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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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


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 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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

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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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


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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

New technologies
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.

  1. Acknowledge receipt of the complaint and advise the employee that an assessment is being conducted. Clearly explain the process.
  2. Treat the performance review and the bullying claim as two separate issues.
  3. Determine whether an investigation is required – including whether the claim, if substantiated, would be deemed bullying.
  4. If proceeding with an investigation, don’t use the manager involved in the claim – pick someone independent. An external investigator is even better.
  5. 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.