Category Archives: WR News

List of organisations and charities dedicated to bushfire relief

Red Cross supporting woman with burnt house in the background

Canberra Business Chamber wishes to express our sincere condolences to all those affected by the devastating bushfires in recent months.

If your business is in an impacted area, the Chamber is able to offer its members desk space to work from, free of charge. Give us a call on 02 6247 4199 to arrange. If any members are able to offer support for fellow members, please let us know and we will facilitate.

If you are in a position to contribute, we have compiled a list of various organisations and charities assisting during the crisis:

 

[Image credit: Red Cross via ABC News]

Changes to whistleblower requirements for businesses

whistle

From 1 January 2020, public companies, large proprietary companies and some superannuation entities are required to have a Whistleblower Policy. These must contain information about the legal protections which will be afforded to any whistleblowers and outline how the company will investigate disclosure. Even if your business doesn’t fall into one of these groups, it’s often a good idea to have such procedures in place.

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the disclosure by organisation members (former or current) of illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices under the control of their employers to persons that may be able to effect action.

Is my Company a ‘Large Proprietary Company’?

From financial years commencing on or after 1 July 2019, a proprietary company is defined as ‘large’ for a financial year if it satisfies at least two of the below criteria:

  • the consolidated revenue for the financial year of the company and any entities it controls is $50 million or more
  • the value of the consolidated gross assets at the end of the financial year of the company and any entities it controls is $25 million or more, and
  • the company and any entities it controls have 100 or more employees at the end of the financial year.

If the company does not meet at least two of the above criteria, it is ‘small’, and therefore is not required by law to have a Whistleblower Policy in place (although they may elect to have one regardless).

What must the Policy contain?

Whistleblower Policies must contain information about the legal protections which will be afforded to any whistleblowers and outline how the company will investigate disclosures and protect the whistleblower from detriment.

The Chamber has prepared a sample Whistleblower Policy which is available to our Workplace Relations members free of charge and to non-WR members for a small fee of $100+GST.  It’s an easy, effective way to ensure you comply with this new law.

We also have a collection of other policies and procedures available, including Code of Conduct, Disciplinary Policy, Leave Policy and Social Media Policy, amongst many others.

Contact our WR team today at wradvice@canberrabusiness.com or 1300 277 881

Not a Workplace Relations member yet? Contact the Chamber to discuss your options on 02 6247 4199. More about membership here.

Factsheet for Canberra region businesses affected by fire or smoke

The Chamber sends its deepest condolences to all who have been affected by the bushfire crisis that is currently ravaging Canberra & regional Australia.

If your business is in an impacted area, the Chamber is able to offer its members desk space to work from, free of charge. Give us a call on 02 6247 4199 to arrange. If any members are able to offer support for fellow members, please let us know and we will facilitate.

During this difficult time, we have compiled a factsheet of answers to a list of questions you may be asking in relation to your business.

Download the factsheet

Additional ANZAC Day Public Holiday 2020

Wall of Remembrance at Australian War Memorial

The ACT Government has announced that the Monday following Anzac day, i.e., Monday 27 April 2020, will be observed as an additional public holiday in the ACT.

By declaring this additional public holiday the ACT will be in line with Western Australia who also observe the Monday public holiday.

More

National Employment Standards Update – Family and Domestic Violence Leave

The National Employment Standards (NES) have now been updated to include Family and Domestic Violence Leave.  As you may know, this entitlement was inserted into modern awards last year.  This entitlement has now been extended to all employees.

What is the scope of the entitlement?

Family and Domestic Violence means behaviour that is violent, threatening or abusive in nature which seeks to coerce, control or cause harm and fear.  It is at the hands of a close relative of the employee, which includes spouses, partners, children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings.  It also extends to an employee’s current or former spouse or partner’s children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings or a person related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.

What is the entitlement?

  1. five days unpaid leave to apply to all employees (including casuals);
  2. will be available in full at the commencement of each 12 month period rather than accruing progressively during a period of service;
  3. will not accumulate from year to year;
  4. will be available in full to part-time and casual employees (i.e. not pro-rated); and
  5. employees will not be required to have accessed any other available leave (such as annual leave or personal leave) as a pre-condition to accessing the new entitlement.

The clause also requires employees to give notice of the leave as soon as practicable and advise the employer of the period/expected period of leave. If requested by the employer, the employee may be required to give evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that the leave is taken for its specified purpose.

Fair Work Information Statement

Given the changes, it is a good opportunity to remind all employers that they are required to provide the Fair Work Information Statement to all new employees.  The most recent Statement may be found here and includes the new minimum wage rates for employees not covered by an award, effective from 1 July 2019.

Contact our Workplace Relations team if you have any questions.

Fair Work Commission Hands Down Annual Wage Review Decision

On 30 May 2019, the Fair Work Commission handed down their 2019 annual wage review decision.

While your Chamber, through the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, argued for a 1.8% increase, which would have seen award wages keep pace with inflation, the Commission did not agree.

It was announced that there would be a 3% increase to the minimum wage which will come into effect on 1 July 2019. This wage increase will bring the national minimum wage up to $740.00 per week and $19.49 per hour.

This decision will increase the wages of around 2.2 million employees on award wages. It is not just the less than 2% of employees who are on the minimum wage who will receive a wage rise. It will cost Australian employers an additional $3.1 billion per year.

This wage increase will affect all Modern awards, and we will be sending out updated wage sheets and the applicable Awards to our members.

To ensure that you receive the most accurate information, please email us the name of the Award/s that apply to your business to wradvice@canberrabusiness.com.

New National Guidelines in the Management of Work Related Psychological Health and Safety

 

Australian workplaces spend close to $6 billion annually in lost productivity due to poor psychological safety.

Safe work Australia has published national guidelines to support building a psychologically healthy and safe work environment. This Guide describes a systematic practical approach to managing work-related psychological health and safety.

Most elements of this systematic approach are required under work health and safety (WHS)[1] or workers’ compensation laws in all Australian jurisdictions. This Guide also highlights the importance of positive psychological work health and safety and how this can lead to a reduction in both psychological and physical injuries.

Click here to view: Media Release & Safe Work Guidelines

Fair Work Commission rejects Union claim to set own Family Friendly Working Hours

Fair Work Commission rejects Union claim to set own Family Friendly Working Hours

  • Under the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) proposal, employees would have had the right to unilaterally set their own working days and hours to suit their parenting / caring situations. Under this arrangement Employers would not be able to refuse an employee’s proposal. This proposal would ultimately leave employers with little to no discretion as to whether these working arrangements suited the business.
  • The Fair Work Commission rejected this claim, on the basis that it may have substantial negative consequences for business.
  • However, in its decision the Commission sought to strike a balance between Employers’ rights and the Unions’ requests by allowing employers’ the discretion to implement such arrangements – but also giving employees more transparency as to why such a decision was reached.
  • The Fair Work Act 2009, currently allows for employees to request flexible working arrangements to accommodate personal circumstances (generally caring duties), which Employers can refuse on “reasonable business grounds”.
  • The Commission has recommended that (on a provisional basis and subject to further submissions) a model clause will be incorporated into all awards which will supplement the existing National Employment Standards provision dealing with such requests.
  • The proposed change will place further responsibilities on Employers with respect to consultation obligation and transparency when managing an employee’s request for flexible work arrangements.

5 Days Unpaid Domestic Violence Leave approved in all Modern Awards

 

5 Days Unpaid Domestic Violence Leave approved in all Modern Awards

  • On 27 March 2018, the Fair Work Commission ruled that Australian employees should have access to five (5) days unpaid leave to deal with domestic violence matters.
  • Family or domestic violence leave will be available in the event where an employee needs to take leave to deal with circumstances of family or domestic violence and it is impractical to do outside of working hours.
  • Unpaid domestic violence leave will be extended to all employees covered by a modern award, including part-time and casual employees.
  • The leave will not be pro-rated for employees working less than 38 hours per week and the 5 days will refresh at the beginning of each year rather than accruing during a year of service. The leave will not accumulate from year to year.
  • A model clause is being drafted by the Fair Work Commission and it will be some weeks before this will be finalised. We will update you with further information shortly!

Public holidays for 2018

Introduction of Reconciliation Day Public Holiday

The ACT Government has announced the introduction of Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public holiday to be held in the ACT. Reconciliation Day Public Holiday will be recognised on the 28 May 2018 in the ACT, and will continue to fall on the first Monday on or after 27 May which is the anniversary date of the 1976 referendum. Please note that the legislation removes Family and Community Day with effect from 2018.

A complete list of ACT Public Holidays in 2018 can be found below:

Date to be observed
Monday 1 January 2018
Friday 26 January 2018
Monday 12 March 2018
Friday 30 March 2018
Saturday 31 March 2018
Sunday 1 April 2018
Monday 2 April 2018
Wednesday 25 April 2018
Monday 28 May 2018
Monday 11 June 2018
Monday 1 October 2018
Tuesday 25 December 2018
Wednesday 26 December 2018
Public Holiday
New Year’s Day
Australia Day
Canberra Day
Good Friday
Easter Saturday
Easter Sunday
Easter Monday
ANZAC Day
Reconciliation Day
Queen’s Birthday
Labour Day
Christmas Day
Boxing Day

Payment of employees on Public Holidays

Employees (except casual employees) who normally work on a day the public holiday falls are entitled to be paid their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked if they had not been away because of the public holiday.  The base rate of pay does not include:

  • Any incentive-based payments;
  • Bonuses;
  • Loadings;
  • Monetary allowances;
  • Overtime; or
  • Penalty rates.

Employees who work on a public holiday are entitled to receive at least their base rate of pay for all ordinary hours worked.  However, Modern Awards, Enterprise Agreements and other registered agreements can provide for entitlements for working on public holidays, which may include:

  • Penalty rates, e.g. double time and a half for all hours worked;
  • An extra day off or extra annual leave;
  • Minimum shift lengths on public holidays; and
  • Agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day.

 

If members have any queries about public holidays, please don’t hesitate to contact the Workplace Relations Hotline on 1300 277 881 or wradvice@canberrabusiness.com

Christmas Parties & Social Functions – Top Tips for Employers

Closing down over the Christmas New Year Period

As the end of the year draws near businesses will begin their holiday parties season. The Holiday season is filled with Spring Racing Carnivals, Christmas parties and End of Year parties.

While it can be all fun and games, employers need to ensure that they do not leave themselves liable during the festive season. The annual Christmas party or any social function can very quickly turn from celebration into litigation due to the possibility of harassment claims, problems due to alcohol or drug use and other inappropriate behaviour, not to mention the cost of unauthorised absences as a result of the “morning after”.

Are you aware of your responsibilities as an employer during these workplace events? What about incidences which occur after the party has ended?  Can you still be found liable for poor employee behaviour?

Employers can be vicariously liable for acts of harassment, if they have not taken reasonable and practicable steps to prevent it from occurring.

An employer may be vicariously liable for the acts of employees done in the course of their employment irrespective of whether the employer knew or approved of the offending conduct. For example, in one recent case, it was held that the employer’s liability was not confined to the workplace when offensive comments were made to a colleague during post work drinks and at an employee’s leaving party.

Don’t ruin the holiday fun by leaving yourself liable, by following these simple tips you can minimise the risks to your business:

  • Make it clear that conduct at any holiday functions will be covered by the employer’s equal opportunity and anti-harassment policies.
  • Warn staff that seriously inappropriate behaviour will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
  • Consider excluding any employees who have demonstrated bad behaviour at previous events. However, such a decision needs to be carefully considered and must not be discriminatory in any way.
  • Keep in mind the diversity of employees, especially in relation to religious beliefs. Employers need to be sensitive in the naming of their event so that everyone feels welcome – For example, a Christmas party may alienate some staff, a Festive Season or End of Year party may be more inclusive.
  • It should also be considered whether a daytime or evening party will be more convenient for attendees. For employees with children, arranging child care may be an issue. A lunch time event may also help limit the consumption of alcohol.
  • In the case of lunch time events, be clear as to whether returning to the office is expected.
  • Managers should be clearly briefed as to their responsibilities: not only should they be setting a good example by their behaviour; they should also maintain order and ensure that no employee’s behaviour is getting out of hand.
  • Ensure that the content of any professional entertainment is appropriate. In one case the employer was held liable for racially offensive remarks made by a visiting comedian in the presence of two waitresses.
  • Prevent access of uninvited guests, as an employer could be liable for the acts of third parties e.g. assault or harassment.
  • Offer and make available alternatives for employees to travel home (i.e. a designated driver or provided taxi fares or the like). Also be clear on your requirements and expectations regarding appropriate behaviours when drinking alcohol (.i.e. drink driving laws).

By following these easy steps you can ensure the fun continues without worrying about your business!

Closing down over the Christmas / New Year Period?

Closing down over the Christmas New Year Period

With less than 12 weeks to go until Christmas, it might be worthwhile to start thinking about your businesses operational requirements over this time. It is important to review any applicable modern award or enterprise agreement to understand what (if any) obligations or notification requirements may apply prior to closing the doors over the Christmas / New Year Period.

Directing an employee to take annual leave – Required Notice

A modern award or enterprise agreement may include terms requiring an employee to take paid annual leave as part of a close-down of its operations.  As an example, the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010 states that an employer may require an employee to take annual leave by giving at least four (4) weeks’ notice that it intends to close-down its operations.

Additionally, under the Building and Construction (General) onsite Award 2010, the ‘Annual leave close down’ clause states, that an employer may direct an employee to take paid annual leave, however the Employer in this instance must provide at least two (2) months-notice.

Therefore, it is important to provide your employee’s the applicable notice period to avoid any potential  issues.

What happens if an employee does not have enough leave to cover this period?

If an employee does not have enough annual leave to cover the shut-down period they may agree with their employer to take:

  • Annual leave in advance; or
  • Unpaid leave.


Payment for Public Holidays over the shut down period?

Payment for public holidays occurring during the close down period will need to be made to appropriate employees. For example, if a public holidays falls when an employee is on annual leave, the employee would need to be paid for the Public holiday.


Should you require any further information in relation to the above, or would like to receive Workplace Relations advice please do not hesitate to contact our specialist team here at the Canberra Business Chamber on 1300 277 881.