HR Heartbeat: Holiday compliance, dying agreements, and...

This week’s HR update is the heads-up you need before heading into the holiday season. Plus, get the lowdown on zombie agreements, compliance notices, and this unfair dismissal.

First published on Tuesday, Oct 31, 2023

Last updated on Friday, Oct 27, 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.

All hands on the compliance deck

Spooky season is behind us, and holiday decorations are already coming out, but employers who take that to mean they can take a holiday from their employment relations obligations need to stay focused.

Many businesses are gearing up for their busiest time of year with Black Friday, Christmas, and New Year’s closing in fast. Other businesses may be preparing for their shutdown period during the holiday season and reducing their staff numbers accordingly.

Here are a few things employers need to tick off their holiday to-do list before unwinding for the year:

  • Review the awards your employees are under and the obligations you need to meet as a result of them
  • Make sure your annual leave policies align with your shutdown period and that your employees understand your expectations for requesting leave
  • Remember that employees who work public holidays are entitled to penalty payments
  • Get ready for an onslaught of leave requests and smooth shift management to make sure your business is fully staffed

Employment relations never go on holiday, so the best way to enjoy the season minus the stress is by getting ahead of the curve and proactively preparing for these weeks.

Need help staying on the right side of employment laws this holiday season? Get quick answers to those complex questions with BrightAdvice, our confidential phone adviceline. It’s like having a team of employment relations advisers at your fingertips 24/7.

These agreements are on their last legs

7 December 2023 closes the coffin on Zombie Agreements.

We’re talking about agreements made before 2010 that are still operating but will automatically expire on that date.

That’s unless you act fast and make an application to the Fair Work Commission to extend the validity of your agreements.

Don’t let your expired agreements come back to haunt you, make sure your agreements are up to snuff now.

We help you shave hours off your HR admin process with the BrightBase library of handy document templates including contracts and handbooks.

Should’ve taken notice the first time

When it comes to compliance, the best course of action is to get it right the first time. The next -best course of action is to get it right once that Compliance Notice arrives.

Unfortunately, this business did neither.

A Victoria-based cabinet maker was penalised because they didn’t comply with a Compliance Notice, which required them to calculate and back-pay entitlements to a junior cabinet maker and for breaching their pay slip laws.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth sent a word of warning to business operators that a failure to act on Compliance Notices will not only lead to potential penalties in court, but they’d also have to make back payments to give their workers their full entitlements.

Bin there, shouldn’t have done that

Let’s set the scene.

An employee gets involved in a minor single-vehicle incident when he hits a wheelie bin in the middle of the road while driving a company car. They also failed to report the incident, and when management found out, they terminated their employment in response.

From management’s perspective:

  • The employee failed to show remorse or insight into the seriousness of their conduct.
  • They were concerned about what could happen if he continued to drive with clients in the vehicle.
  • They took issue with his initial failure to report the incident.

But, the Fair Work Commission noted that considering the low speed of the vehicle, the lack of damage and injuries to anyone in the vehicle, “seriousness was at the lower end of the scale.”

The conclusion—the dismissal wasn’t proportional to the accident and the termination was harsh.

This is a reminder to all employers to think before you dismiss. Even if a workplace incident seems to have a clear outcome, it’s important to weigh all the factors and your legal obligations before taking action that could land you in hot water with the Ombudsman.

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 the notice period for a shutdown?

The minimum notice period for the shutdown will depend on the particular award or agreement covering the business. When considering a business shutdown, it is important that you check any applicable rules for shutdowns under a relevant award or agreement to determine any applicable notice period and any other requirements. Awards or agreements usually contain minimum notice periods that must be complied with for a shutdown to be lawful.

What do I have to do if I have a zombie agreement?

Employers covered by an agreement-based transitional instrument must notify their employees covered by the instrument by 6 June 2023 that the agreement will automatically end unless there is an application to the Fair Work Commission to extend it for up to four years.

What would make a dismissal unfair?

An unfair dismissal is where the employer dismisses the employee for no valid reason or for a reason not related to the employee’s capacity or conduct. Additionally, even if the dismissal was for a valid reason, the employer may not have followed a process to properly dismiss the employee or failed to tell the employee the reason for their dismissal. If you are thinking about dismissing an employee, speak with an adviser for further guidance.

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