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  • HR Heartbeat: Keeping young workers safe at work, the Ombudsman’s potential shift in gears, and...

HR Heartbeat: Keeping young workers safe at work, the Ombudsman’s potential shift in gears, and...

Explore this week’s HR Heartbeat for all the latest updates on the CFMMEU movements, the Fair Work Ombudsman, and what you need to know about reinforcing health & safety at work for young workers.

First published on Tuesday, Apr 18, 2023

Last updated on Friday, Apr 14, 2023

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.

Compliance doesn’t take holidays

If you needed a reminder that compliance requires your constant attention, then how this employer handled his employees working on public holidays could be the wake-up call you’ve been looking for.

A Queensland employer has become a cautionary tale for their handling of public holidays. The issue stemmed from what can be considered an employer’s request for employees to work on public holidays under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

This section of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) entitles employees to not be required to work on public holidays. The case clarified that:

  • General company policies requiring employees to work on public holidays cannot replace this law.

  • Employers must request employees to work on public holidays. They cannot enforce it.

  • Employees cannot be rostered on public holidays without a request.

The employer was proven to go against the rules of both the Federal Court and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU)—Australia’s main trade union for those sectors.

Navigating regulations can be tricky, so when in doubt, save your business time, money, stress, and make sure you’re doing the right thing with BrightAdvice.

Young, wild responsible, and compliant with workplace H&S

While we’re on the subject of compliance, it’s important to place a particular focus on health & safety when you employ young workers.

Definitions of who is considered a young worker, as well as the regulations involved with working with them, will change depending on your state or territory. But one thing’s certain—young workers can pose unique health & safety challenges.

Research shows that younger workers are more likely to get injured within their first year of employment and are also less likely to mention their injuries to their managers unless it’s so bad that they physically cannot work. A double whammy to workplace H&S.

If you’re looking for more information, read more about how to protect young people from risks in your workplace.

Is the Ombudsman shifting gears?

Over a year ago, the now-dissolved Australian Building and Construction Commission started a case alleging that two agents of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) engaged in unlawful picketing of a construction site in Perth.

This case was transferred to the Fair Work Ombudsman—a workplace governing body—but it has now been discontinued. And the Fair Work Ombudsman offered very little explanation.

A closer look at the Court details shows that the case was discontinued after an adjourned pre-hearing on 17th March 2023. This could mean that the matter was settled out of court.

But it could also mean that the Ombudsman is taking a much lighter approach to some cases. Only time will tell whether this is because the Ombudsman is changing their overall approach, or if it depends on the merit (or lack of) in that case.

Our final CFMMEU headline this week

The CFMMEU is making another appearance in this week’s round-up. There were a number of rallies around the country by the Union on the 5th of April. Protesters at the Brisbane rally allegedly smashed a door as the event heated up.

Officials and members of the CFMMEU—were apparently rallying for a 7% increase in wages and for the Fair Work Ombudsman to be dissolved. The argument for the latter is that the workplace governing body should be replaced with a new agency that prioritises workers’ rights.

Given the Ombudsman’s recent moves, the rallies are a bemusing decision. Things looked to be turning in favour of the CFMMEU from the discontinued case mentioned above to all the Federal Court decisions made early in the year to reduce the penalties levied against the Union for previous examples of unlawful picketing.

And that’s all we have for you in our weekly edition of HR Heartbeat. Check back next week for more headlines and updates that will keep you in the know with all the major employment changes on the way.

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