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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter September 2019

Defining moments – new law changes “workday” description

A landmark Full Federal Court ruling has wide-ranging implications for all employers. Handed down in late August, the ruling centres around the definition of a “workday” – which may not be what you think.

Under the new law, all employees (including part-time ones) are entitled to 10 “working days” of personal/carer’s leave per year. This is regardless of how many hours they work per day or the number of days worked per week.

It started with a case between two workers at Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory in Tasmania, and Cadbury’s parent company, Mondelez Australia. The employees work three, 12-hour shifts per week (equivalent to 7.6 ordinary hours per day). Mondelez argued they should therefore accrue 76 hours of personal leave per year.

The workers (represented by the AMWU) disagreed and were supported by a 2-1 majority of the court. Mondelez’s approach was said to be inconsistent with the ordinary meaning of the words in the Fair Work Act.

The Court held that, regardless of hours worked in a specific day, all employees are entitled to 10 working days of personal/carer’s leave per year. Mondelez’s shift workers are therefore entitled to ten, 12-hour days of personal/carer’s leave per year.

Even part-time employees are entitled to 10 full working days of personal/carer’s leave per year.

The decision is based on the Court’s findings that a working day isn’t a calendar day. Instead, it is the hours an employee is scheduled to work in the 24-hour period commencing from the time they start work on a given day.

It’s a decision that could undoubtedly cause confusion for employers. Most payroll software systems, for example, accrue personal/carer’s leave on an hourly basis. They will therefore accrue 76 hours of personal/carer’s leave per year for full-time employees and a pro-rata amount for part-timers.

Employers need to check each employee’s entitlements and ensure their systems are accruing appropriate leave entitlements.

Staying on top of Fair Work regulations can be confusing and exhausting. The HR Dept are experts in all aspects of workplace law. Contact them for accurate and current advice on this and other workplace law issues.

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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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
  • Insurers
  • Life insurance companies
  • Superannuation entities or trustees

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

Salary not the top choice for attracting top talent

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to avoid a wrangle over minimum wages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Release me! What to do when employment relationships turn ugly

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

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

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

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

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

Collaborative workspaces prove sharing is caring

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

Shared workspaces have many demonstrated benefits.

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

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

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

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.