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  • HR Heartbeat: Who’s paying for dinner, social media shifts, and...

HR Heartbeat: Who’s paying for dinner, social media shifts, and...

Marking the end of zombie agreements, where the Ombudsman is inspecting, how this employer’s WhatsApp use turned into an employment law breach, and more in this edition of HR Heartbeat.

First published on Monday, Dec 11, 2023

Last updated on Friday, Dec 08, 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.

Zombie agreements get brained

The calendar flipped past 7 December 2023, and zombie agreements have finally been laid to rest.

That is unless you’ve gone to the Fair Work Commission to revive them for the next few years.

If you’re not sure if this change affects your business, make sure you’re staying on top of employment relations updates as they happen with the support of a team of experienced employment relations advisers. They’re available 24/7 to answer all your burning questions with prompt, up-to-date advice.

Dinner’s on…?

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is surprising food outlets in Brisbane’s south with inspections.

That’s right, they’re making the rounds to make sure that the workers employed by these eateries are receiving the right pay and wages.

The FWO is speaking with everyone, from business owners, to managers, and employees, and requesting records from more than 45 businesses across the Sunnybank region. These inspections come on the heels of sources, including anonymous reports, that have pointed to potential underpayments at these ‘cheap eats’ venues.

They’re taking a special interest in businesses that already have a history with the Ombudsman and those who employ visa holders and young workers, who are often more vulnerable and unaware of their workplace rights.

Anna Booth from the Ombudsman has said that the inspections are part of the efforts taken under a national food precincts program that has found that the low cost of these dining experiences is often coming out of the pocket of their workers’ rightful payments.

The program recently recovered more than $680,000 in unpaid wages for workers in Melbourne’s inner south and inner west food precinct.

Make sure you’re staying on top of your record-keeping and compliance obligations with our payroll reporting tool that helps you generate customised reports with ease.

What’s up on WhatsApp?

Problems arose when this employee didn’t know the answer to that very question.

A casual student working at a kebab shop was unceremoniously kicked out of the WhatsApp group their employer had created for shift allocation purposes.

Why? Because the employee discovered that they were being underpaid and had resolved to speak up.

That’s when the Fair Work Commission entered the chat (figuratively) and ruled that the student’s forced exit from the chat (literally) constituted a dismissal, opening the door for the employee to lodge a general protections claim.

So, if you need another reminder about the dangers of social media, this is a warning to employers everywhere that though social media may not always reflect real lives, it definitely has an impact on real employment relations. Tread carefully, and maybe choose a shift planning software to connect easily with your employees and seamlessly plan your rosters instead.

You shall not pass

It’s a classic case of he said, she said. Or in this case, employer said, employee said.

The employee lodged a claim with the FWC stating that while they were on personal leave their employer blocked their remote access to business systems—a move that, in the employee’s eyes, constituted a dismissal.

The business said this blockage was only temporary while negotiations took place about the status of the employee’s position.

Here’s how it went down:

  • The employee went on sick leave soon after getting a response to an internal complaint.
  • The employer investigated the matter and found it to be unsubstantiated.
  • While the employee was on leave they found they were blocked from the business systems.
  • The employee wrote to the business equating the blockage to the termination of their contract.
  • The business denied this termination claim.

Enter the FWC who stated that the alternatives the employer offered during the negotiation didn’t include a dismissal. The two options the business put forward for the employee were:

  1. Continue in the current role
  2. An agreed separation

So, the business’ actions were ruled as both reasonable and justified and the events did not match the claim for a constructive dismissal.

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 a zombie agreement?

A ‘zombie’ agreement is an ‘agreement-based transitional agreement’ under the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009. These are registered agreements made under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 that continued to operate under the Fair Work Act. It includes collective agreements, preserved collective or individual State agreements, Australian Workplace Agreement, and the like.

I have underpaid my employee by accident. How can I rectify this?

If you have accidently underpaid an employee, the best way to rectify this is to notify them in writing as soon as possible and organise a meeting to discuss the details in person. Once this meeting has been held, the shortfall should be rectified via payroll processes as soon as possible.

What does the Fair Work Ombudsman do?

The Fair Work Ombudsman enforce compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009, related legislation, awards and registered agreements. They also help employers and employees by providing advice, education and assistance on pay rates and workplace rights and obligations. They primarily provide advice to employers and employees and can enforce workplace laws, penalties and enforce the determinations in disputes made by the Fair Work Commission.

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