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HR Heartbeat: 2024 dawns, employment numbers break records, and...

A new year begins for employers and employment laws, 2023 ends with the final phase of increased weekend penalty rates for the Hair and Beauty Award, and more in the first HR Heartbeat for this year.

Wednesday, Jan 03, 2024
4 min read

Have you heard the latest news?

Everything you need to know about the latest trends impacting employers all over Australia. Keep up to date with the HR Heartbeat.

Let’s get into the headlines.

2024!

New year, new employment laws.

We waved goodbye to a big year for employment law reforms in 2023. But while those changes were introduced last year, they’re only going to start rolling into action this year and in the years to come.

Lucky for you, we’re keeping you updated on all the HR changes on the horizon so stay tuned to the HR Heartbeat for more throughout the year.

It’s not a phase, this is a compliant payroll

Speaking of last year’s changes rolling into the new year...

In 2021, the Fair Work Commission gave its approval for increased weekend penalty rates for casual employees under the Hair and Beauty Award.

These changes mean that casual employees working ordinary hours on Saturday and/or Sunday receive their casual loading on top of the penalty rate. To make sure this update progressed smoothly, it was meant to be gradually phased in—giving employers enough time to adjust to the new rates.

The first phase took place on 3 November 2021 and the fifth and final phase came to pass on the 31st of December 2023.

Make sure you stay compliant with your payroll this year with an easy-to-use Payroll Navigator that makes generating custom reports and keeping compliant records easy.

Over 14 million

That’s the number of people employed as of November 2023. Statistics from Roy Morgan Research indicate this is a record-high number that pairs with a decrease in both unemployment and underemployment for that month.

These findings support what many companies have known for a while. With more people in the workforce than ever before, filling open roles has become an increasingly difficult mission. Especially for roles that demand specialised skills.

Although the Government has taken notice, setting plans in motion to increase skilled migration and cover known skills gaps, the effects of these efforts will take time before they’re realised.

In the meantime, hiring new employees will likely continue to feel like an uphill climb, which is why it’s more important than ever to keep your existing employees engaged and happy in your business. That means dealing with HR matters quickly and adding more benefits to pay packets.

Perks like access to thousands of cash-saving discounts from leading brands and empowering your team with employee recognition all add value to your employee experience.

Sorry to burst your bubble (tea)

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a penalty of almost $8,000 in court against the director of a bubble tea store in South Australia. This comes on the heels of their breaching record-keeping and pay slip obligations that affected 20 employees—many of them international students—across three stores.

Initially, the Ombudsman was chasing backpay orders covering nearly $187,000 in alleged underpayments but the company went into liquidation. When the investigation commenced, the company back-paid about a quarter of this amount to some of its employees voluntarily.

The director argued in court that she was unaware of her obligations because she was born overseas. But this flimsy argument was brought down quite easily by the judge who stated that this fact carried little weight when considering the extent and seriousness of the non-compliance this case involved.

Pleading ignorance in this complex employment law landscape isn’t an option. Make sure you have access to immediate employment relations support right from the experts to avoid hefty penalties.

Feel the shift-ing blame

While offloading a Mercedes SUV from a transport ship, an employee responsible for ‘breaking out’ the vehicles under the instruction of a guide caused $70,000 worth of damage to the vehicle.

Despite that eye-watering bill, the Fair Work Commission found that the employee’s dismissal was unfair.

And it all came down to the behaviour of the employer and employee in the aftermath of the incident.

During the disciplinary process, the employee:

  • Took responsibility for the incident
  • Explained in detail how the incident occurred
  • Detailed what safety measures could have been taken to avoid the incident

The employer, on the other hand, went a different route. They took a stern stance, and stated that the employee displayed extreme carelessness, was trying to shift the blame, and didn’t genuinely accept responsibility for the incident.

Ultimately, the FWC took the employee’s side as their explanation during the disciplinary process aligned with standard health & safety processes after an incident and did not equate to shifting the blame. It was ordered that the employee be reinstated and should return to their role.

That wraps up this edition of HR Heartbeat. Stay tuned for more headlines and all the latest updates that will keep you in the know with all the major employment changes coming your way.

If you’ve got questions about the top HR headlines from this week, ask BrightLightning:

What is casual loading?

Casual employees are entitled to higher base rates of pay than permanent staff. This is to account for them not receiving paid leave entitlements and not having regular hours of work. The additional payment is called casual loading, and the exact amount will be contained in the modern award or enterprise agreement that covers your business.

What is a disciplinary investigation?

This is the first step of the disciplinary process when you think that an employee might have broken a rule. The point of the investigation is to find out as much as you can about what happened, when, and why. This can be done by speaking to the employee and relevant witnesses, looking at computer or CCTV records, and compiling evidence to decide whether there is a case to answer.

What is ordinary time earnings?

Ordinary time earnings or OTE, refer to the wages an employee receives for their ordinary hours of work. An employment contract or agreement will usually stipulate an employee's ordinary hours of work, and OTE will also include any payments for work that is generally done during an employee's ordinary hours of work, such as paid leave. Payments for work that is conducted outside of the agreed number of hours is not considered OTE, this would include work such as overtime.

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