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CultureJanuary 8, 2018
Every employer will see changes to workplace relations this year which will have significant impact on their workplace.
Whether it is Uber, Deliveroo or any other ‘gig economy’ based business there has long been a question around whether their workers are employees or contractors.
As this debate continues, and with more and more court cases, this shift in workplace relations should serve as a reminder to businesses to clearly differentiate between the use of contractors and employees. There are some features of the employment relationship employers can reference to make the difference, with the most obvious being the level of autonomy a worker has over their job. Where a worker performs work under the direction and control of the business engaging them, it is more likely they are an employee; as a contractor will typically have a high level of control over how the work is done.
Workplaces are shifting as more casual staff are being utilised. With the push for a more flexible working life, employees are more willing to consider casual arrangements as much as businesses are enjoying the flexibility of casual staff.
Despite the benefits to both parties, employing more casuals in the workplace brings additional challenges. For example, a transient or young workforce can lead to an increase in safety concerns and the legislation and modern awards provide for slightly different conditions for casuals as compared with permanent staff. Employers utilising more casuals in the workplace should be mindful of the agreements and practices in place to ensure minimum entitlements are being adhered to. Read more information on hiring casual workers here.
Technology has made it easier for many jobs to be done remotely and the expansion of flexible work is a trend set to be big in 2018.
The search for the perfect work/ life balance is still ongoing, and many businesses are choosing to offer employees greater job flexibility in an attempt to retain the best talent. Under Australian law there are categories of workers legally entitled to request flexible work, but the expansion of this as a benefit for all employees is an incentive many businesses are experimenting with.
Employsure’s research on the topic has found that 38% of Australian employers believe offering flexible work is the best way to retain good staff, well above the 20% that found increased pay incentives to be the best strategy.
This shows that a good work life balance is increasingly more important to employees than a higher salary that may come at a cost to family or social life. Employers who recoginise this shift in thinking and can incorporate it into their workplace policies have an advantage in the job market.
2017 was a huge year for discussions on equality in the workplace. Allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination by those in power have impacted businesses across multiple industries and countries. These cases should serve as a stark reminder to employers of how damaging any allegation of sexual harassment can be not only to the business, but to the individuals within it. Central to these cases is the issue of power imbalances in the workplace, which in many of these cases prevented complaints for fear of repression. Awareness of these power imbalances, and moves to correct them are set to be huge trends for 2018.
Reflecting this, The Fair Work Ombudsman revealed massive exploitation of vulnerable workers in Australia throughout 2017, with employee underpayments making the news constantly through the year. This culminated in the passing of the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill in late 2017, giving increased powers to investigate employers who underpay staff or do not keep accurate records.
The key takeaway from these recent events is that employers should ensure they have a strong policy in place to ensure there is no exploitation of any employees, particularly those with less authority in the workplace.
Whatever 2018 has in store for the business, employers must have basic entitlements in place and contracts and policies to support new staff into the workforce.
We’d love to hear from you about what you think are the key trends for 2018. Email [email protected].