Joint responsibility for employment practices on the horizon for franchisors and franchisees
There are 79,000 franchise units in operation in Australia with a whopping 470,000 people employed within the sector. That’s a lot of small businesses and a vast amount of employment practice to get right, and unfortunately many franchisees in many franchise systems have fallen way short of the mark.
So, the Senate has recently been debating the Protecting Vulnerable Workers Bill which aims to provide mutual responsibility, with Franchisors to be held accountable for franchisees’ conduct regarding employment practices.
The Bill has come about due a number of high-profile cases involving franchise businesses underpaying workers. If the bill passes un-amended franchisors will be held liable for the breaches committed by their franchisees “where [they] should reasonably have been aware of the breaches and could reasonably have taken action to prevent them from occurring” likewise franchisors will be held accountable where their business model leads to bad employment practice.
Take the much publisised 7-Eleven case; according to former consumer watchdog, Professor Allan Fels, “The [existing]Fair Work Act system just imposes fines and very limited compensation on the individuals whose cases are considered. But the court system works quite badly for systematic underpayment of thousands of people”. While 7-Eleven’s head office was not held responsible for the conduct of its franchisees that had underpaid workers, it volunteered to repay workers what they were owed in back pay. Fels went on to say “The far stronger deterrent effect for others is if they know they have to make up the underpayments in full – in this case $110 million plus, compared to if they just have to pay a fine.”
If you are a franchise owner your franchisor will be looking to limit their liability and may start to expect a lot more from you in terms of your compliance and reporting when it comes to your employment matters.
In reality, franchise owners should be ensuring they get this stuff right anyway, whether the franchisor wants evidence of it or not! It is the right thing to do by staff and the business. If you want to get ahead of the game before this bill passes, get in touch for a free HR health check today.
Science of seating plans
How much thought do you put into where employees sit? If the answer is not much, then you could be missing a trick. Mixing things up can have a dramatic effect on productivity. Flexi-desks, also known as hot desks, are one way to ensure that people do not get too cosy in established spots.
However, if you want to get more scientific, research from Cornerstone On Demand – a US-based consultancy – will be of interest. They categorised workers into three camps:
1. High productivity, low quality
2. Average productivity, average quality
3. Low productivity, high quality
They found that if you sit 1’s and 3’s together it helps them bring out the best in each other – improving quality in 1’s and productivity in 3’s. The same benefit was not seen in 2’s, so they are best seated together. They found that adopting this method could lead to a significant 15% boost in organisational performance. Worth investigating!
What’s causing the absence?
It’s essential for a well-run organisation to manage absence effectively, and often helpful for employees’ well-being too. However, the cause of absence may not always be down to the employee.
When examining absence data, it’s helpful to look for patterns beyond the behaviour of individuals. For example, do people from one team display more absence than average? That could point to a bad line manager, causing absence through poor management technique.
Where this, or other factors, might be the underlying cause, the quicker it’s identified the better. We run training courses on managing absence. Get in touch for more information.
Employers recount the worst interview
A recent Reddit post asked employers to reveal some of their most painful experiences with interviewees. And the results might astound the most seasoned of hiring managers. We selected some of our favourites to highlight just how interesting the world of HR can get!
One manager asked a candidate, “What would you do if you had a conflict with another co-worker?”. The applicant responded with an anecdote about how a previous co-worker had had an affair with his then-girlfriend and he’d had to encounter him every day at work and “resist beating his ass”. The candidate then felt the need to follow this statement with, “I mean, I got him outside of work, but I never touched him at work!”.
Another hiring manager reported the downright brashness of one candidate who said, “You guys would be lucky to have me. Google is trying to recruit me too!”. The manager promptly wished him the best of luck at his job at Google.
During an interview for a restaurant position, one candidate was asked to give an example of his leadership abilities. The candidate replied by telling the interviewer how, in his previous job, he disliked the head chef so much that he organised the kitchen staff to walk out during the Friday night rush. There’s no denying this shows leadership qualities – but maybe not the right kind!
The hiring process can be just as frustrating for those on either side of the table. If you need advice on how to avoid car crash interviews, contact The HR Dept.
A Coffee a day means productivity is here to stay
Want a 7% increase in productivity? Get a coffee machine! That’s according to Survey Partner ONE. And there are plenty of other indications that coffee can be the lifeblood of the workplace:
It fights off sluggishness – It’s well-known that caffeine is a stimulant that enables employees to remain focused for extensive periods of time.
It can lower the risk of depression – Of course it is a serious condition, but a Harvard study found that women who drink four or more cups of coffee per day have a 20% lower risk of developing depression.
It improves employee relations – A chat over a coffee is the perfect way for employees to develop good relationships – and that’s according to MIT.
It could even maintain integrity – Fortune reports that employees are less likely to adopt unethical practices if they are awake and alert
Working from home is a great perk. Although sometimes we can get distracted – perhaps the TV or the cat wanting to be fed.
Several millennials believe they do their best work outside the office. Flexible working has also become an identifier of a good employer, demonstrating their compassion for employee needs – particularly for those with families or a difficult commute.
You may be a little anxious about introducing flexible working, due to the potential for your staff to push the boundaries of their freedom.
But, having a consistent approach in line with your documentation is recommended. Also, keeping in touch regularly, allows you to identify if any changes to the arrangement are needed.
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.
457 all out
It’s had a good innings, but after more than 20 years, the 457 visa is being retired. This visa granted high-skilled foreign workers the right to employment in Australia, and to bring family members to live with them. Current visa holders will not be affected.
The 457 visa has been replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) which has been divided into 2 categories; a short term visa lasting two years with the option of a two-year extension; and a medium term visa which lasts four years. The medium-term visa will be targeted at those with specific higher skill levels.
So, what do employers need to know about the new visas?
The short-term visa will see a reduction in the number of relevant skilled jobs within its scope. Applicants for either visa will face more scrutiny under the new rules.
They’ll now be required to have two years’ relevant work experience, as well as to undergo a criminal history check. In addition, workers going for the new medium-term visa will need to demonstrate advanced English language skills.
The upper age limit for these temporary work visas will drop from 50 to 45. There will be no residency pathway under the short-term visa, and medium-term visa holders will see their permanent residency period increased from two to three years.
Companies must pay Australian market salary rates for all visa holders and need to meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold of $53,900. Companies also face higher visa fees which are intended to fund more training for local workers. For the two-year visa the application charge will be $1,500 while for the four-year one, it will be $2,400.
The visa process can be complicated and difficult to understand, so if you need help navigating this new visa regime, then give The HR Dept a call. Our experts will be able to help you get the most from your workforce.
Why have a social media policy
Last August, a Melbourne-based salesman posted a crude Facebook status, containing an unpleasant comment about a manager!
Word got back to his employer and, needless to say, they weren’t pleased. Finding that it conflicted with their social media policy, they dismissed him.
The Fair Work Commission, however, considered it an unfair dismissal. They ordered $6,238 to be paid in compensation. Part of the reasoning was that the company had failed to communicate the social media policy effectively. In a further twist, it transpired that the employee was actually referring to a manager in his mother’s workplace.
Social media is ingrained in our lives, so this is a timely reminder to employees and employers to be careful whilst posting. For employers, it’s crucial not only to have a social media policy, but also to ensure that it’s well communicated to staff.
If you need help drafting a social media policy and/or distributing it, give us a call.
Coping with a widening skills gap
Do you have a problem recruiting people with the right academic qualifications?
In recent years, there has been a significant decline in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates in Australia. This shortage threatens the growth potential of companies that rely on these kinds of skillsets.
Who is responsible for encouraging young people to take up these subjects? Schools? The government? Universities? Employers? Well all of the above is probably the right answer.
Some businesses are taking a proactive role in developing the next generation of talent with skills relevant to 21st century business.
For example, Optus Business has teamed up with Macquarie University to create a cyber security hub. This will be a centre of excellence for research and development and teaching cyber skills. The aim is to train 1,000 people in cyber technologies over the next decade.
If you have the resource, such grand schemes can obviously pay dividends. But partnerships don’t have to be on such a scale.
For smaller businesses, it could be well worth the effort of reaching out to the alumni department of your local university. Often these will have initiatives for connecting their graduates and students with industry.
Sometimes you’ll have to accept that people of tertiary education age won’t have settled on a career. If they have the underlying ability, you may need to train them vocationally to get the desired skillset.
Looking beyond graduates to find the right talent, the Australian government also offers a comprehensive apprenticeship support scheme.
For companies, support includes commencement incentives, recommencement incentives, completion incentives as well as specific measures that support the training of adults, school-based people and those with disability.
And there is support for the apprentices too. This includes a Living Away From Home Allowance (if eligibility requirements are met), Trade Support Loans of up to $20,000 (only repayable when income rises above the minimum repayment level); as well as other assistance packages based on age and for Indigenous Australians.
If you need to develop strategies for recruiting 21st century skills into your business, call the team at The HR Dept.
Spotting an unhappy employee
In any organisation, however well run, sooner or later employees will want to leave. Sometimes it might be for the best – which is not an issue. But other times you may be at risk of losing a talented team member.
Holding regular appraisal/feedback chats can help you spot the signs that they’re not happy. Even then, make clear that the door is always open to discuss issues.
If you know there is a problem, discuss changing their job role, if practicable, to suit them better. But ultimately, if they do resign you have to respect their decision.
The pursuit of happiness
Most people spend a third of their time at work. So it makes sense to be happy there, right? Not just for the well-being of individuals. But also because it’s known that happy workers perform better.
So, aside from the obvious – like more money – what can employers do to promote happiness? Here are some pointers:
Explain the meaning. What are your workers creating? What benefit are they providing to customers? Seeing how they fit into the bigger picture will help people feel better about their job and be more productive.
Encourage smiling. On the phone, in meetings. Smiling encourages positive thinking and tone. And better still, it’s contagious!
Take a break. Teach people to recognise when to take a break. Too much stress is damaging, so promoting downtime to relax, stretch, exercise or meditate can work wonders for the employee and their performance.
Last year, Aussie radio hosts Hamish & Andy uncovered “the best bloke in the world” who was perfectly happy to give a job reference for a stranger. And (not knowing he was live on air) what a reference he gave!
Funny though it was, it drew attention to the validity of CV references and how much you can rely on them. As recruiting the right staff is crucial to the success of SMEs, it is certainly a concern.
Whilst we always recommend taking up written references, previous employers are often far more forthcoming about an individual on the telephone than they are on paper.
The HR Dept can help with all aspects of the recruitment process. If you need any help, get in touch.