Category Archives: WR News

COVID-19 award variations extended

The variation to the Clerks Award extends the operation of Schedule I to 30 September 2020.

The Schedule permits:

  • employees to work ordinary hours from home pursuant to an expanded spread of hours (6am to 10pm);
  • employers to request the taking of annual leave (which employees cannot unreasonably refuse) provided employees retain a balance of two weeks annual leave;
  • a reduction of employee hours by up to 25% for those employers who availed themselves of this provision before 1 July 2020.

These provisions are subject to additional safeguards, including that:

  • any direction or request made under the Schedule cannot be unreasonable in the circumstances;
  • to implement any arrangements under the Schedule, employers must consent to the Commission arbitrating any dispute that might arise about the Schedule’s operation (if a dispute is raised).

Schedule X 

The Commission has extended the operation of Schedule X in many modern Awards for a variety of periods.

Schedule X entitles:

  • any employee to take up to two weeks’ unpaid leave if the employee is required by government or medical authorities or on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate and is consequently prevented from working; and
  • agreement to be reached for an employee taking double annual leave on half pay, provided that the agreement is recorded in writing.

New end dates can be found here.

Fair Work Commission orders 1.75% increase to minimum wage

The Fair Work Commission has handed down their 2020 annual wage review decision, with increases beginning from 1 July for certain industries.

This will be staged between 1 July 2020 and 1 February 2021, with the date it comes into effect being determined by award coverage. This will bring the national minimum wage up to $753.80 per week and $19.84 per hour (a $13 weekly increase).

Through the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we argued for wages to remain at their current levels, based on the current economic climate which has seen many businesses suffer extreme hardship.

This wage increase will affect all modern awards. Being a member of the Chamber gets you access to the most up to date wage sheets and awards applicable to your business, plus access to the workplace relations advice line for assistance with interpreting modern awards, advice on managing staff, access to policy templates and procedures, and more.

Contact wradvice@canberrabusiness.com for more information.

Early access to Portable Long Service Leave

On 20 May, the ACT Government announced that eligible Canberra workers who have had their employment affected, or need to take COVID-19 related leave, will be able to access their Portable Long Service Leave early (construction, cleaning, community, security industries).

A registered worker will be eligible for early access to their Portable Long Service leave if:

  • they have 18 months or more recognised service in the ACT; and
  • they have recognised service in their relevant industry in the ACT in the 12 months immediately before the COVID-19 emergency; and
  • they have suffered hardship because of the COVID19 emergency.

Read the Disallowable Instrument and its Explanatory Statement here.

Practical continuity for Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Coronavirus microscopic

By Matthew Harper, Resilient Results

There is no doubt that December – January has been a tough time for Canberra and surrounding area business.  With the fire and storm seasons still with us, we need to think about some practical steps we can take for the impact of Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV).

In previous coronavirus outbreaks (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets, contact and fomites (something that carries the disease from the host to the uninfected).  The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified that the transmission modes of 2019-nCoV can be similar.

Fortunately, the practices for preventing the spread of 2019-nCoV are similar to most flu season precautions.  The following WHO suggested steps are easily implemented into business and home and can have a huge impact on the spread of both this disease and more common infections.

  1. Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  2. Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  3. Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
  4. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).
  5. Within healthcare facilities, enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.

Source WHO Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report – 9

Easy practical steps almost all businesses can take are:

  • Revise your policy for people attending work with any form of respiratory infection. If people are sick, get them to stay at home and avoid transmission.  If they can work from home, encourage them to do so until they improve or need to seek medical attention.
  • Enforce good hand washing practices in toilets, kitchens and common areas. Simple tools such as hand sanitising stations in corridors and making it a requirement to use the station when you pass it can have significant results.
  • Ensure your workplace has tissues and bins which can be used if someone is coughing and sneezing. Have cough and sneeze hygiene signs and encourage compliance.
  • Don’t share phones, utensils, mugs, towels, pens. Anything that goes near a face should not be shared.
  • Ask customers to comply with the same standards you set for your staff, but provide the tools. If you are running a business where you directly serve customers (particularly food service), provide tissues and sanitiser stations.  If there are common use surfaces, wipe them regularly and practice good hygiene with the cleaning cloths.

Some other practical steps that can be taken:

  • Consider your response to a downturn in business if people start avoiding crowds. If you can receive orders by phone and arrange open air pick ups, you may capture a new market.
  • Be careful with social media comments and traditional media statements. This is a sensitive issue and commentary can be far reaching.
  • Discuss with your staff the impact of school, sport or transport disruptions. How can you work together to solve the problem.

While these steps cannot guarantee avoiding 2019-nCoV, sensible continuity arrangements have the ability to save your business and your family.  If you have a business continuity plan, now is the time to review it.

About the Author

Matthew Harper is the Managing Director of Resilient Results, a Canberra based crisis and continuity consultancy and member of the Canberra Business Chamber.  Matthew has been involved in emergency management for over 30 years which has included time with the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre as well as planning for the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Resilient Results provides tailored business continuity services for all sizes of businesses, from initial consultations to planning and exercising services.

Contact us via email at ineed@resilientresults.com.au or 0438 430 931

Additional Resources:

 

Image credit: Canberra Times

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.