What are you doing for mental health month?

October is Mental Health Month and World Mental Health Day is on October 10, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy.

This a great opportunity for businesses to get proactive in dealing with a major challenge for Australian society and every business – the impact of mental illness.

A recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers report identified that ignoring it costs Australian businesses around $10.9 billion a year in lost productivity. And with poor mental health likely to affect one in five employees, by taking action the benefits can be profound.

PwC discovered that on average, across all businesses, for every one dollar invested in mental health initiatives, there’s a return of $2.30 and reports showed that in many industries the returns were even greater. 

Source: Heads Up

So what that says is that working on improving people’s mental wellbeing at work will generate great returns for business owners. That means that looking after your people is not just the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do.

So what are you going to do to get started on the mental health improvement journey?

There are lots of resources at Heads Up, the website of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance.

Mental Health Australia which is leading the campaign for World Mental Health Day also has useful information and materials to promote mental health in the workplace – see https://1010.org.au/.

This is an area where Ridgeline HR is committed to making a difference through our Better Workplace Projects, a key component of which is creating mentally healthy work environments.

This post is one way that we can help to raise awareness of the issue and encourage employers to be proactive and tackle mental health in your workplaces.

Join us by sharing this and other promotions of mental health to help that happen and make a difference.   Pictured: Croydon Chamber of Commerce  AGM giving a thumbs up for workplace wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

What are our “Better Workplace Projects”?

In essence, they are whatever you need them to be. Here are some different elements of better workplaces that we might include in a “Better Workplace Project” depending on client needs, preferences and budget:

  • A Respectful Workplace: implementing a values-based approach to behavioural standards that are to be applied across the business and addressing legal requirements relative to bullying, harassment, discrimination, gender inequality and related unsatisfactory behaviours.
  • An Aligned Workplace: providing clear direction to employees on organizational goals and structures and what they translate into in terms of the roles and performance expectations of teams and individual employees.
  • A Safe and Healthy Workplace: developing and implementing a risk management and employee engagement strategy that helps to improve the wellbeing of people in the areas of physical, emotional and mental health as well as addressing legislative requirements in relation to workplace health and safety.
  • A Connected Workplace: developing and implementing consultation and communication processes that ensure effective employee voice and timely and constructive communications between people across the business as well as better informing management decision making.
  • An Engaging Workplace: developing and implementing performance feedback and development processes that are timely, balanced and friendly whereby each employee has a performance and development plan of their own. Managers meet with them regularly to review progress against the plan, provide positive feedback on achievements and guidance and encouragement with areas for development.
  • A Sustainable Workplace: equipping and coaching leaders to maintain the impetus focused on constantly reviewing workplace policies and practices and identifying and harnessing opportunities for continuous improvement.

If you are interested in making your business a “Better Workplace”, give us a call on 0438 533 311 to see how we can help.

Make every day RUOK Day

Today is the official RUOK day, that day once a year when the spotlight is shone on mental health and what we can all do to support those doing it tough on the mental health front.

Those 4 simple steps can make such a difference:

  1. Ask RUOK?
  2. Listen
  3. Encourage action
  4. Check in

And please here are 4 things that you don’t want to do:

  1. Don’t tell me to cheer up.
  2. Don’t be judgmental, telling me what my problem is.
  3. Don’t be instructional, telling me what I must do.
  4. Don’t give up on me – just being there helps.

20% of people have mental health challenges so the odds are that 1 in 5 people in your workplace do too.

In our Better Workplace Projects, we help employers and employees to develop high performing, caring and supportive workplaces where peoples’ wellbeing is a priority because it is both the morally right and the commercially smart thing to do.

We want you to “Make every day RUOK Day” but also to reduce the incidence of mental health problems by having a great place to work. Don’t let your workplace be a contributing factor to Australia’s mental health challenge.

There are lots of resources available at RUOK and Heads UP.

These are some of the tools that we use in our Better Workplace Projects.

Give me a call on 0438 533 311 if you would like to learn more about how we might help.

 

Procedural fairness so often the stumbling block

I have read a number of stories in the media and on social media about sacked employees successfully prosecuting unfair dismissal claims even though the Fair Work Commission found that there was justification for the sacking.

This happens a lot (even to large employers) and it is because, according to the law, it is not just about whether the sacking is justified (substantive fairness), it is also about how the sacking takes place (procedural fairness).

So, here are some tips on due process (ie what you need to do to demonstrate procedural fairness):

  1. Properly investigate matters ensuring that you have evidence to present as underpinning the allegations of underperformance or misconduct.
  2. Advise the employee that you will be meeting with them at a date/time/place to discuss significant issues regarding their work performance and that they have the opportunity to have a support person present.
  3. Have a management representative present at the meeting (especially if the employee is likely to be contentious) to act as a witness to proceedings and to sign off on meeting notes as a true and accurate record.
  4. Present the employee with the allegations and the specific evidence/examples of occurrences in detail to respond to. Note, in circumstances where the allegations are particularly serious or complex or could have serious consequences (eg termination of employment), it can be appropriate to provide advice of these in advance of the meeting to allow the employee the opportunity to obtain advice.  
  5. Consider what the employee has had to say and determine what you believe the facts to be based on that response (on the balance of probabilities) and other evidence and what course of action needs to be taken eg if new information is presented that would warrant further investigation, adjourn the meeting to undertake the investigation or, if that is not necessary, determine what course of action is appropriate in the circumstances.
  6. If additional investigation was necessary, present the findings and associated evidence back to the employee when you re-adjourn, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  7. Once the investigation is completed and the employee has had the opportunity to respond to all of the evidence, make a final determination as to what the facts of the matter are “on the balance of probabilities” and what the appropriate action to take in the circumstances would be.
  8. Advise the employee of your findings and the action that you propose to take, asking the employee if they can provide any reason as to why you should not take that action. One of the things that needs to be considered is the question of the severity of the impact this action would have on the employee having regard to their personal circumstances (eg terminating a mature age worker with little prospect of alternative employment and a low level of financial sustainability could have serious consequences for that person and the FWC has been taking such matters into consideration in relation to the harshness of the penalty).
  9. Having heard and considered what the employee has had to say, advise them of the action that you have decided to take, having considered everything that has been presented in the process.
  10. Confirm the outcome in writing including, if a warning is involved, what the performance improvement expectations are and what the consequences are if those expectations are not met including advice of a reasonable period for review and implement it.

This should  all be underpinned by a clear and practical written disciplinary procedure which is provided to everyone and is followed religiously without exception. Those responsible for investigating concerns and complaints and initiating disciplinary action all require training and access to professional advice.

There could also be circumstances where it would be appropriate to stand the employee in question down with pay if termination of employment appeared to be a likely outcome and/or if the continued presence of the employee in the workplace would interfere with the proper or efficient conduct of the investigation.

Have a look at our article on substantive fairness as well for as simple approach as you will find for determining what action is justified – “The 3 tents test”

And for small businesses with less than 15 employees, the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code provides a checklist for you to follow: Small-Business-Fair-Dismissal-Code-2011.

Following the type of process that we have set out in this article won’t guarantee that you won’t still get an unfair dismissal claim from a terminated employee. However it will help you to defend that claim and minimise the cost of settlement.

It also sends a really positive message to your employees that you understand your legal obligations and that you will give your people a fair go and honour those obligations.

Sacking someone is not an easy thing to do and, for most managers, it isn’t something that you do often so don’t be afraid to call out for help. A small investment can make a world of difference to the outcome.

Note: We are not qualified lawyers and this article does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide inexperienced employers and managers without access to professional workplace relations advice with some tips on the sorts of things that they need to take into account procedurally in dealing with matters of this sort. We are of course able to assist with developing the right procedures for your business, training your managers and supervisors and providing professional advice and support as needed.

Are you ready for casual conversion?

All modern awards which do not already have a casual conversion clause will have one from 1 October 2018.

This means that employees who are engaged as casuals on a regular and systematic basis for 12 months can apply to convert to full-time and part-time employment.

An employer can refuse such a request on reasonable business grounds but these grounds are quite limited. In essence, if the employee would continue in employment beyond 12 months on much the same basis as a casual without any expectation of that arrangement changing, it would be difficult to reasonably decline a request for conversion.

This is a particular challenge for labour hire firms who typically engage most of their hired out workforce as casuals.

That challenge has been heightened in the minds of many by a recent decision of the Full Bench of the Federal Court  in the case Workpac v Skene. In that case, the Court decided that a labour hire casual who worked regular and predictable hours was a permanent employee at law, and was therefore entitled to paid annual leave, and other permanent employment rights.

This was a fly in fly out worker who was engaged on successive rosters for 6 months, 12 months and 12 months on regular and systematic hours. That really isn’t characteristic of a real casual employment relationship and that is what the court found.

In another case in South Australia (Apostolides v Mantina Earthmovers & Constructions Pty Ltd) earlier this year, the employee who had been engaged as a casual for 15 years but worked full-time over that period was also found to be a permanent employee and was awarded annual leave for the entire period of employment.

Our advice to businesses is that, rather than trying to avoid the issue, be proactive about it and here are some tips:

  1. Be realistic about the nature of the engagement – if it is going to be a regular and systematic arrangement where the employee works the same hours week in and week out ongoing, it isn’t really casual employment.
  2. Don’t be frightened by the myth that you want to keep employees as casuals to avoid unfair dismissal. The truth is it doesn’t matter whether an employee is engaged on a permanent or casual basis as they can both claim unfair dismissal if engaged for 12 months for businesses with less than 15 employees or 6 months for businesses with 15 or more employees.
  3. Have written employment contracts for all employees and ensure that they clearly state the nature of the engagement. Also ensure that you comply with any award provisions that stipulate information to be provided to casual employees on engagement.
  4. Have a system for dealing with the casual conversion election process and lead it to get each casual employee to make the decision, clearly spelling out what the differences would be if the employee converts to full-time/part-time employment or elects to remain casual. Many will decide to stay casual to get the 25 % casual loading.

Casual employees must be given a copy of the new clause within the first 12 months of their employment, or if already engaged, by 1 January 2019.

At Ridgeline HR, we have put quite a bit of thought into ways in which we can help labour hire businesses and any others with significant levels of casual employment to minimise the risks and treat their workforces ethically by ensuring they are informed about their rights and giving them fair choices.

Contact us using the form below if you would like us to discuss ways in which we might be of assistance with this issue.

 

7 ways to build trust

In the backwash of the banking royal commission, the investigations into paedophilia in religious institutions, ongoing domestic violence and gender inequality, much publicised cases of underpayment of wages by rogue employers and gig businesses and rorts by members of parliament and government officials, there is a lot of talk about “trust” and Australia having a “crisis of trust”.

Interestingly, one of the primary qualities that great employers have is trust and there is a great opportunity for businesses to make a difference in our community by leading change through the practice of trust.

Are there things that you as an employer can do differently to be more trusting in your people and to be more trusted by your people?

Here are a few suggestions for any leader.

 

Respect my views

Seek my opinions and ideas, listen to any concerns I have and always ensure that you understand what I am saying and why. Respond to me in a timely, polite and constructive way. Never leave me wondering where I sit with you and any issues of concern.

Believe in me

I want to do a good job and want you to help me do that. Accept that sometimes I might make mistakes but that, with your help, I will learn from them. See me as someone worthy of investment and optimism rather than through the lens of risk and micro management.

Let me be myself

All of us have our own styles and strengths and that diversity is powerful. Give me opportunities to use my strengths so that I can enjoy and succeed in my work, grow in my own way and enhance my value to the business.

Let’s get to know each other (appropriately)

If we understand who each other is, what each other’s strengths are and what we rely on each other for, we have the foundation for building a positive and constructive relationship. I may be able to help you with something that you are struggling with just as I expect you as my employer to support me.

Give me clarity

I want to know where we are going and what it is that you need me to do to help you get there. Put a plan in place and help me to do my part by having clear goals and responsibilities and a plan of action. Catch up with me regularly to coach me and support me to deliver on the plan. Celebrate successes and capture the improvement opportunities.

Give me a sense of belonging

Have clear statements of purpose and values that tell me what the organisation stands for (ie why it exists and how it behaves). Engage me by living that purpose and values every day in every way so that I am inspired to perform for you and go the extra yard.

Believe me

If I tell you something, believe that I am telling you my truth. If I tell you I can’t come in today, believe that I have a good reason for that. If I tell you that I am unwell, don’t make me go to the doctor to prove I am unwell – let me get better. If I am struggling to get the desired outcome with something, accept that I am trying my best and look at how you can help me to deliver what you want.

Our EngageMentality coaching and organisational development model focuses on peoples’ strengths and building respectful and productive relationships in the workplace. Building trust is a central element of the process. To find out more, call Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311.

New leave to deal with family and domestic violence

All modern awards have been varied with effect from 1 August 2018 to provide all employees including casuals with an entitlement of up to 5 days unpaid leave per annum to deal with family and domestic violence.

Read more

More changes for employers

The changes keep coming in the field of workplace relations:

Annual Wage Review

There are a number of changes taking effect from 1 July 2018 as a result of the decision in the 2017-2018 Annual Wage Review as follows:

  1. The national minimum wage and award rates have been increased by 3.5%.
  2. The filing fee for dismissals, general protections and anti-bullying applications made to the Fair Work Commission increased to $71.90.
  3. The high income threshold in unfair dismissal cases increased to $145,400 and the compensation cap to $72,700.

Penalty Rates

The next wave of Sunday penalty rate reductions flowing from last year’s penalty rates decision also take effect from 1 July 2018 as follows:

Fast Food Industry Award 2010

  • Level 1, full-time and part-time employees: 145% > 135%
  • Level 1, casual employees (including casual loading): 170% > 160%
  • Other levels: no change

Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010

  • Full-time and part-time employees: 170% > 160%
  • Casual employees stay at 175% including casual loading

General Retail Industry Award 2010

  • Full-time and part-time employees: 195% > 180%
  • Casual employees (inclusive of casual loading): 195% > 185%

Pharmacy Industry Award 2010

  • Full-time and part-time employees: 195% > 180%
  • Casual employees (inclusive of casual loading): 220% > 205%

Extension of ATO’s contractor reportable payments scheme 

On 9 May 2017 the Government announced that from 1 July 2018 businesses that supply courier or cleaning services will need to report payments made to contractors if the payments are for courier or cleaning services.

These payments must be reported to the ATO each year using the Taxable payments annual report.

Businesses in the building and construction industry have been subject to this requirement for a number of years.

Labour hire licensing

The Victorian Labour Hire Licensing Act has been passed by Parliament and is expected to come into effect by no later than 1 November 2018.

This means that labour hire firms will not be able to legally operate in Victoria unless they have a licence having passed a fit and proper person test and satisfied a number of other requirements.

Similar legislation is already operating in Queensland and in the process of implementation in South Australia.

Long service leave

The Long Service Leave Act 2018 makes a number of changes to long service leave entitlements in Victoria. These include:

  • Employee access to long service leave after 7 years of eligible service (down from 10 years).
  • The existing entitlement to payment in lieu on termination of employment after 7 years’ eligible service remains.
  • Unpaid parental leave will count as service (whereas currently it does not count but doesn’t break service).
  • If an employee resigns and is reemployed within 12 weeks, service will be deemed to be continuous (currently that only happens if the employee is dismissed and reengaged within 12 weeks).
  • Long service leave service will transfer from one employer to another where there is a transfer of tangible and/or intangible assets and the employee performs duties in connection with those assets (currently only tangible assets matter).
  • The method of calculating entitlements where there have been changes in an employee’s working hours is changing.
  • The ability of an employer to apply for an exemption will be abolished.
  • Penalties for non-compliance will go from being civil penalties to being criminal penalties.

This legislation is expected to come into operation on or about 1 November 2018.

Portable long service leave in some industries

There is already a statutory portable long service leave scheme in the construction industry – see Coinvest.

The Victorian Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018 (Bill) will, if passed, extend portable long service leave benefits to employees in the the community services, contract cleaning and security industries.

In essence, this means that a worker in those industries will be eligible for long service leave once they have 7 years’ industry service regardless of how many employers that might be with.

Employers will have to contribute to a fund run by a statutory authority which will manage workers’ entitlements.

Domestic Violence Leave

The Fair Work Commission has approved an award entitlement to unpaid domestic violence leave of up to 5 days per annum as part of the 4 year review of modern awards. More to come on this regarding when it will take effect but it should be some time soon.

Casual Conversion

The Fair Work Commission also made a decision on a model clause for conversion of casuals to full-time or part-time employees in 2017 but it is yet to be flowed on to awards. Again that is something that should happen soon.

Conclusion

There is a lot that has changed and a lot more coming employers’ way. We will be issuing regular updates on new developments so please subscribe if you want to be kept informed. Scroll down to the right bottom of the page to do that.

Significant non-compliance in local government security supply chain

The Fair Work Ombudsman has reported on an Australia-wide audit of the security service supply chains of 23 local councils with key findings as follows:

  • non-compliance with workplace laws in the supply chains of 14 (61 per cent) of the 23 councils, with breaches primarily relating to underpayment of minimum award rates as well as under- or non-payment of applicable penalty rates and overtime;
  • 63 per cent of subcontractors were found to be non-compliant compared to 42 per cent of principal contractors, who had a direct relationship with the council.
  • the Fair Work Ombudsman issued 26 formal cautions, 15 compliance notices and four infringement notices to non-compliant contractors and subcontractors.
  • A total of $72,250 was recovered for underpaid workers.

The full media release can be accessed here.

The Fair Work Ombudsman, Ms Natalie James also stated:

“While it is the primary responsibility of the employer to ensure compliance with workplace laws, it is clear that councils could – and should – be doing more to keep tabs on what is going on in their security contracting networks.”

“We’re recommending that local councils amend their security services tender documents to reflect best practice on contracting labour and ensure that the amounts paid in their contracts are sufficient for contractors and subcontractors to cover employee entitlements.

“We also expect that councils are proactive in monitoring their security supply chains, including by requiring contractors to regularly report on their compliance with their workplace obligations.

“Beyond such measures being in line with community expectations, councils should note that it is not just employers who can be held liable for breaches such as underpayments occurring in a supply chain – in certain circumstances councils themselves may be held legally responsible when their contractors or subcontractors are not complying with the law.”

With penalties of up to $630,000 per offence for a corporation and up to $126,000 per offence for an individual, there are also strong commercial grounds for local councils and their officers to follow the Fair Work Ombudsman’s advice.

Ridgeline HR provides tailored, thorough and affordable workplace relations compliance and audit programs for franchise groups and supply chains. 

“Ridgeline HR has  recently completed a very thorough confidential assessment within our wider franchise network to check understanding of workplace laws and minimum standards.    This has also involved the provision of a comprehensive compliance kit.   Peter Maguire (Practice Leader) has a very thorough knowledge of workplace relations within Australia, provides an excellent service and brings a very practical approach.   I would warmly recommend them.”

Leida Meijers, HR Director, Europcar

How mature are your HR practices?

Questions are often asked about the value of HR to an organisation and the level of influence that the HR function has on overall business direction and decision-making.

More recently, with the disclosures of corporate malpractice and unethical executive conduct in the finance industry in particular, there are significant questions about the culture of the organisations concerned and, by extension, as the culture custodians, where were HR in all of this.

The truth is that HR can look very different in different organisations and is more often than not reflective in style of the mindset of senior management. Is the focus compliance or is it about real employee engagement? Is it about risk management and enforcement or is it about leadership and values-based behaviour? Or is it just a processing function administering operational procedures and conflict transactions?

Where does HR sit on the scale of maturity in your organisation?

Back in 2005,we developed a maturity model based on our experience in dealing with hundreds of organisations and this 4C model is a core part of our consulting and coaching offerings. While in our consulting, we focus on “People and Culture”, you can apply the methodology to any business function.

Here is what it looks like:

C1 = Commitment: this is the ground floor, the point at which an organisation makes a specific commitment through a vision statement or a values statement or a set of goals in a business plan or a policy statement or a contract which sets out an obligation that the business commits to.

C2 = Capability: this involves the organisation investing in the resources needed to give life to the commitment including the right people, processes, tools and equipment.

C3 = Competency: here the organisation has invested in the learning and support that people need to effectively play their part in utilising the resources and they are delivering good outcomes in the area of the commitment.

C4 = Culture: where the commitment has been fully embedded in everyday activity in practice, people believe it and they are consistently delivering high performance outcomes.

A lot of the organisations that we have worked with in our compliance activities are at C1 to C2 level and a significant number are quite limited in the breadth or range of commitments that they have made in real terms. Managing people is an ongoing challenge for these businesses.

Then there are the others who aspire to be employers of choice and really get the connection between employee engagement and wellbeing and high performance. With the right leadership, a positive mindset and values driven behaviours, those aspirations can be realised. Our 4C framework provides a simple and effective roadmap for getting there.

If you look at the people and culture practices in your organisation, where do you sit on the 4C scale?