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  • HR Heartbeat: Updates to the FWIS, helicopter management, and...

HR Heartbeat: Updates to the FWIS, helicopter management, and...

The year began with updates to the NES, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to employment relations changes. From an unheard dismissal to updates to employee authorised deductions, this week’s edition covers it all.

First published on Friday, Feb 02, 2024

Last updated on Friday, Feb 02, 2024

7 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.

Raising the (National Employment) Standards

From 1 January 2024, the National Employment Standards expanded to include the right to receive superannuation.

What does that mean for your obligations as an employer? Nothing. An employer’s existing obligations stay the same when it comes to giving their employees the superannuation payments they’re owed.

This change does, however, simplify the process for employees, unions, or the Ombudsman to tackle issues and disputes over superannuation payments. Claims can now be lodged through the Fair Work small claims system without first needing to seek payment for other wages and entitlements they’re owed.

Employers are required to contribute to eligible employees’ superannuation in line with superannuation guarantee laws.

Get support with staying on top of your payroll compliance with our Payroll Navigator which transforms how you manage, store, and record payroll information.

Updated: FWIS

When it comes to employment documentation, the Fair Work Information Statement (FWIS) is a must-have.

It’s a document of Australian employee rights and entitlements that all new employees must receive from their employers. And drumroll please it’s been updated again!

You can access the most up-to-date version here.

One signature to rule all deductions

New rules apply for employee authorised dedications from 30 December 2023.

Employees can now agree to let their employer regularly take money out of their pay for varying amounts each time. This means, instead of having to sign a bunch of papers every time, employees just need to sign once and their employer can take out the amount needed, even if that amount changes over time.

What happens if an employee changes their mind? They just need to withdraw their authorisation for the deductions to be made, in writing.

Is a dismissal still a dismissal if no one hears it?

A recent unfair dismissal case was filed fresh out of the Rockhampton detention centre.
When one employee found himself cast into the centre by the police, his first thought probably wasn’t about communicating with his employer…

But his employer, in the sudden absence of their employee sent him letters of abandonment and termination that, of course, never reached him while he was behind bars.

Once released, the employee filed his unfair dismissal application. The Fair Work Commission pointed out that a dismissal is only a dismissal after it has been communicated. This means it cannot take effect until the employee is aware that they have been dismissed, which, in this case, he hadn’t been.

The case will proceed in the courts, but the main takeaway for employers is that communication really is key in any employment relationship.

Gain support with staying on top of your HR documentation obligations with the BrightBase library of HR document templates including contracts, handbooks, and factsheets.

That’s shaping up to be quite the restructure

The Australian HR Institute’s December Quarterly Australian Work Outlook report revealed that:

  • 31% of organisations expect redundancies on the horizon, compared to 17% of organisations in the September 2023 quarter
  • Recruitment intentions increased from 61% to 71%
  • 45% plan to increase staff levels
  • 4% are looking to reduce staff levels

All signs seem to point to restructures to come in 2024 with businesses trimming off the roles that no longer serve their purpose as they stride forward in the new year.

Tools like BrightHR’s end-to-end Redundancy Navigator help you stay on top of your legal requirements with a library of resources and 24/7, over-the-phone guidance from BrightAdvice.

Intense helicopter management

Services Australia has stepped in with a thorough lesson on what not to do to boost productivity.

Claims have resurfaced that management has made it a habit to monitor the length of bathroom breaks. Similar claims were reported over a decade ago in 2011 as well as more recently in 2021.

The call centre staff who go over the prescribed length of their stretching and tea breaks are flagged as “non-adherent”. The extra time is reportedly added up and referenced in warnings and performance management processes, if an employee takes more than an extra half an hour per month or an average of 90 seconds extra per day over the same period. Yikes.

All businesses are concerned about productivity and are always on the lookout for ways to boost it. But it’s best to keep in mind that there are a bunch of legitimate reasons employees may need longer bathroom breaks so approaching these matters with empathy and sensitivity is key.

Policing bathroom breaks can lead to claims under the Fair Work Act, especially if employees have medical conditions or illnesses that mean they have different needs.

When it comes to productivity, employers may find better results by turning to more value-added tools. Like offering flexible learning opportunities, recognising great performances with praise, and staff perks.

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:

Is a restructure the same as redundancy?

No. A restructure is a re-organisation of job roles, sometimes for operational rather than financial reasons. It will not necessarily result in the need for redundancies if employees can be retained in new/different roles. Sometimes, a restructure will result in a redundancy situation because the need for a role, within a restructured organisation, has diminished.

Is it a dismissal if I dismiss my employee in accordance with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code?

No, it is taken that you did not unfairly dismiss your employee if the Fair Work Commission is satisfied that the dismissal was consistent with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code. If relying on this defence, it’s important to complete a Small Business Fair Dismissal Code Checklist to demonstrate to the Commission that you complied with the Code. If you are unsure whether the Code applies to your business or you are thinking of dismissing your employee, it’s best to speak with an adviser for specific advice relevant to your circumstances. When carrying out a disciplinary or performance management process, you can also easily track your employee’s length of service in BrightHR to work out termination entitlements, and also send letters and memo from BrightHR to use the read receipt and acknowledgement feature.

In cases of suspected job abandonment, what is expected of me in terms of communication?

It's essential for you to undertake every reasonable effort to reach out to an employee who you think might have abandoned their job. The reason behind this is that there can be situations where an employee is unable to get in touch with you due to unforeseen circumstances. The efforts might include calling and leaving a voicemail, texting, emailing or sending a letter through the post. If you are worried, you can also think about getting in touch with their emergency contact person. Trying to contact the employee is the first step, there are further steps that still need to be undertaken before you consider terminating the employee. It's best to speak with an adviser for specific advice if you are facing a possible abandonment of employment.

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