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The Importance of Inclusion in the Workplace

June 27, 2022 | Author:

Why is it important to build an inclusive workplace? This Pride Month, we learn about a supportive work environment.

The National Minimum Wage is Increasing

June 20, 2022 | Author:

The National Minimum Wage is increasing. What does it mean for you?

Employsure Voices

June 17, 2022 | Author:

In our new video series, Employsure Voices, we highlight our client Jeremy from Stagekings.

Buy Local: The Way to Support Australian Businesses

June 9, 2022 | Author:

Employsure has worked with over 30,000 Australian businesses to manage performance, implement policies, and build processes. Working closely with...

What to expect this tax season?

June 6, 2022 | Author:

As we finish the second financial year in a post pandemic world, employers and business owners are wondering what...

What does a new government signify for small businesses?

May 27, 2022 | Author:

After nine years of Coalition leadership, there is change happening at the centre with the Labor coming to power...

Understanding Casual Employment

May 17, 2022 | Author:

Do you employ casual workers? In 2020, the Full Federal Court (in the judgement of Workpac Pty Ltd v...

Mother’s Day 2022

May 5, 2022 | Author:

A mother is your first friend, your best friend, your forever friend. They’re the first people we intimately know...

Victoria’s NEW OHS Regulations related to Crystalline Silica – Are you ready?

May 4, 2022 | Author:

The regulations introduce new duties that offer greater protection to Victorian employees working with respirable crystalline silica. The regulations...

Horticultural Award 2020 Update

April 20, 2022 | Author:

Award Changes: Horticulture Pieceworkers Coming into effect from the first full pay period on or after the 28th of...

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Employers still battling through chronic staff shortages, record inflation of 5.1%, and rising costs will be soon hit with another financial blow with the standard minimum wage set to rise by 5.2% and the award minimum wage increasing by 4.6%.

From July 1, the standard minimum wage will rise to $21.38 per hour ($812.60 per week) with the award minimum wage subject to a minimum increase of $40 per week (depending on the award). This represents a large impact for all employers with small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) that make up over 95% of Australian businesses particularly exposed.

Employment relations experts, Employsure representing over 32,000 businesses within Australia reacted to the announcement:

“The impact of this change cannot be understated, businesses are already doing it tough and with this announcement from the Fair Work Commission, it feels like business owners just can’t catch a break” said Employsure CEO, David Price.

“We are anticipating an influx of calls in the thousands from concerned employers seeking help around how they will implement and afford these changes. It is an unfortunate reality that some businesses who are already on the edge will simply no longer be able to operate”

While the overall effect of this change has yet to be seen, there are concerns this may create a domino effect with increased staff expenses to be passed on to the consumer compounding already high cost of living pressures.

“We recommend any business seeking help around interpreting these changes to seek advice, get informed, and prepare to update their payroll systems to avoid underpayment when the increase comes into effect.” Mr. Price concluded.

“Harsh, unjust or unreasonable”. Those three words are the key words by which a Fair Work Commissioner may find a dismissal unfair, and potentially order compensation for the employee, reinstatement, or both.

There is often a great deal riding on an unfair dismissal hearing, (the final step in the unfair dismissal process), as all other options are likely to have been exhausted. The process can be financially and emotionally draining for all involved.

While many employers may feel like they don’t want to back down in the face of an unfair dismissal claim – which may be understandable – wading into the murky realm of arbitration can pose considerable stress given the inherent uncertainty associated with litigation.

Although there are many examples, it is arguably the “Meme Case” that most clearly illustrates the inherent uncertainty.

The case is considered by many to set a precedent in respect to the acceptability of humour, satire and criticism in the workplace.

Before we begin, this article isn’t intended to be a criticism of the Commissioners involved, or the Commission itself but merely an illustrative example that shows why unfair dismissal cases are rarely black and white. Rather, they are different shades of grey.

Why Was The Employee Dismissed?

BP and workers at an oil refinery were going through an enterprise bargaining agreement negotiation. There was tension between employees and management.

In early 2019, One employee, a technician, decided to let some steam off by posting a video to a Facebook group made by BP employees for BP employees.

The technician decided to post one of the most famous meme videos (the parody of Hitler’s rant from the very serious 2004 German-language film, Downfall). The scene from the movie depicts Hitler, huddled with his generals inside his war bunker in Berlin, realising the war is lost as the Soviets close in on Berlin in the final days of the 2nd World War.

The meme goes like this: you take the video, and replace the original English-language subtitles so that Hitler is instead ranting about frivolous things – about Twitter going down, the newest Star Trek movie, email scams, even the meme itself.

Coming from a movie that is more than 15 years old, there have been an uncountable number of iterations of this meme. (Also, that means the employee was using a 15-year-old joke – which makes it worse as we later see the Fair Work Commission hearing having to explain the joke when coming to the decision).

However, instead of ranting about lost divisions and the incompetence of his generals, Hitler is subtitled as ranting about the BP wage negotiation with – you guessed it – Hitler as the employer.

When his bosses did find out about this video in the Facebook post, they dismissed him for serious misconduct on the basis he had “distributed material which is highly offensive and inappropriate. The technician then lodged an unfair dismissal claim against BP to the Fair Work Commission.

The First Hearing

Fast forward through conciliation; all options have failed and the case is set down for Hearing at the FWC in September 2019.

At the Hearing, BP alleged that the video was “offensive and inappropriate”, and that it likened company management to Nazis and Hitler. Using phrases and other information privy only to the employer and employees during the negotiations, BP alleged that by doing so the video further tightened the depiction of the management as Nazis.

In the other corner, the technician argued that the ‘humorous’ video was intended to “boost morale” during the tense negotiations.

In the decision, the Commissioner sided with the management in this case, saying that “I do not accept that by labelling something as a parody is a ‘get out of jail free card’ and necessarily means something is not offensive.

“[The technician] may well have been endeavouring to raise morale but did so by demeaning, undermining and denigrating the leaders in his organisation.

“Had a member of BP management team created a video portraying delegates and union officials in a similar manner for a management function I would anticipate it would have rightly caused uproar among the workforce and led to its creator’s swift removal from the organisation.”

Noting that the technician showed remorse, but refused to accept his conduct had caused offence, the commissioner held that the dismissal was not harsh, unjust and unreasonable.

The lawyer representing the technician described the commissioner’s finding in a dim light. Kamal Faroque told the Commission that, in the context of its use, is used to mock overreactions to regular situations, adding that BP’s argument that the video was portraying BP and management as Nazis was a  “manifest mischaracterisation of his conduct”, according to

The technician appealed the finding.

The Second Case

This appeal’s finding, coming around five months after the original finding, quashed the original.

The saying goes that you should never have to explain a joke. But that’s what the Commission essentially did.

“That the clip has been used thousands of times over a period of more than a decade for the purpose of creating, in an entirely imitative way, a satirical depiction of contemporary situations has had the result of culturally dissociating it from the import of the historical events portrayed in the film,” in a description that could be good enough for the relevant entry.

“After this period, any interest which remains in the clip will usually reside in the degree of inventiveness involved in successfully adapting the scene to fit some new situation.

“Anyone with knowledge of the meme could not seriously consider that the use of the clip was to make some point involving Hitler or Nazis.”

The Fair Work Commission thus ordered that BP reinstate the technician, with continuity of service, and to compensate the worker for lost pay.

The Third Hearing

It was now BP’s turn to appeal, sending the case to the Federal Court.

On the 22nd of May 2020, almost eight months after the first hearing and 16 months since the technician was originally dismissed in January 2019, a verdict was reached.  The Appeal was dismissed.

What Does This All Mean?

Unfair Dismissals may be tricky, costly and time consuming. It is rarely clear cut.

Many cases go the way of the employee due to an employer having a “harsh, unreasonable or unjust” process, (or not even following a “fair process”) despite the Commission noting the reason for dismissal being valid.

However, this case was decided by a somewhat tricky, subjective definition of what’s insulting and what’s a joke.

Prevention is better than a cure. Employsure can help you set up your processes, policies and procedures, giving you greater confidence that you’re on the right track with your workplace relations.

Call us now on 1300 651 415.

Employers have the right to ask staff to work where reasonable during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Employsure, Australia’s leading workplace relations company.

COVID-19 has forced many businesses across the country to restructure how they operate, in order to reduce the threat of the disease spreading among staff.

Some businesses have shifted their employees into working from home, while those who don’t have that option might have new health and safety measures in place.

The Federal Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy has allowed thousands of businesses to continue to operate and pay staff, who would have otherwise been out of a job. However, there have been cases where some employees have been leveraging the scheme to avoid working reasonable hours or to come back to work altogether.

“The program is helping thousands of employers keep staff on their books, but unfortunately in some cases business owners are being taken advantage of,” said Senior Employment Relations Adviser Erin Gaffney.

“We’ve been seeing this in certain cases with casual workers, who are now earning more than they usually do thanks to being topped up well above their normal wage via JobKeeper’s $1500 a fortnight.

“While many cases of casuals refusing to work are legitimate, many aren’t giving any good reason at all, and that in turn in putting bosses in an unfair position.

“In general, where a genuine casual is continuing to reject shifts due to the coronavirus, their employer cannot force them to come to work and cannot discipline them for this. They can however be disciplined for breaches of procedure, such as non-compliance with absence notification policies.

“For regular and systematic casuals who are not sick, and are under no special circumstances such as pregnancy or a pre-existing health condition and don’t face any health and safety risks in the workplace, an employer can direct them to attend work.”

What Should Employers Do?

If someone on JobKeeper is refusing to do their contractual shifts with you, it’s no different than if they didn’t turn up to work in normal circumstances. This can lead to a disciplinary issue, and you hope in the course of that procedure that all parties can see sense which results in the employee coming back to work.

In the case of a regular and systematic employee with 12 months service, the employer is eligible and confirmed to be receiving JobKeeper and employee is nominated, the employer may be able to enact JobKeeper enabling directions under the Fair Work Act as well.

“These directions include reducing their hours of work, duties and location of work, without the employee’s consent. For this to happen, several conditions need to be met,” said Ms Gaffney.

“The direction must be responsive to business changes attributable to COVID-19 or government initiatives to slow the transmission. An employer can only give the direction if the worker cannot be usefully employed for their normal hours.

“The employer can only give the direction to a worker who they have received a JobKeeper payment for, and they must consult them about the direction. It must be reasonable in the circumstances. Their rate of pay cannot be reduced and the JobKeeper payment must continue to be passed on.

“Finally, the employee must be provided with at least three days’ notice of the intention to give the direction and it must be in writing. If they refuse, the employer can make an application to the Fair Work Commission to resolve the dispute.”

A Watch Out For Employers – Increasing Employee Hours:

The amendments to the Fair Work Act do not openly give employers a right to unilaterally increase an employee’s hours of work. They only allow a direction to be issued to reduce an employee’s hours, where certain requirements are met.

A permanent employee’s hours of work could therefore only be increased in accordance with the provisions of an applicable industrial instrument, or by mutual agreement.

A casual employee’s hours of work could only be increased from their usual hours where the increase is reasonable and mutually agreed.

Employers should proceed with caution if they choose to ask staff to download the COVIDSafe app, according to Employsure, Australia’s leading workplace relations company.

The contact-tracing app, which has been downloaded more than 6 million times since late April, has been subject to privacy concerns by those not knowing what information is collected.

COVIDSafe is a voluntary app to collect information to assist state and territory health officials when they conduct contact tracing to combat the spread of COVID-19.

In that time, there has been confusion amongst business owners into whether they can force staff to download the app or not.

“While I believe the COVIDSafe app will help increase safety in the workplace, it cannot be forced onto staff,” said Employsure Managing Director Ed Mallett.

“I was asked several weeks ago when the app was still new whether or not you could force your employees to download it as a condition of them coming back into the work. My initial view was that seemed like a sensitive subject.

“If you look at the NRL as an example, you can see the problems it has had with flu vaccinations. Some players argued against getting the jab. As a business owner, it’s a similar case when asking an employee to download the app.

“There are plenty of employees that don’t want to install it, maybe for good reason, maybe for bad. Some employers are probably asking for it to be downloaded on an employee’s personal device, sparking concerns over privacy.

“In my opinion the app is a great idea the Government is pushing that will benefit the workplace. It’s designed to help trace if any colleagues have been in contact with people with COVID-19. There is a risk that if you don’t have your employees download the app, then that contact tracing isn’t as effective and could lead to infection occurring in the workplace.

“The narrative in the media as of late seems to suggest that if an employee catches COVID-19, no matter where they got it, then their employer ends up being responsible for them and subsequently has a safety claim on their hands.

“We have already seen one city council in Sydney get in trouble for forcing their staff to download the app. They were told they were in breach of biosecurity laws and could be fined for it. A piece of legislation has since been passed through the privacy act that confirms you cannot force your staff to download the app. It confirms that if you treat an employee unfairly as a consequence of them not installing it, you could end up with a claim in the Fair Work Commission for adverse action.”

Attorney-General and IR Minister Christian Porter has stressed that employers cannot insist that employees use the Federal Government’s COVIDSafe tracing app, with breaches attracting fines of up to $63,000 and five years’ jail.

The Minister also introduced the Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020, which aims to ensure strong privacy protections to support the download, use and eventual decommissioning of the app.

“Although a business owner can’t legally force an employee to download the app, it doesn’t mean they can’t ask. Employers need to remember there’s a big difference between forcing someone to do something, and politely asking,” Mallett continued.

“One way they could position asking an employee to download the app is to reinforce the idea that it will benefit the team and reinforce a safer workplace. Asking, not forcing, will not constitute a fine.”

Work Device vs Personal Device:

The Privacy Amendment (Public Health Contact Information) Bill 2020 recently passed through parliament. The legislation makes it illegal to force someone to download the COVIDSafe app.

The bill states an employer cannot make downloading the COVIDSafe app a condition of employment. An employer can encourage staff to download the app, but cannot direct them to.

Employers may expose themselves to potential adverse action claims or other legal challenges if they direct a staff member to download the app, regardless of whether that staff member is using a privately-owned or company-owned device.

Breaches to the legislation could attract fines of up to $63,000 and five years jail.

A modern award is a document which sets out the minimum terms and conditions of employment on top of the National Employment Standards for those employees who are covered as determined by the coverage rules contained within the Award.

The intention of the Modern Award system in Australia is to capture the majority of industries and occupations and provide for further specific entitlements/conditions which may be relevant. It is important to note though, that not all businesses and occupations will have Modern Award cover-age.

The details in Modern Awards range from how much pay your employees are entitled to, all the way through to additional requirements on how much notice of termination they must give and receive .

In the past few years, the details of Modern Awards in Australia have experienced changes, leaving some employers unsure of what they need to offer employees. Here are five things you need to know about Modern Awards in Australia to make sure you’re operating according to your obligations.

1. What is a Modern Award?

In Australia, A Modern Award isn’t a trophy or a certificate; it’s a document with details about the terms and conditions for specific occupations and/or industries.

A Modern Award as a document outlines the minimum terms and conditions of employment on top of the National Employment Standards.

Common clauses provided by a Modern Award include:

  • award flexibility
  • consultation
  • dispute resolution
  • types of employment
  • termination of employment
  • redundancy
  • minimum wages
  • allowances
  • superannuation

2. Why Modern Awards Are Important

Modern Awards are important documents as they can set the terms and conditions of employment for most employers and employees.

The onus is on business owners to understand if an Award applies to any of their employees. If an Award does apply, then business owners are obligated to apply the provisions of that Award to the applicable employees.

If you’re thinking this sounds a bit difficult, then you’re not wrong. Understanding and apply the pro-visions of Awards is not an easy task.

3. What Award Am I Under?

Knowing which Modern Award your employees are under is the first step to compliance with Mod-ern Awards. A Modern Award are generally industry or occupation based, and apply to employers and employees working in the industry or performing certain types of work.

If you’re unsure what Modern Award your employees are under, feel free to get in contact with Employsure for free initial advice. We can help set you on the path to better understanding your obligations.

4. Modern Awards Don’t Apply to Everyone

Some workers do not fall under one of the categories provided in a Modern Award and are often referred to as Award-free employees.

A registered agreement is a type of agreement which sets out the terms and conditions of em-ployment and which is agreed between an employer (or multiple employers) and two or more em-ployees (group of employees).

An employer could also be covered by a registered agreement, which may set aside or incor-porate modern award terms. It is important to note whilst an Agreement might set aside terms and conditions of an award, if the base rates of pay in an agreement fall lower than the award, the rates of pay in the award will apply.

The most common type of Registered Agreement is an Enterprise Agreement.

a) Enterprise agreements in a nutshell

Enterprise agreements are agreements made at an enterprise level between employers and em-ployees, and potentially their representative, about terms and conditions of employment.

They can also be made by more than one employer, with a group of employees.

An Enterprise Agreement generally only covers your business after you have been involved in a negotiation process and an agreement has been reached. The process has a number of different steps. Once agreement is reached between the parties, the Agreement then needs to be approved by the Fair Work Commission before it is registered to take effect.

There are however circumstances when an Enterprise agreement which you were not involved in negotiating will apply to your business. This might happen when there is a transfer of business. For example if you have bought a business with an agreement in place and there has been a transfer of employment as defined in the Fair Work Act 2009, the agreement might apply as a result of the transfer.

Enterprise agreements are quite common in trades and unionised industries, however they can be found in any industry. They can also outline the terms and conditions of apprenticeships.

A key factor for business owners considering an Enterprise Agreement is that the Agreement will need to meet the Better Off Overall Test to be approved. This means the Agreements terms and conditions must not be less favorable than the Modern Award relevant to their role and/or in-dustry .

b) Modern Awards don’t apply to high income earners with guaranteed earnings

If your employee earns over $148,700 per year and you have a written agreement guaranteeing the employee at least this amount in annual earnings, a Modern Award will not apply.

Some managerial and senior employees who do not earn above the high income threshold may also not be covered by a Modern Award (Award-free). This may be the case even if there’s a Mod-ern Award directly related to your industry, as an employee may not be covered by the award if it does not provide scope for their role.

c) Some other employees aren’t covered by a Modern Award

Other employees (who are not managerial or senior) may also not be covered by a Modern Award. You should be cautious of determining your employee to be ‘Award-free’ as an incorrect classifica-tion may result in you underpaying the employee. Consider seeking workplace relations advice to confirm your employee’s Award/s or Agreement/s.

If it is case that you have an ‘Award-free’ employee, details of their pay entitlements will be accord-ing to the National Employment Standards (NES). The NES details the national minimum wage and multiple other minimum entitlements, which act as the minimum for all employees – including those who are not covered by either an Award or an Agreement. Learn more about the minimum wage and how it affects your business here.

5. How Do Modern Awards Apply to Small Businesses?

As discussed, it’s really important all business owners and employers are aware of the current Modern Awards, and how they apply to their employees. It’s important your workplace observes all the conditions and entitlements outlined in the awards for each employee. Employers who are not compliant with legislation and Modern Awards, place their business at risk of fines and back dated wages associated with underpaying employees

As a business owner, navigating the world of Modern Awards can be tricky, and it’s easy to slip up.

Don’t get stuck, get the help of professionals who specialise in workplace requirements. At Em-ploysure, we’re dedicated to ensuring every Aussie workplace is fair, helping business owners un-derstand their requirements so your business runs more smoothly and efficiently.

Get in touch today and we’ll help you navigate the complex world of Modern Awards.

Think back to your early working career – your very first job, how long did you stay before you quit that job? If you’re still working the same job years later, you’d be in the minority of people surveyed in the recent Employee Turnover Survey conducted by

The study, conducted between November and December 2019, asked respondents to share about their employment history, with the focus on the reasons why they left their jobs and what was most important to them to stay in a role for the long run.

According to the results, if you’re in the majority of men and women surveyed, you most likely had already left your first job by the time you were 25 years old.

The statistics speak for themselves

3 in 5 employees will have already quit their first job by the age of 25 years old. This was found across all ages that were surveyed, which ranged from 17 years old and younger, to 56 years old and higher.

So why is it so common for people to be quitting their jobs so early on?

The number one reason for people quitting is not what you think

Most people would probably guess that it has to do with pay. Income can be a major factor in job satisfaction.

However, according to the study, even though salary does play a role, it’s actually a smaller one when it comes why employees will leave their job.

The survey found that the number one reason for quitting was actually a lack of career progression.

Among other factors that influenced their decision to quit, respondents valued their career progression above their rate of pay. When employees don’t feel that there’s room to develop professionally, this is more likely to lead to dissatisfaction, and much less investment in their role.

When employees were asked in this survey about how the opportunity to progress would affect their decision to stay or leave a company, 27% said it would very much affect their choice. This is contrasted to only 7.78% who said that career progression didn’t at all affect their decision. Across different age groups involved in the study, and both genders, it was found that professional development was a key consideration in job retention.

“One of the most important factors in selecting a position (and for managers to consider in hiring and leading people) is making sure the job is going to help you learn and fulfil your own career goals,” said Global Industry Analyst Josh Bersin, quoted in the report.

“For some people, this means rapid advancement and challenge. For others, it means a reasonable workload and supportive work environment. When these expectations are clear and aligned, people love their work and will stay for many years.”

That’s not the whole story, however

It’s important to note that there are also diverse priorities additional to the main reasons for quitting.

Other answers that people highlighted as important decision-making factors leading to quitting their job include:

  • Poor leadership
  • A change of their own career goals
  • Not getting a promotion they feel they deserved
  • Poor benefits
  • Weak cooperation between the team
  • And a non-flexible schedule.

Second to the consideration of professional development was the rate of pay, and coming in third for the reason why people quit is not receiving a well-deserved raise.

All of these reasons point to something interesting – it’s about our value as workers. If we feel undervalued not only in our pay, but also in our prospects of receiving acknowledgement through advancing in our responsibly and salary in the future, it seems we are much less likely to invest our energy into that role.

Employee retention – how to keep your employees in it for the long run

Essentially, it comes down to expressing your appreciation for your employees, and being clear about the prospects of future development from the start.

But how can business owners create this kind of environment and work culture? Here’s some tips to get started:

  • Invest in strong leaders who are able to foster communication between employees
  • Understand the different ways you can acknowledge your employees for their work, and provide benefits and incentives for growth
  • Learn how to organise your business model to foster growth for workers, so as the company grows, they grow too
  • Get clear on employee rights and share them with your team to show that you value and respect their presence.

Related: Rewarding And Retaining Employees With Flexible Work Arrangements

Retention is always a focus for businesses keen on growth and maintaining a consistent and productive workforce. And based on this data, successfully retaining staff may not always comes down to salary or lucrative bonuses. Giving people a chance to grow may be a better and more sustainable long term strategy.

For several weeks, smoke from bushfires has blanketed Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and other communities, so much so that the smoke in Sydney was 12 times over the threshold for ‘hazardous’ air quality at one stage1

Some organisations, such as the Department of Home Affairs, sent workers home in full or part because of bushfire smoke, and health experts are warning that the ramifications from the unprecedented levels of bushfire smoke exposure won’t be known for years.

Staff who may be struggling to work in the heavy smoke may also be entitled to take personal leave, according to Employsure’s senior adviser, Erin Gaffney.

“An individual employee can choose to go home if they feel too unwell to work because of the smoke. But, they would have to use their paid personal leave entitlement. And an employer is entitled to request evidence, like a medical certificate,” she said.

It’s safe to say that exposure to bushfire smoke should be a cause for concern for employers and workplace health and safety practitioners. Given that the blankets of smoke that have enveloped Australia is unprecedented, what basic precautions can businesses take to protect their employees exposed to the smoke?

“You can’t predict where the smoke is going to be or for how long it’s going to stay around, but you do have options regarding your work and your workers”, Employsure’s WHS expert Larry Drewsen says.

“Let’s say that outside, it seems quite smoky. The first thing I’d do is check the air pollution levels. For instance, the NSW Government has an air quality monitor service.

“If it indicates a dangerous level of smoke, if you can, reschedule any outside work. If you can’t, then you should consider supplying workers with smoke-protective clothing, such as an appropriate respirator and eye protection. Also, if workers are working alone or remotely, make sure they can readily communicate with their manager in case they begin to suffer from the effects of smoke exposure.”

Mr Drewsen is eager to add that, if you do purchase respirators  to protect your workers, make sure you purchase the correct type.

“Surgical masks, or other cloth masks that may have seen people wearing around the city, aren’t going to cut it,” Mr Drewsen says.

“You need P2 masks. These masks are the most capable of protecting from the dangerous, very fine air particles in the air when properly worn. To be fully effective you must get them fitted. If they don’t form a seal, they don’t work as the outside air can still get through, unfiltered.”

While many workers in cities are office workers or work indoors, Mr Drewsen says that they should still be protected from the smoke.

“All offices or indoor workplaces should have air ventilation. The majority have air conditioning,” Mr Drewsen says.

“This doesn’t mean that the indoor air quality can remain unaffected by air quality outdoors. Employers should monitor the air quality, or cooperate with property management or their landlords to do so.”

In case the smoke is too much for employees to work – inside or outside – safely, what does Mr Drewsen recommend as appropriate action?

“Prolonged exposure to smoke can be quite detrimental to anyone’s health. If you don’t feel it’s safe, but I’d begin to look at standing down your employees, making sure you have the legal grounds to do so, or asking them to work from home,” Mr Drewsen says.

About Employsure

Employsure is Australia and New Zealand’s leading outsourced HR solution for over 25,000 small and medium sized businesses; providing customised expert advice, documentation, and protection to manage their workplace with confidence. Get in touch today for more information on Employsure’s employment relations and health and safety solutions.

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2019 was the year of underpayments. Seemingly, every couple of weeks another big brand found itself in the underpayment spotlight.

In June, MAdE Establishment was revealed to have made a $200,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth Consolidated Fund after self-reporting an 8-year, $7.8 million underpayment.

Since then, the likes of Bunnings, Super Retail Group (the owner of big name retailers including Rebel Sport, BCF and Super Cheap Auto), Wesfarmers (the owners of Blackwoods, Workwear Group, Coregas and Greencap), Michael Hill Jewellers, Top Juice, and Sunglass Hut have also come under fire for underpayments.

The ongoing scandal was topped off when Woolworths admitted it had underpaid nearly 6000 staff as much as $300 million.

The subsequent national conversation around underpayments has spawned its own buzzword:  wage theft.

The Federal Government has publicly backed stronger action on underpayment: ‘10 years’ jail for wage theft: (Attorney General Christian) Porter puts hefty penalties on the table’, read one headline in the Sydney Morning Herald in late September.

Interestingly, that article is also tagged with the term ‘Wage Scandal’ and has its own subsequent news category – apparently the Australian media is recognising the resonance the issue is having with the broader Australian public.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, unions have come out swinging against big business for ’wage theft’, as it were. Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions – the peak worker representative body – described ‘wage theft’ as a ‘business model’ as result of workplace laws becoming “weaker and weaker since 1996”, referring to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and the ‘WorkChoices’ amendments, which were passed in 2006.

However, Ed Mallett, Managing Director of Employsure, says, in many cases, underpayment is attributable to the complexity of the workplace relations system itself – and not necessarily the product of any malicious intent.

“We do not believe the majority of hard-working small business owners are ‘thieves’. Instead, they are stuck on a regulation merry-go-round and they can find it hard to navigate,” Mr Mallett says.

“There are more than 120 Modern Awards in the Australian workplace relations system. For some businesses, even small ones, they may have to comply with more than one Award.

“It’s not just the minimum wage or award rate that’s the most difficult part, but many employers struggle with the myriad entitlements, and varying rates throughout the time of week and time of day.

The public struggles many large brands, who have dedicated HR departments, had last with underpayments drives home to Mr Mallett the extra difficulties small businesses face with complying with workplace relations regulations.

“Many large companies were reported to have underpaid their staff last year, The businesses would have dedicated HR departments, and they are still making these errors.

“Imagine, what this system is like for a small business owner. Not only do they have to deal with day to day business, they also have to juggle pay rates, stock, inventory, supply chain, rostering, marketing, and customer service.”

“It’s honest errors and a lack of understanding of entitlements that puts smaller businesses at risk.

“According to our own research, the overwhelming view from small businesses owners is that the legislation is far too complicated.

“Just think about this – if big businesses struggle to understand the Fair Work Act with their well-resourced HR departments, how could anyone expect small businesses to get it right?”

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Changes to the Building and Construction Award, previously scheduled to commence on 1 January 2020, have now been postponed to 1 July 2020.

The Fair Work Commission made the announcement on Thursday 19 December.

This means that the previously communicated changes to the Building and Construction Award will not have to be implemented until the newly arranged commencement date of 1 July 2020.

The changes are as follows:

The majority of disability allowances have been deleted from the award, to be replaced by an enhanced industry allowance. This enhanced industry allowance will also replace the existing industry and special allowance in the award.

What’s Changed?

The enhanced industry allowance will be as follows:

  • General building and construction industry, civil construction industry and metal and engineering construction industry—an allowance of 6% of the weekly standard rate;
  • Residential building and construction industry—an allowance of 8% of the weekly standard rate.

What Do You Need To Do?

Implement the updated allowance increases on the first pay period on or after 1 July 2020. Employsure clients will receive updated Pay Rate Schedules before the commencement date.

We’re Here To Help

If you need help understanding or implementing these changes, please contact our Advice Line on 1300 651 415 or email [email protected]

Workman In Hard Hat And Safety Gear Looking Up At Scaffold

*on Thursday 19 December the Fair Work Commission announced that the commencement date of the following changes has been postponed to 1 July 2020

Changes to the Building & Construction Award

The Christmas and New Year period is a time for festivities and relaxation for many. But this year, businesses who have employees under the Building & Construction Award have to ensure they’re on the ball, as there are changes coming into effect on 1 January 2020.

Specifically, the changes are allowances. The majority of disability allowances have been deleted from the award, to be replaced by an enhanced industry allowance. This enhanced industry allowance will also replace the existing industry and special allowance in the award.

What’s Changed?

The enhanced industry allowance will be as follows:

  1. General building and construction industry, civil construction industry and metal and engineering construction industry—an allowance of 6% of the weekly standard rate;
  2. Residential building and construction industry—an allowance of 8% of the weekly standard rate.

What Do You Need To Do?

Implement the updated allowance increases. Employsure clients will receive updated Pay Rate Schedules in due course. If you are not a client, please feel to get in contact with us.

We’re Here To Help

If you need help understanding or implementing these changes, please contact our Advice Line on 1300 651 415 or email [email protected]

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