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  • HR Heartbeat: Fixed-term contract changes, shutdown rules, and...

HR Heartbeat: Fixed-term contract changes, shutdown rules, and...

What you need to know about the changes coming to fixed-term contracts, public holiday rules, and a resignation that feels a lot like pre-emptively pulling your hair out. All in this week’s HR Heartbeat.

First published on Monday, Nov 20, 2023

Last updated on Friday, Nov 17, 2023

6 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.

Unlimited fixed-term contracts no more

Wave goodbye to fixed-term contracts as you know them!

From 6 December 2023, Fair Work Act amendments take effect and will place additional limitations on the use of fixed-term contracts. There is also a requirement for employers to issue a Fixed Term Contract Information Statement (FTCIS) to all relevant employees.

All rules have their exceptions, and for this round, it applies to:

  • Apprentices
  • Trainees
  • Employees who are covering for a temporary absence like parental leave
  • Employees whose earnings exceed the high-income threshold

Wondering where the loophole is? These amendments already thought about that.

They contain a series of anti-avoidance measures to make sure employers can’t avoid their obligations. You can’t run or hide from these updates.

Where are you holidaying from?

It’s almost Public Holiday season, which means it’s time for a necessary refresh of how that works.

Here’s a reminder that your employees are entitled to the Public Holidays applicable to where they are based for work, not where they happen to be working on the day of the Public Holiday.

And what better way to really let that information sink in, than with an example:

Christmas Eve is a public holiday in Brisbane, but not in Sydney. Willem works for a software company based in Brisbane. He needs to travel to Sydney for work and will be required to work on Christmas Eve until 8 pm. Even though Willem clocked some working hours in Sydney where it wasn’t a Public Holiday, his position is based in Brisbane, which means he should still receive his Public Holiday entitlements.

If you’re gearing up for a surge in leave requests as the holidays approach, make sure you have the tools to stay on top of it with our easy-to-use absence management software that makes planning for busy seasons easier than ever.

This isn’t the Shutdown I ordered

If you think you know the ins and outs of the shutdown provisions outlined in your relevant modern award, then you should know that the options for shutting down this year will be different.

If not, then here’s your reminder that revised shutdown provisions took effect in May 2023.

So, make sure you’re staying on top of your shutdown obligations.

The new rules include:

  • Employers may require employees to take their paid annual leave days during a temporary shutdown
  • Employers must provide at least 28 days of written notice informing impacted employees of the temporary shutdown period
  • Employees who don’t have enough paid annual leave to cover the period can come to an agreement with their employer to explore other options for the days that aren’t covered.
    These options can include:
    1. Accrued time off
    2. Annual leave in advance
    3. Leave without pay

Refresh your knowledge of your award or agreement’s shutdown clause to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law this holiday season. Need help deciphering exactly what your obligations are?

Get in touch with our BrightAdvice team of employment relations experts who are available 24/7 to deliver prompt compliance advice when you need it.

Blowout of proportion

An employee working at a hair salon lodged a general protections claim with the Fair Work Commission (FWC) saying that they felt forced to resign.

What happened to make them feel this way? The employee received a letter from their employer notifying them to attend a disciplinary meeting.

The letter outlined: * Specific allegations of misconduct * Performance breaches * The potential for disciplinary action including a formal warning

The employee also added that bullying behaviour from management and other employees further backed their decision to resign.

Having examined the letter to see if the employer had used phrases that would in any way encourage a resignation, the FWC only found that the letter identified, in broad terms, the allegations the business wanted to discuss, which is reasonable conduct.

So, even though the employee believed that the only way to deal with bullying allegations was to resign, the business’ actions weren’t found to have forced his hand. The employee was therefore not terminated, and the application was dismissed.

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:

Do the changes to fixed term contract apply to casuals who are then placed on fixed term contracts?

From 6 December 2023, the Fair Work Act will be amended to limit the use of fixed term contracts for the same role beyond 2 years or two consecutive contracts. However, there are a range of exceptions to the 2-year limit rule including where the employee was a casual employee.

Can I make my employees work a public holiday?

Public Holidays are part of the National Employment Standards. Each state has different Public Holidays allotted annually. An employee is entitled to be absent from work on a day or part day that is a public holiday. You can request an employee to work on a public holiday if the request is reasonable. An employee can refuse if the request is unreasonable, or their refusal is reasonable. As an example, an employee may have caring responsibilities for their child due to the daycare/school being closed on the public holiday. It would be unreasonable to require this employee to attend work on this day.

How much notice do I have to give an employee for a disciplinary hearing?

There is no prescribed period of notice required. The employee needs to have a reasonable opportunity to prepare for the meeting. What is reasonable will of course depend on the individual circumstances, but a good rule of thumb is to provide at least 24-48 hours' notice.

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