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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Offer them assistance with their time management so they can identify urgent tasks and prioritise accordingly.
  3. 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!

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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

 Flexible working 

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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: 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.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter June 2017

457 all out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why have a social media policy

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

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

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

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

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

Coping with a widening skills gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotting an unhappy employee

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

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

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

The pursuit of happiness

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

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

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

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

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

Reliable references

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

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

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

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