Are you ready for annualised wage obligations next week?

From 1 March 2020, new annualised wage provisions come into operation in many modern awards. They impose new and significant obligations on employers which in many cases will not be welcomed by employees. For example, you will be required to ensure that your employees record their starting and finishing times and their lunch breaks even if that is counter to your workplace value of trusting your people to do the right thing or something that you do not see as appropriate in your professional office. See our previous article for more details on the new obligations here.

The good news is that the Fair Work Commission has left the door open if you want to take an alternative approach via a common law contract. Here is what it said: “Employers may, pursuant to private contractual arrangements, pay employees in accordance with a salary arrangement that compensates for or “buys out” identified award entitlements without engaging with the annualised wage arrangements provision in the applicable award.” 

Of course, you still need to ensure that your employees are better off overall than they would be if they were paid strictly in accordance with all award conditions (not just the minimum rates). If that is true in your case and there is no potential for your employee’s annualised salary (whether expressed as a fixed annual or weekly or fortnightly or monthly amount) to fall below that total award entitlement, properly drafted set off clauses in your employment contracts will enable you to legally avoid “engaging with the annualised wage arrangements provision in the applicable award.

We can help you with that at a very affordable price – just $250 plus GST per contract. Of course, we will need you to show us that you are not in danger of underpaying people against award entitlements first – after all, we don’t want to be an accessory to an underpayment of wages.

If you want to engage us to assist with this, contact us here or call Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311.

A day in the life of Ridgeline HR

A day in the life of Ridgeline HR

Someone asked me what a day in the life of Ridgeline HR looks like. Well the truth is that it is a bit like the weather and we are never quite sure what that next challenge will be or where it will come from. What we do know is it could be any number and nature of things so we have to have the agility to adapt to respond to client needs. For example, yesterday, I:

  • Helped a creative design and manufacturing business with recruitment
  • Advised a hospitality business on a restructure
  • Ran a strategic planning workshop for a charity
  • Consulted to a community services organisation on classification and remuneration structures
  • Advised a transport business on an investigation and potential termination
  • Coached managers in an engineering business on values and behaviours
  • Assisted a travel agency with a redundancy
  • Consulted to a quarry on managing a chronically ill employee
  • Helped a construction business with connection to HRIS and employee engagement resources
  • Advised a financial planning practice on impending changes to modern awards

Where: Bayswater, Brisbane, Croydon (2), Geelong, Knoxfield, Little River, Melbourne CBD, Mulgrave, Scoresby. All in a day’s work at Ridgeline HR, Helping PEOPLE in BUSINESS with all manner of business and people matters in any industry anywhere. With continuously growing demand for our services and a range of exciting new services to come online this year, we are looking for HR generalists with strong workplace relations and HRIS competencies to work with us as contractors on assignments. Expressions of interest are invited. Contact Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or at peter@ridgelinehr.com.au.  [/av_textblock] [av_image src=” attachment=” attachment_size=” align=’center’ styling=” hover=” link=” target=” caption=” font_size=” appearance=” overlay_opacity=’0.4′ overlay_color=’#000000′ overlay_text_color=’#ffffff’ copyright=” animation=’no-animation’ av_uid=’av-2gqpdm’ custom_class=” admin_preview_bg=”][/av_image]

Advice for fire affected businesses

We have been getting quite a few questions about the rules around business shutdowns and employee absences associated with the terrible bushfires which have ravaged so much of the country. These range from those who sadly have lost property and/or have had to evacuate so the business just stops to those in other areas who have downstream effects of toxic smoke in the air. There are also those brave people who have volunteered to fight the fires and perform other emergency duties at the personal expense of their paid jobs. Voluntary Emergency Service Leave Community service leave is one of the National Employment Standards that apply to most of us. That includes voluntary emergency service leave. All employees including casual employees who are engaged in voluntary emergency activity with a recognised emergency management body like the SES, CFA or RSPCA are entitled to leave without pay. If you are able to pay your employee for that period, that is fantastic but we know that most small businesses would struggle with that. The period of leave is not limited other than that it should be no longer than the period that they are engaged in that emergency management activity with allowance for reasonable travel and rest. More information is available at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/community-service-leave. Business interruption and employee stand down The Fair Work Act provides for certain situations where an employee may be stood down without pay due to circumstances beyond the employer’s control. These include severe and inclement weather or natural disasters (such as bushfires) which force a business interruption or closure. That is fairly clearcut for those businesses in areas directly impacted by fires who have had to close at least temporarily. It is however important to check any employment contract or enterprise agreement or modern award to see if any alternative provisions apply. For example, the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010 has an inclement weather clause that affords employees an entitlement to up to 32 hours pay in a period of 4 weeks where business operations are disrupted by inclement weather. See Clause 23 at https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/documents/modern_awards/award/ma000020/default.htm It might also be that businesses which are not located in the areas directly impacted by fires are also affected either because they delivered products or services into or out of those directly impacted areas or because they are suffering other effects such as poor air quality from smoke in their areas of operation. The stand down provisions could also apply to them. In any of these scenarios, if you are able to provide people with alternative work within their capabilities, that would be great. However, we know that for many that just isn’t possible. Other leave entitlements Employees might make requests to use annual leave or long service leave entitlements during the stand down period and, if that is something that you as an affected employer can accommodate, that is great. Unfortunately, for many employers, the loss of cash-flow and the uncertainty about the business future will make that extremely difficult if not impossible. If that is your situation, ensure that you at least know what support is available for your employees and direct them to where they can access that support (and ensure that you access it too). Personal/Carer’s Leave can apply in a few contexts:

  • An employee who suffers injury or illness as a result of the fires may be incapacitated for work eg an employee injured during a bushfire, or who is unwell and unable to work due to smoke inhalation, may be entitled to sick leave.
  • An employee can take paid carer’s leave to care for or support a member of their immediate family or household who is sick, injured or has an unexpected emergency. For example, an employee may be able to take carer’s leave to care for their child if their child’s school closes unexpectedly due to a bushfire emergency.

Sadly, there are also situations where Compassionate Leave comes into play – when a member of an employee’s immediate family or household dies or has a life threatening illness or injury. That entitlement is to two days of paid leave for full-time or part-time employees (unpaid for casuals). What else can you do? We know that people go through enormous trauma and stress in these disaster situations which gives rise to anxiety and depression and a host of other mental health issues. We also know that disasters like these lead to heightened levels of suicide and domestic violence. As much as you can, try to keep in touch with your people and support them emotionally – just having a boss who cares can make a world of difference to their wellbeing and resilience in tough times….and make sure that you and your family have the supports that you need to. The Fair Work Ombudsman has a “Bushfires across Australia” webpage which has a lot of useful stuff on it (and some content has been drawn from there) – see https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/bushfires-across-australia#pay-during-stand-down PS Thank you to all of the civil contractors for your outstanding support for the fire fighting effort. We have been servicing the HR needs of civil contractors through our partnership with the the Civil Contractors Federation in Victoria for the past 14 years. Each time that there is a major fire emergency, CCF members are there to help protect Victorians. You are awesome! If you need some help with people issues associated with the fires (whether your business is affected or you are fighting them), give us a call for free – use your membership and call Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311.   [/av_textblock]

Lots changed in 2019 and more coming in 2020

 As we transition in to the New Year, it is worth just checking that we are up to date with Fair Work and other changes that came in in 2019 and we are ready for what is coming. Here are some little reminders on what has already changed:

And a couple of new heads ups:

The modern award review process is still going in the Fair Work Commission 6 years after it started and we can expect more changes to awards in the year ahead. The other burning issue in 2019 was that of all of the cases of corporate underpayment of wages and the growing use of the term “wage theft”. This has prompted State and Federal Governments to explore the potential for criminal sanctions for deliberate wage theft – more coming on this no doubt in 2020. Anyone needing help with any of this or any employment matter, give Peter Maguire a call on 0438 533 311 for a free initial phone consultation. [/av_textblock]

Extension of coverage of Victorian Portable Long Service Leave Scheme

On and from 1 January 2020, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and certain children’s services providers come under the Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme.

From that date, an activity funded by the NDIS, as well as services provided by licensed children’s services and approved providers under the Education and Care Services National Law, are included in the scheme as community services work.

This means that eligible employers, with workers undertaking these types of work, will need to register with the Portable Long Service Authority by 31 March 2020.

More information is available at https://www.vic.gov.au/portable-long-service-community-services-sector