows you to identify if any changes to the arrangement are needed.
People Matter July 2017
Seasonal employment- Your employer’s checklist
Whilst it is the middle of winter, it is time to start planning for seasonal workers. Whilst seasonal employment may be practical for you and your temporary employees, there are a few things to bear in mind. Here we review the main areas, and provide pointers to help avoid the pitfalls.
Casual contracts – These offer flexibility for both you and the worker, but incur a ‘loading’ of 25% above the full-time rate to compensate for lost leave entitlements and the ability to terminate without notice. Ensure you are paying the right rate under the Award/NES. The fact that someone is happy to work for you cheaply does not make it legal.
Fixed-term contracts – These are useful for covering demand where the start and finish date is predictable. Whilst the rate of pay is lower than casuals, you must provide annual leave, public holidays and personal leave. Include a notice period, so you can terminate the contract early without paying out the remainder.
Agency workers – Agency costs can be high, but they do save time and admin. Just be careful, before you know it, you can have paid excessively for a basic role.
Existing workforce – Using existing staff to cover peaks through paid overtime or a ‘time in lieu’ arrangement are options. Check contracts and the relevant Award. to see what is possible. Again, watch the costs don’t overrun.
Other things to get right with seasonal workers include superannuation, award requirements, leave entitlements and visa status.
The HR Dept has years’ of experience sourcing labour cost effectively. For practical solutions to your labour needs, call us.
Domestic Violence Leave
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has handed down a joint decision in the Family and Domestic Violence Leave Case.
Both sides of the political spectrum are claiming victory on the outcome.
The decision means that all award covered workers may soon have access to unpaid family and domestic violence leave; and
personal/carer’s leave for the purpose of taking domestic violence leave.
For the Unions, this falls short of their ultimate prize of paid domestic violence leave, however access to carer’s leave was a win.
Employer groups on the other hand were pleased that support for, separate and paid domestic violence leave entitlements in awards was not forthcoming.
Whatever your leaning, the FCW decision means Australia delivers a world first with rights to domestic violence leave being legislated for award workers, albeit unpaid in this first ruling.
How will the ruling affect your business? How will you cater for a mix of award and non-award based while ensuring reasonableness? Give The HR Dept a call for advice.
Hack attack from own employee
To get hacked by an employee once is unfortunate. To be hacked twice by the same employee looks like carelessness. But that’s what happened to a Californian security firm.
The first time, the employee hacked into the payroll system and falsified records to show that he was working vast amounts of overtime. When this was uncovered in 2014, he was dismissed.
The “ex” employee then hacked into the firm’s system again. This time he went on a spree of causing malicious damage. It included, stealing client information to lure them to his own new venture, deleting or corrupting back-up files and sabotaging the company’s website. In what must be a business owner’s worst nightmare, this included posting unflattering pictures of them on the site with the words “Are you ready?”.
The damage this caused was described as debilitating, and the ex-employee was ordered to pay the equivalent of $450,000 in damages.
Not a pretty picture. So what can you do to mitigate the risk of an employee going rogue? Clearly, much of the defence you can put up will come from your IT department or consultant rather than HR. That said, HR can play an important role too. First, let’s consider the execution of a cyber-security policy. Unfortunately, 90% of all successful cyber-attacks are down to human error. So, you can use HR to ensure that all staff understand the cyber polices and their responsibilities under them.
For instance, who’s in charge of granting access to sensitive data stored online? Do they fully understand the consequences of inadvertently dishing out a username and password? Does everyone know how to identify a suspicious email and what they should do? And the old chestnut of not leaving a laptop without password protection (or any laptop) in the pub!
But you can go further than this with HR. Good recruitment in the first place to minimise the risk of a bad egg. And putting restrictive covenants in employment contracts to stop staff taking clients with them if they leave. For further advice, give us a call.
A healthy commute works wonders
Recent studies and anecdotal evidence reveal that if you want to boost your employees’ morale, then an active commute could be the answer!
Rather than rewarding employees with one off-perks like socials and lunches, it has been suggested that it is more valuable to offer benefits that promote long-term happiness, like a cycle-to-work scheme.
So if you are looking at ways to keep your staff happy, engaged and motivated get them on their bike. Long-term solutions focused on health and work/life balance may be the answer you are looking for.
The decline of the CV
In the digital age, we can legitimately ask if CVs are on their way out. When employers are looking for great talent, more and more are using creative and online ways to find the right candidates.
With the recruitment world constantly changing, big hitters such as Ernst and Young have decided to remove their ‘2:1 degree only’ policy, because it excludes a large pool of otherwise eligible, high quality candidates.
An increasing number of employers feel that CVs are no longer relevant and that they do not accurately represent the individual. In their place, they are using online personality tests and online talent databases. If you know what you are looking for, online platforms could now be the default recruitment tool for you.
If you need assistance in finding the perfect candidate, The HR Dept is here to help.
When is a casual not casual?
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ruled casual workers may request a move to a permanent role after 12 months of working regular hours.
Where a casual employee has worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing 12 months, which, without significant adjustment, could continue to be performed in accordance with the full-time or part-time employment provisions of the relevant award, the worker may request to become permanent.
“Some employers do engage indefinitely as casual’s persons who under the relevant award provisions may be, and want to be, employed permanently,” the FWC said in its decision summary.
The decision covers 85 modern awards, including hospitality, retail, manufacturing, community services, child care and farming sectors.
Businesses can decline, where the request would need a significant adjustment to the employees’ hours or their role would cease to exist.
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.
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.
Preventing People Problems
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