General

Employment Law Changes from 1 July 2021

The beginning of the financial year marks a number of important changes to the employment law area. These changes, relate to minimum wages, the unfair dismissal threshold, the Fair Work Information Statement and changes to the Superannuation Guarantee rate. A summary of the changes to come and what this means for your business is covered in this alert.

Performance Management How To Do It Right?

This time of year is typically when both employers and employees buckle down for mid-year performance appraisals. It can be a stressful time for some for many reasons. From an employer perspective, performance management and annual or bi-annual reviews instill dread as managers are tasked with conducting individual performance reviews. However, despite the angst and stress that accompanies performance reviews, not much else is achieved as a result of the review, other than to tick the relevant box stating they have been done. This surely cannot be the purpose of performance reviews. It certainly does not constitute appropriate performance management and the consequence of failing to have hard conversations can be costly.

The Government’s Response to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s Report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

We have written previous articles regarding the #metoo movement and sexual harassment and what this means in the context of employment law. Community expectations are rapidly changing in this area especially as the issues of sexual harassment and sex discrimination have come to the fore in recent times as a result of the increased media attention following allegations being aired about sexual assault and inappropriate conduct in our Federal Parliament.  Sex discrimination issues continue to garner political and media attention, with the lens of sex discrimination being applied to the treatment of Australia Post’s former CEO, Christine Holgate by the Federal Government.

“Ordinary and Customary Turnover of Labour” What Does This Really Mean?

Many labour hire and contract for service employers (such as commercial cleaning, security and maintenance companies) exist as a result of contracts they have with clients for their services, for which they engage staff. When these contracts come to an end, there is no need to retain the staff and as such their positions are redundant. It has been widely accepted that if this is the manner in which these businesses did business, and it was an ordinary and customary part of the business model, then the employer would not be liable to pay the employees redundancy pay as a result of the terminations due to loss of contracts. This idea has been enshrined in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) which provides that redundancy pay is not required if the termination of employment is a result of the “ordinary and customary turnover of labour”. However, there has been much uncertainty as to when this actually applies and what these words mean. There has also been significant recent judicial scrutiny of the issue.

COVID-19, Working from Home, Mental Health Challenges and the Office Christmas Party!

As we have covered in previous client alerts, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a raft of unique challenges for employers striving to maintain safety, efficiency and productivity, and employees who, perhaps for the first time in their working lives, are now consistently working from home. For many of these employees, feelings of social isolation have led to reports of anxiety and depression, and with the Silly Season just around the corner, this means some serious red flags for employers. In this client alert we examine some of the current difficulties, and projected difficulties that COVID-19, will have on employees, and how best employers might deal with them.

Working From Home: Some Insightful FWC Decisions

For many of us, working from home at least some of the time this year has become the norm. For quite a significant number of employees, working from home has become a regular and permanent (or at least current) way of working. We have written previous client alerts regarding the steps employers should take to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations if they have employees working from home. In this client alert, we examine some recent cases in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) which have had to deal with the legal implications when working from home, is not all its cracked up to be.

Conflicts of Interest in Employment Law

It would seem self-evident to most people that if you are employed, as an employee you owe certain duties to your employer, the most basic of which is not to put yourself in a position of conflict with that of your employer. This idea that as an employee you owe certain duties to your employer is certainly one of the cornerstones of the employment relationship. It is so important that the law implies certain duties into the relationship of employment, including the duty of fidelity and good faith. This duty of fidelity is extremely broad and would encompass most activities associated with the proper performance of the role. It should however, be distinguished from the fiduciary duty owed by senior employees and officers of the employer. The fiduciary relationship imposes duties over and above those required by the duty of fidelity, and has been described as follows:

The Reasonable Notice Trap – The Importance of Written Contracts

As the nation begins to emerge from the COVID pandemic and businesses slowly recommence their ‘as usual’ activities, employers are understandably keen to return to commerce as soon as possible. No doubt, many sectors of industry were hit hard by the pandemic; industries such as hospitality, retail, travel and tourism, professional sports and the arts, and despite the welcome assistance of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper programme, in its various forms, redundancies were inevitable.

Redundancy in a COVID World

Australia has officially entered its first recession for 29 years after the economy went backwards in the March 2020 quarter. The ongoing impact of COVID-19 has continued to have a significant detrimental effect on many businesses across a variety of industries.

In addition, the upcoming changes to JobKeeper later this month will also result in some employers no longer receiving JobKeeper payments to subsidise wages. As a result, many businesses are considering their options to safeguard their business and reduce expenditure over the coming months.

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