In 2018, sexual harassment was at the forefront of the public psyche. In response to an industrial landscape rife with sexual harassment, the Respect@Work campaign was launched. After two years of research, in March 2020, the Australian Human Rights Commission (“AHRC”) released the Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (“the Report”) which made 55 recommendations to prevent sexual harassment and to improve responses to complaints. Among these recommendations was the concept of imposing a ‘positive’ duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The rationale was that this approach will lighten the burden on victims and attempt to overcome circumstances where employees feel they are unable to make complaints or adequately resolve issues, due to fears around job security or being treated differently.
Workplace Bullying as an issue is not new, however it remains very prevalent in Australian workplaces. In fact, in research conducted by the Australian Workplace Barometer at the University of Adelaide in 2021, Australia ranked third worst in bullying rates compared to 34 countries in Europe. In research conducted by the same organisation in 2019, it found that two thirds of employees suffered from bullying at work.
Bullying in the workplace is very bad for business. Not only can it result in significant legal claims, but more often than not, it translates into lost revenue as a result of personal leave days, absenteeism, lack of motivation and productivity and poor morale and turnover of employees.
The Commissioner of Taxation (“the Commissioner”) is ramping up efforts to identify unpaid superannuation entitlements by businesses who have been incorrectly operating under the assumption that contractors are not entitled to receive superannuation contribution payments. Under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (“the Act”), contractors may be entitled to superannuation where they are classified as an employee for the purposes of the Act. The definition of ‘employee’ under the Act is much broader than that commonly understood.
A claim for breach of the general protections, or as it is otherwise known, “adverse action”, is the lesser known of two predominant claims brought by employees in circumstances where their employment is terminated. While most employers are familiar with the threat of an unfair dismissal claim, fewer understand the risks associated with taking adverse action against an employee.
Employee ‘bad behaviour’ is something most employers hope they do not have to deal with. For the most part, employees may not be suitable for the role, may perform poorly or the business just cannot support the role being performed anymore. These are all traditional and normal reasons for the resultant termination of the employee’s employment. However, most bosses find it challenging to deal with employees who are in breach of their employment contract or obligations because of their bad or inappropriate conduct. This article considers employee bad behaviour by examining the conduct that can get employees and their employers into trouble if not dealt with appropriately.
‘Privacy at work’ was the subject of our last article, where we provided a crash course on the topic of an employer’s obligations regarding privacy under the Australian Privacy Principles (“APPs”).
This week, we further consider the topic of privacy at work from a more practical perspective, and answer some of the questions that we are frequently asked by our clients about the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (“Privacy Act”). If you haven’t already read our last client alert, we highly recommend you catch up on it before reading on.
Workplace privacy has come to focus recently, in light of the recent fifth annual “Privacy Awareness Week” in Australia, an event organised by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to raise awareness about the country’s regulation of how businesses and agencies deal with private personal information.
What happens to an employer when they fail to adhere to adequate workplace health and safety standards? That employer might be on the receiving end of an order to empty their pockets, according to the NSW Court of Appeal.
Menulog’s application for a new modern award for its drivers, signals a shift by some in the gig economy to recognising that these workers are in fact employees. This may have significant ramifications for the industry at large.
The thorny issue of whether an individual is an employee or contractor is of great significance and getting the classification wrong can mean the imposition of significant monetary penalties and liability for outstanding wages, taxes and other benefits. However, knowing with some certainty whether a person is an independent contractor or not is not clear-cut. In fact, this issue has occupied much of the Court’s time over the years and been the subject of considerable judicial consideration.
The High Court of Australia appears to have jettisoned previous views, and have recently handed down two significant decisions that revise the approach to be taken by courts when determining whether a person is an employee or independent contractor.