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  • HR Heartbeat: Returning to offices, resuscitated agreements, and...

HR Heartbeat: Returning to offices, resuscitated agreements, and...

Browse this week’s HR Heartbeat for the new consensus on returning to the office, why new changes could be on the horizon, a cold case, and more.

First published on Monday, Jul 31, 2023

Last updated on Friday, Jul 28, 2023

3 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.

To return or not to return, that is the question

What Australian employees think about working from home has had a shift of Shakespearean proportions.

A year ago, 60% of workers believed that how a workplace answered the questions of where and when was more important than pay or promotion. Now, nine.com.au’s survey of 535 readers has revealed that 67% of people agree that it’s time for more employees to return to the office.

But that doesn’t mean things can just go back to the way they were pre-pandemic.

44% of respondents said the lack of commute is the biggest advantage of working from home. Where does that leave employers? With more incentive than ever to make their offices worthy of their staff’s commute.

But we’re not sure this is quite the end of the in-person vs WFH debate.

Another aspect of flexible working we think this conversation has been missing is accessibility. Commutes don’t look the same for all communities, and we hope returning to work doesn’t come at the expense of those who rely on flexibility for vital opportunities.

If you’re one of the employers keen on getting employees back into the office, having the right documents can help you set expectations from the start of every employee’s time with you.

Documents like employee handbooks or employee contracts can outline your work-from-home or flexible working policy, which will make your company’s stance clear to all members of your staff. Check out BrightBase for easy-to-use templates that make light work of your important HR documents.

Could it be? More changes?

The year so far has been full of employment relations changes. With both the Secure Jobs, Better Pay, and Protecting Worker’s Entitlements amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) taking effect.

As we get closer to the federal election in 2024-25 what could the future hold? It may just be more changes.

The Government is planning more legal reforms, having finished formal consultation on 11 measures in May 2023. Proposed changes include federal wage theft legislation, strict terms to crack down on labour-hire practices, and more.

This agreement lives to see another day

An employer has dodged a Fair Work Commission bullet.

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay changes to the Fair Work Act last year put a deadline on zombie agreements (as they’re often called) finally being laid to rest.

Registered agreements made under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 may still be around, but they’ll have to end by 6 December 2023. That is unless the Fair Work Commission temporarily brings these agreements back to life.

But a very small company has claimed that they couldn’t afford the legal costs of updating their agreement or engaging their staff on new contracts. Since those bills would only add to a teetering mound of other costs including rising interest rates, wage increase demands, and recruitment difficulties in the wake of COVID-19.

The Commission has empathised and accepted these reasons, agreeing to keep their agreement alive until 1 July 2024.

If you also find your small business haunted by an outdated agreement, reach out to our expert team of employment relations advisers for advice that helps you stay on the right side of the FWC.

This case needs warming up

A female chef claimed that her former employer paid her three male colleagues $15,000 a year more than her.

Equal remuneration order cases are often hard to prove, and her case failed to make it to the Fair Work Commission’s table.

Her male colleagues were doing the same work, had the same level of responsibilities, and had the same standard required of them. But it turns out she’d let her case rest for too long.

Because the chef was a former employee, the FWC couldn’t make an equal remuneration order for past circumstances. So, here’s the takeaway for employers— termination of employment can deflate an equal remuneration order application.

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.


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