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.
Workplace bullying is a dynamic and complex phenomenon, its causes are often multifaceted and its impact individual and varied. It can have a profound effect on all aspects of a person’s health as well as their work and family life, undermining self-esteem, productivity and morale. For some it can result in a permanent departure from the labour market and in extreme cases, suicide.
Under the backdrop of the #MeToo movement surrounding actors and celebrities, along with recent allegations against former High Court Judge Dyson Heydon, now presents a timely reminder that sexual harassment, particularly in the course of one’s employment, is entirely unacceptable.
Whilst we are by no means in the clear with respect to COVID-19, Federal and State Governments have confirmed that the raft of expedient measures taken by the majority of Australians, such as social distancing, border closures, home isolation and so forth, has seen an ever decreasing reduction in infection rates to the point that on Monday 11 May, NSW recorded its first day of no new infections since lockdown commenced.
Unless you are an essential worker, just about all businesses have employees working from home. For many employers all their employees are now working remotely. In this client alert, we will discuss firstly the challenges posed by remote work and in addition, the very real opportunities it creates.
The global outbreak of COVID-19 has and will continue to have a material impact on businesses worldwide and in Australia.
The COVID-19 landscape and both the national and state government updates are regularly evolving and changing. As a result, many employers are now faced with the challenge of understanding their rights and obligations in managing employees during this health pandemic and in circumstances where their business has significantly reduced and/or the business has shutdown.
Earlier this year we published a client alert to provide some general advice to employers in dealing with employees’ leave entitlements in light of COVID-19. That was on 21 February and since then, the COVID-19 landscape seems to be changing on an almost hourly basis.
On 12 March the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic and on 15 March, the Federal Government issued the direction that all persons arriving into Australia must self-isolate for 14 days otherwise they will be committing an offence under the various pieces of State Public Health legislation and will be subject to significant fines.
Oh my gosh – that could not have happened! We hope this is not something the business is saying after the end of year celebrations. Unfortunately, all too often a form of this reaction is all too common. In our last article, we looked at various control measures an employer can put in place to minimise the risk of inappropriate behaviour of employees at end of year or Christmas events which, in turn, minimise an employer’s exposure to subsequent legal claims and possible litigation. In this, our Part 2, we look at management of the aftermath of the event and what practical steps can be taken to minimise an employer’s exposure where an incident has occurred.
A quick Google search for career ending moves at the work Christmas Party may be an amusing exercise. However, at this time of the year it serves as a timely and educative reminder to both employers and employees that poor management, planning and behaviour can make the annual Christmas festivities, and their aftermath, a very sobering experience indeed. In our experience these events are notorious for being a potential breeding ground for inappropriate workplace behaviour and may put employers at risk of litigious actions such as sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination and unfair dismissal claims.
Labour hire is a valuable and commercially necessary engagement model for workers, particularly for specific industries such as construction, warehousing, retail and mining. These industries usually prefer labour hire as they are subject to fluctuations in workloads due to seasonal demands and additional or delayed projects.
Even though labour hire has many benefits for the host employer and the labour hire worker, it has been the subject of much controversy over the past few years. This has been as a result of the poor treatment and pay of labour hire workers and the undefined responsibilities between the host employer and the labour hire agency (including in relation to wages, entitlements and Work Health and Safety (“WHS”)).
In the last week alone, the world has seen more than 30 people brutally murdered in mass shooting in the USA. In that regard, the American National Institute of Justice has conducted a recent study in which it has examined every shooting incident at schools, workplaces and places of worship since 1999. As a result of the study, it found that in the majority of mass shooting cases, early childhood trauma including exposure to domestic abuse and violence at a young age was a prevalent issue. The nature of such exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to the development of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.
We hear the words “duty of care” used commonly but in terms of an employment relationship, what does this really mean for employers and how far does the duty really go? By way of introduction, there are a number of duties that are owed by an employer to an employee. These include, but are not limited to:
The duty to provide competent staff;
The duty to provide a safe place to work;
The duty to provide proper and adequate materials; and
The duty to provide a safe system of work and supervision.