The election has come and gone, and we are all settling down with somewhat reduced Liberal Party presence in power. With the Liberal party staying in office we thought it was appropriate that we provide a brief recap on some of the Coalition’s key election policies in relation to employment and industrial relations. We also provide an update on a number of key employment changes since the election took place.
Requests by employees for flexible working arrangements have become more and more popular since the introduction of this right as part of the National Employment Standards. Traditionally, such requests were most common amongst working mothers and employees with carer responsibilities. Nowadays it is common for all types of employees to utilise flexible working arrangements for a variety of different reasons. In our experience, many employers are more than willing to consider and, where they are able to do so, accommodate requests for flexible working arrangements. In some cases, however, the operational demands of the business simply do not permit an employer to agree to such requests.
As practicing employment lawyers it always surprises us how businesses are bought and sold, without so much as a pause to consider the employees concerned. The first lawyers to be contacted and involved are the corporate lawyers. They are well versed in merges and acquisitions, tax and finance matters and ensuring the financial and contractual obligations of the parties are considered and the fine print of the purchase and sale agreement is carefully drafted. However, no or very little consideration is given to the most important asset of any business, its people.
Many people believe that if they do not have a written employment contract, they are not bound by a contract with their employer at all. This is a common mistake, as an employment contract exists whether written or not, the moment the employer and employee agree on terms of employment. The contract terms can be either express, that is written or verbally agreed, or implied by law, or a combination of both.
It is common for employers to have written contracts of employment setting out the express contractual terms of the employment relationship, and the duties owed by the employee when performing work.
It is perhaps not surprising that, at one point or another, a need will arise at the workplace for an investigation – formal or informal – regarding a complaint or grievance about a work related matter. A workplace investigation is not only a best practice procedure available to an employer when needing to get to the heart of a workplace issue, be it about performance, absenteeism, culture, conduct, safety or otherwise. In some instances, investigations may sometimes also be legally required.
In March 2015, two former directors of ABN AMRO Australia Holdings Limited (“AAAH”) successfully argued that severance and other beneficial bonus entitlements owed to them under AAAH policies, which had not been paid to them on termination, ought to have been paid by their former employer.
Without even realising it, we now accept that what would otherwise be a private conversation may in fact be recorded. Many of the day to day exchanges we have in society may be recorded for the benefit of record keeping, or simply for training, coaching and customer services purposes.
With the advent of smartphones and other like technologies, recording devices are no longer restricted to being specialised pieces of equipment. They are literally at our fingertips. However, this does not mean that it is necessarily lawful to record a conversation without the knowledge and consent of one or more parties to the conversation.
Surveillance and monitoring devices are becoming increasingly popular in and around the workplace, but what is the law in regards to recording employees at work. Apart from having a digital receipt of what goes on in the workplace, there are several good reasons why employers invest in surveillance systems. However, there is legislation in place which limits the ability to monitor workers and, perhaps more importantly, to rely on surveillance in circumstances where an employee is suspected of some unlawful or improper conduct.
This case concerned the applicant, Maureen Butterworth, who worked at Independence Australia Services (“IAS”) in the position of Customer Service Officer. IAS is a not-for-profit organisation providing communicated-based services to people with disabilities.
The distinction between an employment relationship and that of independent contractor is often vexed. However, the failure to properly characterize the relationship may lead to significant adverse consequences, including prosecution under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) for sham contracting. In this article we focus on the risks associated with prosecution for sham contracting. However, it should be noted that in addition, employers who improperly classify employees as independent contractors may also be liable for underpayment of wages claims, leave claims, payroll tax and other ATO liabilities, superannuation payments; and civil penalties. Not to mention that misclassified employees will also have all the rights of employment including to unfair dismissal remedies, redundancy entitlements and the like.
As the year draws to a close, many employers will be celebrating the end of 2015 with their employees, and other work colleagues. Work functions such as Christmas parties are a great opportunity to have fun with colleagues, but as is still too often the case, work Christmas parties can be a source of considerable distress and can cause significant loss and damage to the business and its employees. This is especially the case when inappropriate workplace behaviour put employers at risk of sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination and unfair dismissal claims.