Ridgeline HR in Warrnambool with CCF on 19 April 2018

Ridgeline HR Practice Leader, Peter Maguire, will be visiting Warrnambool on 19 April 2018 to provide local members and guests of the Civil Contractors Federation with an update on important workplace relations changes and the Code for Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 and some tips on how to get better people engagement and performance.

Further details and booking arrangements are in the flyer below.

Warrnambool Regional Dinner – 19 April 2018

How many hats?

I was recently asked whether I considered myself a coach, a mentor or a consultant or a contractor.

That made me think about exactly what I do when I work with a client and I reached the conclusion that, in point of fact, depending on the client’s needs and capabilities, at a given point in time, I can be any one of those. For example:

  • I am a coach when I am introducing the client to good people management practice and teaching them how to do that.
  • I am a mentor when I am listening to the client talk about their aspirations and challenges and I am providing feedback and guidance on how to deal with them effectively.
  • I am a consultant when I am using my diagnostic and analytical capabilities to understand the issues and my creative talents to design bespoke solutions.
  • I am a contractor when the client just needs me to do something for them like servicing a function for a period of time or implementing pre-designed policies and processes

Added to that:

  • I am an educator when I run training sessions.
  • I am a reporter when I let people know about developments in the world of compliance and HR generally.
  • I am an influencer when I am writing blogs or presenting on good people practice.
  • I am a networker when I connect people to develop relationships that can add value (because I am not an expert in everything).

So that’s 8 hats that I might wear in different situations and I must always be ready to swap hats when it is apparent that the client needs a different me to the one they have been using. That adaptability has been a cornerstone of our successful business which is celebrating its 18th birthday.

Happy birthday, Ridgeline HR!

 

Is an enterprise agreement right for your business?

It is now over 25 years since enterprise bargaining became an option in the Australian industrial relations system, first introduced via the Prices and Incomes Accord between first the Hawke and then the Keating Governments and the ACTU.

Unfortunately, over the years, unions and employers with unionised workplaces have dominated the enterprise bargaining space and there are few examples of genuine change delivering benefits for both employers and their people. They have really been just about negotiation of over award pay and conditions.

That is why many corporates are stepping away from enterprise agreements now – they don’t see them as offering productivity and flexibility benefits, notwithstanding the fact that they don’t see modern awards as positive alternatives either.

So why would any employer want to have an enterprise agreement today?

Ridgeline HR Practice Leader, Peter Maguire, who has been involved in enterprise bargaining since the early 1990s, offers some options for you to consider:

  1. “The first enterprise agreement that I negotiated was nominally about pay and conditions but what it was really about for me was enshrining a requirement that any matter requiring a vote by employees had to be by secret ballot. Why? Because the women who made up most of the workforce were intimidated by a small group of males backed by male hierarchy in the union and the blokes would hold sway if the vote was just by a show of hands. The union said the agreement wouldn’t get up – the secret ballot delivered an 87% approval by employees. We gave the women their voice and they backed us and that was a significant cultural change for them and the business.”
  2. “25 years ago, I participated in the process that developed the so called skills based classification structures that grace our modern awards today. The reality is that those structures were primarily the product of  industrial relations negotiations so they were mostly flawed from the outset. The world of work has also changed dramatically since then and it should be no surprise that they are not a great fit with the skill sets and talent hierarchies that exist in lots of businesses today. So, if your business is paying your people significantly above award, why wouldn’t you put in place the classification and pay structure that makes sense for your business and your people in today’s world.”
  3. “There are some award provisions that are just wrong. For example, the Building and Construction General On-site Award has an Industry Specific Redundancy Provision that gives employees who leave after their first year ‘other than for reasons of misconduct or refusal of duty’ a redundancy payment of up to 8 weeks’ pay. In the civil construction industry that means that a Plant Operator or Labourer or Traffic Controller would receive that benefit if they resign or are sacked on other grounds eg performance grounds. Other staff in civil construction such as engineers, administrative people, truck drivers etc don’t get those benefits. That is just not right or fair and can be addressed by including the National Employment Standard on redundancy for all employees regardless of business size and employee occupation.”
  4.  “The pay structures in some awards are extremely complex with a combination of base rates, allowances, penalty rates and loadings and, in some cases, specific clauses on annualisation of salaries all of which can be hard for small business owners to get their heads around. An enterprise agreement can help to make that all a lot simpler by redefining how all of that works in simple and easily understood terms and in the context of normal business operations. For example, you might typically work a 40  hour or 45 hour or 50 hour week and would like to be able to just pay a flat rate or an annual salary for doing that. That can be done in an enterprise agreement by striking flat rates that factor in all of monetary award rates, loadings and allowances with a caveat that, if you go outside the prescribed arrangement, there are extras that come into play and they are defined in the agreement as the exception rather than the rule. This ensures that your people are still better off overall and you know just what you need to do to safeguard that outcome and stay compliant.” 
  5. “Principals in supply chains and head contractors on major projects like to be assured that they will not be subject to operational disruptions caused by protected industrial action. That assurance can come from the delivery partners or sub-contractors having their own current enterprise agreements and this provides a resultant advantage when your business is bidding competitively for work.”
  6. “Enterprise agreements sit in the public domain on the Fair Work Commission’s website and so serve as both a demonstration of your business’s compliance with workplace laws and your value proposition as an employer. This sends positive messages to both the labour market and the regulator. ” 

So perhaps there are some benefits to having an enterprise agreement after all.

If you would like to explore the opportunities that enterprise agreements offer, give us a call.

 

New labour hire licensing laws

Queensland and South Australia now have new labour hire licensing laws and Victoria has a like bill currently before the Parliament.

Features of the Queensland legislation include:

  • labour hire providers to be licensed to operate in Queensland
  • persons who engage labour hire providers to only engage licensed providers
  • labour hire licensees to satisfy fit and proper person test to establish that they are capable of providing labour hire services in compliance with all relevant laws
  • the labour hire business is financially viable.
  • licensees must provide six monthly reports on labour hire and associated activities including accommodation, and in relation to compliance with relevant laws
  • strong penalties for breach of obligations
  • establishing a labour hire licensing compliance unit with a field services inspectorate with responsibility for awareness, monitoring and enforcement functions.

The South Australian legislation and the Victorian bill have similar provisions.

There is also a push for complementary federal legislation.

Any business operating in the labour hire sector needs to ensure that they are compliant with all of their legal obligations as an employer and that they satisfy the fit and proper person test to be eligible for licensing.

Any business that uses labour hire services needs to verify the compliance of their labour hire provider(s) and that they are appropriately licensed in accordance with the legislation.

Ridgeline HR can assist both labour hire businesses and users of labour hire services with workplace relations compliance assessments.

Lessons from the 2017 Corporate Health and Wellbeing Summit

I recently attended the Corporate Health and Wellbeing Summit in Sydney and thought that I would share some of the key learnings from what were a great set of presentations.

I have selected three – one from a regulator’s perspective, one from a manager’s perspective and one from a consulting psychologist.

Lucinda Brogden, Commissioner,

National Mental Health Commission

 Lucy presented some startling statistics on mental health and its impact on productivity such as:

  • About 1 million Australians live with depression and about 2 million live with anxiety
  • 8 Australians (of whom 5 are men) die of suicide every day
  • Mental health conditions cost Australian businesses $10.9 billion per year
    • Compensation claims: $145.9 million
    • Absenteeism: $4.7 billion
    • Presenteeism: $6.1 billion

She recommended 6 ways in which businesses can improve mental health in the workplace:

  1. Smarter work design
  2. Promoting and facilitating early help seeking and early intervention
  3. Building a positive and safe work culture
  4. Enhancing personal and organisational resilience
  5. Supporting recovery
  6. Increasing awareness of mental illness and reducing stigma.

Stephen Scheeler, Former CEO, Facebook ANZ

Stephen spoke about the challenges he had joining the organisation in his 40s when the average age of Facebook employees is 26. He said he had been there about a week when the HR Manager gave him some feedback “You need to smile more, don’t look so serious”.

He also spoke about the importance of being positive in line with the values of the organisation which was going through massive change e.g.:

  • Revenue of $1.58b in 2012 to $27.6b in 2016
  • Facebook users from 0.9b in 2012 to 2.0b in 2016

Steve cited this comment by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg as a real indicator of their attitude to their people:

“Bring your whole self to work. I don’t believe we have a professional self Monday through Friday and a real self the rest of the time. It is all professional and it is all personal.” 

Dr Aaron Jarden, Psychologist, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

 Aaron described his goals as follows:

“Within an organisational setting, it’s to enable organisations to invest in creating more rewarding, happier jobs for their people. To create positive workplaces where people are able to do meaningful and enjoyable work that taps into their greatest strengths and their most important goals. To capitalise on the unique intellectual and personal strengths of each employee by focusing less on getting employees to do their work and fixing problems and more into promoting excellence by enabling them to do good work; their best work.

He advocates that one size does not fit all and workplaces should be looking to utilise peoples’ strengths to optimise engagement, job satisfaction and productivity.

Aaron introduced the audience to a free strengths survey tool (VIA Survey of Character Strengths which can be accessed at http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey) as a way for people to identify their key strengths.

I recently participated in an exercise using this survey tool in a committee of volunteers and found it to be very useful in identifying my key strengths, comparing mine to those of others on the Committee and looking at how we can best deploy each others’ key strengths to get optimal results.

Aaron emphasised that positive leadership is crucial – “Leadership involvement was cited as the most effective factor for a successful wellbeing program by 59 percent of employer respondents. (State of Workplace Wellbeing Survey).”

In 2018, Ridgeline HR will be launching a Better Workplaces Project which will utilize positive psychology principles and a strengths-based approach to achieving improvements in employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity.

Contact Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or email pmaguire@ridgelinehr.com.au if you would like more information.

Fair Work and All That Stuff was well received

For the first time, 4 business groups and a charity in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne collaborated to run a free joint event for their members and other local business people.

People from Croydon Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ringwood Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Whitehorse Business Group, Manningham Business Network and the Footmen Foundation got together to learn more about:

  • Employer obligations, National Employment Standards and modern awards
  • Fair Work information and other resources and tools that are freely available and how to access them
  • How to avoid and manage unfair dismissal claims and
  • What the new Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 means for employers, franchisors and holding companies.

Chris Zidak from Maroondah City Council also gave an entertaining and informative presentation on Council’s Business and Development activities,achievements and plans.

Daryl Stephens from the Footmen Foundation finished off the night with an engaging dissertation on the history of the Footmen Foundation and the work that it does in helping community groups and individuals with unfunded special needs in Maroondah and surrounding areas.

Ridgeline’s HR’s Peter Maguire and Chris White and close associate, Emma Watt, presented the briefing closing off with a few questions for the audience and prizes for correct answers. This was presented as part of Ridgeline HR’s commitment to partner in improving wellbeing in the Maroondah community by helping small business owners with access to important information and useful tools.

The Fair Work and All That Stuff presentation slides can be downloaded below and include a number of links through which you can access a variety of information and tools featured in the presentation.

Fair Work and All That Stuff – 18 October 2017

Special thanks go to:

  • Maroondah City Council for providing the venue at Realm free
  • Big Mates Pizza who provided pizzas free for all to share
  • The leaders of each of the organisations involved for their collaborative contribution.

 

HEADS UP – Fair Work Amendments on their way in

In recent posts, we reported on the rise in Fair Work Ombudsman activity in the area of accessorial liability and the impending enactment of the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017.

That legislation has been passed by the Federal parliament and is taking effect in two stages.

Most of the provisions are operative from 15 September 2017 and the provisions relating to franchisors and holding companies come into operation 6 weeks later on 27 October 2017.

This legislation has significant effects in that it:

  • Introduces a higher scale of penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ of prescribed workplace laws up from $63,000 to $630,000 per offence for a corporation and from $12,600 to $126,000 per offence for an individual
  • Increases penalties for record-keeping failures.
  • Makes franchisors and holding companies responsible for underpayments by their franchisees or subsidiaries where they knew or ought reasonably to have known of the contraventions and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them.
  • Expressly prohibits employers from unreasonably requiring their employees to make payments (e.g. demanding a proportion of their wages be paid back in cash).
  • Strengthens the evidence-gathering powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure that the exploitation of vulnerable workers can be effectively investigated.
  • Introduces a reverse onus of proof where an employer has not met their record keeping obligations and an underpayment of wages claim is made.

While a focus in the legislation is to get franchisors and parent companies to responsibly supervise and ensure compliance by their franchisees and subsidiaries, any business which sub-contracts work should ensure that they have appropriate compliance systems in place not just on paper but in practice too.

Ridgeline HR can assist by undertaking independent workplace relations compliance audits of franchisees, agencies, subsidiaries, sub-contractors and supply chain partners. These audits cover compliance with:

  • National Employment Standards
  • Modern Awards
  • Record Keeping and Payslip Requirements
  • Superannuation Guarantee
  • Avoidance of Sham Contracting

For construction businesses needing to be compliant with the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 so as to be able to tender on and perform Commonwealth-funded work, that can also be included in the audit process.

Enquiries can be directed to Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or at peter@ridgelinehr.com.au

Helping Civil Contractors with Building Code Compliance Preliminary Assessment

In order to qualify for tenders on Commonwealth-funded construction works, businesses have to demonstrate compliance with the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 (the Code).

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is responsible for administering and enforcing the Code. Part of that process involves assessment of the industrial instruments (awards or enterprise agreements) covering a business and its employees.

The ABCC now requires applicants for a Letter of Compliance to conduct a preliminary review of their enterprise agreements using Guidance Material developed by the ABCC. The guidance material is in the form of a spreadsheet with over 1600 clauses from enterprise agreements with commentary as to whether the clause is deemed to be “compliant”, “not compliant” or “compliant with implementation feedback” (i.e. it depends on what really happens in practice).

This is a very complicated and time consuming exercise for businesses and especially those who do not have their own specialist industrial relations staff.

Ridgeline HR has been servicing the HRM/workplace relations needs of members of the Civil Contractors Federation in Victoria for the past 11 years and is now assisting with the conduct of preliminary reviews and corrective action where that is necessary to achieve code compliance.

Enquiries can be directed to Chris White on 0419 130 580 or at cwhite@ridgelinehr.com.au or Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or at pmaguire@ridgelinehr.com.au.

 

Changing gears for a winning culture

There is plenty of research out there that tells us that the 1900’s command and control approach to management just doesn’t work in the modern world where change is constant and people want answers and results now.

If we are going to get true employee engagement and high performance with today’s and future generations, we need to fundamentally change the management model to one based on leadership and values-based behaviours that deliver trust and inspiration rather than just process control and risk management which really only deliver compliance. This is what study after study tells us.

It means business leaders need to change gears and in doing so reimagine their business culture and language from:

  • human resources to human beings
  • risk control to trust
  • process control to relationship optimisation
  • management to leadership
  • tasks to behaviours
  • outputs to outcomes
  • compliance to engagement
  • command to inspiration
  • structure to flexibility
  • reactive to resilient

It is a big adjustment and it is easy to fall back into the traditional management norm that has been drummed into us for all those years.

That is why it is so important to have a clear vision about where you are going and clear values and behaviours that say how you are going to go about doing that and then holding everyone accountable for modelling those every day, most importantly yourself.

Be prepared to challenge and be challenged, listen to what your people have to say and learn from that. It is amazing what a difference it can make to performance, engagement, innovation and wellbeing.

Ready to change gears?

 

What might the new casual conversion provisions mean for business?

As part of the 4 yearly review of modern awards, the Fair Work Commission has decided to insert casual conversion provisions into the 85 modern awards that currently do not have provisions of this sort.

These provide a right for casual employees engaged on a regular and systematic basis to apply for conversion to full-time or part-time employment subject to a number of conditions as follows:

  • a qualifying period of 12 calendar months;
  • a qualifying criterion that the casual employee has over the qualifying period worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis which, without significant adjustment, could continue to be performed in accordance with the full-time or part-time employment provisions of the relevant award;
  • the employer must provide all casual employees (whether they become eligible for conversion or not) with a copy of the casual conversion clause within the first 12 months after their initial engagement; and
  • a conversion may be refused on the grounds that:
    • it would require a significant adjustment to the casual employee’s hours of work to accommodate them in full-time or part-time employment in accordance with the terms of the applicable modern
      award, or
    • it is known or reasonably foreseeable that the casual employee’s position will cease to exist, or
    • the employee’s hours of work will significantly change or be reduced within the next 12 months, or
    • on other reasonable grounds based on facts which are known or reasonably foreseeable.

Please note that, at this point in time, awards have not been varied and the decision is therefore not operational.

Where this decision differs from  casual conversion provisions that are already in other modern awards is that:

  • the qualifying period is commonly 6 months rather than the 12 month period stated in the new decision
  • the relevant awards have a statement that an employer “must not unreasonably refuse” a request for conversion but there is no reference to the sorts of circumstances that might reasonably justify refusal (as set out in the new decision)
  • there are some variances in procedural requirements between the old and the new
  • existing casual conversion provisions continue to have force.

So what does it all mean?

Regardless of the industry you are in, every employer who has casual employees working regular and systematic hours over a prolonged period of time should review those arrangements and consider whether the past/existing working pattern and foreseeable future working pattern would justify conversion to full-time or part-time employment.

There is also a concern that, while an employee in a small business (less than 15 employees) is not eligible to make a claim of unfair dismissal until they have completed 12 months service (or 6 months in the case of larger businesses), there could be a spike in General Protection/Adverse Action claims where an employee exercises or intends to exercise their right to request casual conversion and perceives that they are disadvantaged because of that request or intention (eg in reduction of hours, variation of shifts to interrupt a regular working pattern or even discontinuation of employment). There is no qualifying period for these types of claims so employers beware.

The final point that we wish to make here is that security of employment is a significant issue in our community today and that is a key factor in attracting and retaining good people who’ll do a good job for you. If you want a great business, trust them and give them that security.