03 Feb JANUARY 2021 NEWSLETTER
By now most businesses have resumed their normal operations after the Christmas and New Year period and are settling into 2021.
Now is a great time to look at your operations and check that you are complying with your legal obligations regarding your workers. Employers often get so busy with the day to day running of their business (and understandably so) that they overlook this. But it really is important to ensure that you are meeting your obligations. You do not want a claim being brought against you and time and money being taken away from you and your business.
Even if you have done a review previously, employment laws may have changed since you last conducted your review. For example, we have seen many changes to Modern Awards as a result of the four-yearly review of Modern Awards. Therefore, we recommend performing regular reviews to confirm your compliance. Whilst something may have been in line with the law a few years ago, that does not necessarily mean that it is still legal now.
Matters you should consider include:
1. Does an industrial instrument (if any) (e.g. a Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement) cover and apply to my employees? If so, you need to make sure you are meeting your obligations under that instrument.
2. Are you meeting the National Employment Standards (NES)? These are minimum standards which cannot be breached.
3. Are your employment contracts up to date with legislative changes? If not they may result in you breaching the law or clauses being considered unenforceable.
4. Are all new employees given a Fair Work Information Statement? Do you retain details of how the statement was given? This is an obligation which must be complied with.
5. Do you have policies and procedures in place and are they up to date? Do you need to train or refresh your staff on these policies and procedures? You need to have policies and procedures in place to ensure employees have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and to give you protection in the event they are not followed.
6. Are your employees being paid correctly? We note that increases to the final group of awards started from the first pay period on or after 1 February 2021 and includes awards in the retail and hospitality industries. You can access a full list of the Awards effected here.
7. Are you maintaining and keeping correct records? Employers need to make and keep accurate and complete records for all of their employees (e.g. time worked and wages paid) and issue pay slips to each employee within one working day of pay day, even if an employee is on leave.
8. Are you utilising your rostering arrangements as effectively as possible? We often see employers rostering staff in a way which attracts penalties under a Modern Award which can be avoided with the use of smarter rostering principles.
HR Law can conduct a full audit of your business to ensure that you are keeping up to date with your legal obligations and provide you with advice in regard to particular matters. Please get in touch with the team if you require any assistance.
Morrison Government’s IR Omnibus Bill
Significant changes are proposed to be brought into the IR arena with the IR Omnibus bill.
Some of these changes include that a statutory definition of casual employment will be introduced, underpaying employers will face harsher penalties and even jail time and a sunset/termination date of 1 July 2022 is proposed to be introduced for certain agreements, for example made under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and during the bridging period when the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) was first introduced. We have recently posted a number of LinkedIn updates on some of the changes proposed which you can access here and here.
We will keep you updated on how the Bill progresses. This is definitely a space to watch!
With the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to occur soon, the question we see discussed a lot lately is, “Can employers require their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine?”
This issue has recently come before the Fair Work Commission on a few occasions, but has not yet been determined. Recently, in the case of Glover v Ozcare  FWC 231, Commissioner Hunt dismissed a respondent’s jurisdictional objection, so the issue will be considered in the context of an employee who refused the influenza vaccine on medical grounds. This will be an important case to watch and hopefully will provide guidance on the issue for employers.