Getting started for a great 2020

Getting started for a great 2020

Over the past year, we have developed some new positive psychology based approaches to personal development, engagement coaching and cultural change with some excellent results in our work with clients. So now it is time for us to look in the mirror – to lead by example and do it ourselves. Would you like to join us? Here is how. Under our EngageMentality coaching model, we have identified 5 prisms through which we look at and design peoples’ development. They are:

  1. Role(s): the functions that I perform and the technical skills and knowledge that I need to be successful in the role(s)
  2. Relationships: who are the key people with whom I relate, the people who rely on me and those whom I rely on to get good outcomes
  3. Values: what does good behaviour look like for me and for the people whom I work with
  4. Strengths: what am I innately good at and how do I utilise those strengths to good effect – if you haven’t done so, undertake the free VIA Character Strengths Survey
  5. Wellbeing: what I need to lead a balanced life which provides the nourishment that I need to flourish physically, mentally and socially

With each of those, we apply the Appreciative Inquiry methodology to define:

  1. Where we are at now in terms of our strengths (what’s working well) and opportunities (what can get better) – AI Discovery Phase
  2. Where we want to be in 12 months time – AI Dream Phase
  3. What actions will we take to leverage the strengths and take advantage of the opportunities – AI Design Phase
  4. Committing to and implementing my plan to deliver my Dream – AI Destiny Phase.

Put it all in a simple action plan with the following columns:

  1. The development objective
  2. The development actions
  3. The people responsible for the actions (you or you and someone)
  4. The timelines for the actions
  5. The status (tracking progress, celebrating achievements and recalibrating as needed)

The challenge then of course is to do it. Here are a few tips on that:

  1. Plan time in your calendar to undertake the actions you have committed to.
  2. Review your progress against your plan regularly – at least monthly and preferably weekly.
  3. Don’t stand still – stuff happens and things change so stay on top of that, be agile and adjust the plan as you need to – without compromising the Dream of course.
  4. Engage with a trusted someone whom you can talk to, get feedback from, celebrate the successes and learn from the things that haven’t quite gone to plan – this can be really valuable and a great emotional support.
  5. Keep a positive mindset, practise gratitude (be thankful for the good things and let people know) and be kind to yourself.

We are also factoring in daily practice of happiness in our plans through the free Action for Happiness resources available at Here is the January 2020 calendar to get you started if you want to take this up too. Have a great 2020! If we can help to make your workplace a better place for people to flourish (our purpose), we would love to hear from you. [/av_textblock]

Heads up – new award obligations on annualised wages

So you think it is OK just to give your receptionist or your para planner or your chef or your …..  a standard weekly, fortnightly or monthly pay or an annualised salary regardless of the hours that they work? You pay above award so that’s OK, right? Well…….maybe. We know that one of the main reasons that employers like to have fixed wage or annualised salary arrangements is for simplicity in administration. Another is to offer a higher overall package than just award rates and conditions. Employees also get the benefit of superannuation guarantee contributions on the higher annualised wage or salary. So it can be a positive all round. We also know that there have been a number of high profile cases where workers have been grossly underpaid because annualised wage arrangements left them much worse off than they would be under award conditions. Unfortunately, for those who have been doing the right thing, it appears that you will also have to pick up an extra administrative workload in entering into and reviewing annualised wage/salary arrangements if you are to be compliant with the relevant award. The Fair Work Commission recently decided to vary 21 Modern Awards to provide annualised wage provisions that will come into operation on 1 March 2020. These variations impose significantly increased obligations on employers entering into annualised wage arrangements with employees. The new award clauses provide that an employer can have an annualised wage arrangement with an employee on the following terms:

  1. The annualised wage can compensate for and set off specific award provisions namely minimum weekly wages, allowances, overtime penalty rates, weekend and other penalty rates and annual leave loading;
  2. There must be written advice to the employee of the annual wage arrangement
  3. The employer must maintain a record of the annualised wage that is payable, which provisions of the award will be satisfied by the annualised wage, how it has been calculated with details on each separate component and any assumptions on overtime or penalties that have been used in the calculations
  4. The outer limit number of ordinary hours which would attract the payment of a penalty rate under the award and the outer limit number of overtime hours which the employee may be required to work in a pay period or roster cycle without being entitled to an amount in excess of the annualised wage
  5. If in a pay period or roster cycle an employee works any hours in excess of those outer limit amounts, such hours will not be covered by the annualised wage and must separately be paid for in accordance with the applicable provisions of the award.
  6. The annualised wage must be no less than the amount the employee would have received under the award for the work performed over the year for which the wage is paid (or if the employment ceases earlier over such lesser period as has been worked)
  7. The employer must each 12 months from the commencement of the annualised wage arrangement or upon the termination of employment of the employee calculate the amount of remuneration that would have been payable to the employee under the provisions of the award over the relevant period and compare it to the amount of the annualised wage actually paid to the employee. Where the latter amount is less than the former amount, the employer shall pay the employee the amount of the shortfall within 14 days.
  8. The employer must keep a record of the starting and finishing times of work, and any unpaid breaks taken, of each employee subject to an annualised wage arrangement for the purpose of undertaking that comparison.  This record must be signed by the employee, or acknowledged as correct in writing (including by electronic means) by the employee, each pay period or roster cycle.

The affected awards are:

  • Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2010
  • Broadcasting and Recorded Entertainment Award 2010
  • Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010
  • Contract Call Centres Award 2010
  • Horticulture Award 2010
  • Hospitality Industry (General) Award*
  • Hydrocarbons Industry (Upstream) Award 2010
  • Legal Services Award 2010
  • Local Government Industry Award 2010
  • Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010
  • Marine Towage Award 2010*
  • Mining Industry Award 2010
  • Oil Refining and Manufacturing Award 2010
  • Pastoral Award 2010
  • Pharmacy Industry Award 2010
  • Rail Industry Award 2010
  • Restaurant Industry Award 2010*
  • Salt Industry Award 2010
  • Telecommunications Services Award 2010
  • Water Industry Award 2010
  • Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award 2010

Note: those awards with an * have industry specific provisions. Interestingly, the FWC decision also includes this statement: “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.” If the Fair Work Ombudsman comes calling, I wouldn’t be relying on that statement as a defence because, even if you use a common law contract, you still can’t pay someone less than they would get under all relevant award conditions. There is also now a reverse onus of proof on employers to prove that they have not underpaid a worker so you need the evidence (ie the records of hours worked etc) in any case. So what does that all mean if you use employment contracts in lieu of strictly applying the award? At a minimum, you should do three things:

  1. Review your employment contracts to ensure that they have appropriate provisions to deal with award setoff and compensation (and, if you don’t have formal tailored employment contracts/agreements, get them)
  2. Have a process for regularly (at least annually) verifying that annualised salary/wage arrangements are adequate to ensure that the employee is better off overall than under award conditions
  3. Have a process for monitoring and managing hours of work and rosters to ensure that employees do not get into a situation where (at any point in time) they are not better off overall than they would be under the award rates and conditions.

If you need advice or assistance with any of the above, please contact us [/av_textblock]

Refreshing Ridgeline HR

Refreshing Ridgeline HR

We have been around for nearly 20 years now and, in that time, we have served hundreds of clients across a wide range of industry, cultural, size and geographical settings. As with any business, to stay relevant and of value to our clients, we need to continuously test and refresh our offerings – always looking to be able to help in new and better ways. Over the past couple of years, we have been undertaking a deeper analysis of our strengths and how we can best leverage them to benefit both our business and those of our clients. We have done this in the context of the people and culture challenges that organisations large and small need to address in the modern world and how we can leverage both modern thinking on employee engagement and high performance on the one hand and HRM technological platforms on the other to better effect. That has led to a number of exciting initiatives that we have begun to roll out and which will come fully online in 2020. Our Better Workplace Projects Using best practice methodologies from around the world, we have put together an organisational improvement model that really works – because it is centred on and is delivered through “your most important asset”, your people.Our Practice Leader, Peter Maguire, designed the Better Workplace Projects to meet the need for Australian businesses to find better ways to lead and manage their people. Peter believes that a focus on strengths rather than risks and enabling employee engagement and wellbeing are the keys to making better workplaces where people and businesses flourish. Here is what an early adopting client, Heidi Tucker, CEO of Anchor, has to say: “Peter has introduced the organisation to a range of tools, frameworks and theories underpinned by positive psychology. These allow us to support our staff to be the best version of themselves at work. Anchor has invested in developing a Better Workplace team, a group of staff members representing all areas of the business, who act as our “employee voice”. I have found this “voice” so important because it guides myself and my senior leadership team in the right direction- where our staff want to go!!”  Our EngageMentality Coaching Programs Complementing our Better Workplace Projects, we have flipped the traditional performance management model on its head because it simply does not work. There are 4 basic tenets that underpin this model, namely:

  1. We look at the whole person through the lenses of role, relationships, values, strengths and wellbeing.
  2. We develop performance and development plans that are tailored to the individual in all 5 of these contexts.
  3. We regularly check in to see how it is going, to give credit for achievements and to tweak as necessary for areas requiring attention or things that have changed.
  4. The person responsible for my plan and my performance and development is me – my manager’s role is to coach me to help me to succeed against that plan.

Our technology solution – Employment Hero After extensive research, we have chosen and entered into a partnership with Employment Hero, a cloud-based HRM system that fully integrates with leading financial management systems such as Xero and MYOB and others. This provides a lot of functionality and economy to manage basic HRM tasks (like many other online systems do) but it also provides value adds in employee engagement, wellbeing and technological support for our coaching programs that other systems don’t have. It also helps us to automate process functions so that we can leverage our expertise more effectively where it should be directed – to helping you to improve your business and lead and manage your people better. That automation also helps you to focus on what really drives your business – your people. Our investment in facilities We have become a member of Waterman Business Centres giving us access to state of the art working, meeting and training/presentation facilities in three locations – at Caribbean Gardens, Chadstone and Narre Warren. So we now have much better capability to provide the right space for the service that you need at any given time. Our continued offerings Of course, we are not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. We are still providing the same old every day services that have got us to where we are now. That is the hands on help with understanding and meeting compliance requirements, writing documentation such as employment contracts and HRM policies and procedures, developing enterprise agreements, giving you a hand with staff communications and helping to resolve disagreements and to manage performance, conduct and disciplinary matters. With the range of initiatives that are outlined above, we have new and better ways of doing those things too. Our business is about “Helping PEOPLE in BUSINESS”. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we might be able to do that for you and/or your people by calling me on 0438 533 311 or email me at Peter Maguire Practice Leader Ridgeline HR In 2020, we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary and we will also be growing on the back of all of this refreshment of the Ridgeline HR brand and services. We are looking for people who can do that with us as independent contractors and consultants in both our employee engagement/better workplace services and in our Employment Hero/compliance services. Have a look at what we do and how we do it if this is of interest to you. Then, if you have something to offer us, please feel free to give me a call.  [/av_textblock]

Award modernisation – reimagined …….

In a recent post, I spoke about how the award modernisation has failed to deliver on one of its statutory objectives: “…a simple, easy to understand, stable and sustainable award system..”. I see three primary problems with the award system:

  1. Awards are too complicated and not easy to understand
  2. Because different awards apply to different occupations, employers can have to apply different conditions of employment to different categories of employees
  3. In some cases, award conditions are outdated or unfair

Within individual awards, the Fair Work Commission sensibly put in place phased adjustment of some conditions so as to get employees in an industry across the country on to a common set of conditions. They used annual wage reviews to cushion the impact on those whose entitlement was nominally reducing. They also did this with phased adjustments to penalty rates in some industries. What if they took this a step further and did it across all awards to provide one standard set of conditions for all award-covered workers? Perhaps we could have a system where the core conditions of employment for all workers in an enterprise are the same based on the industry that the business operates in rather than the occupation of the employee. Let’s take the case of an artwork manufacturer and wholesaler who has a designer covered by the Graphic Arts Award, a framer covered by the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award, a driver covered by the Road Transport and Distribution Award and an administrator covered by the Clerks – Private Sector Award. So there are 4 employees and 4 awards with different conditions of employment. So let’s reimagine the system to see what it might look like:

  1. We already have the 10 National Employment Standards that apply to everyone under the Fair Work Act
  2. We could then have National Award Standards that apply to every award covered employee and these could include:
    • ordinary hours of work
    • shiftwork and shift allowances
    • overtime hours and loadings
    • penalty rates on evenings, weekends and public holidays
    • common allowances such as first aid allowance, vehicle allowance, meal allowance, etc
    • annual leave loading
    • annual leave – advance, cashing in and direction to take and closedowns
    • termination of employment and redundancy
    • consultation arrangements
    • dispute resolution arrangements
    • individual flexibility agreements
    • other conditions that are common across awards
  3. Industry/occupational specific schedules of minimum rates of pay, allowances and special rates that are peculiar to the occupation or industry.

There would be some changes required to get all award employees on to the same conditions eg some awards have overtime at 1.5 times for the first 2 hours and some have it for the first 3 hours. Let’s just make it the first 2.5 hours and phase the changes in for everyone just as the Fair Work Commission did with penalty rates etc in some industries. The other alternative as noted above would be to designate one award for all employees in a business based on the primary activity of the business. The minimum rates for the occupation could be drawn from the relevant occupational award but otherwise conditions are common for all award covered employees in a business. There is some precedent in this regard. Before modern awards were introduced, the Transport Workers (Mixed Industries) Award allowed for drivers to pick up the conditions applying to most workers in the business. Either of the approaches noted above would massively simplify compliance for employers and provide fair and equal conditions for their employees. It just requires a bit of imagination and common sense plus the parties involved in the process having the will and the courage to change. [/av_textblock]

Are modern awards too complicated?

Are modern awards too complicated?

The award modernisation process provided a wonderful opportunity to really simplify workplace relations compliance and the abilities of both employers and employees to understand the rules of employment in Australia and in their industry and in their particular circumstances. It was successful in reducing thousands of federal and state awards to 122 modern awards which is great. However, it has done little to simplify the actual content of awards or to get consistency between different awards which could apply side by side in a business. In fact, the process has failed miserably in really “modernising” awards…….and, as for the 4 yearly review which commenced in 2013/14, the government amended the legislation to get rid of that requirement as the Fair Work Commission really couldn’t start the second one before they finished the first…….and the first one is still going. In the recent George Columbaris underpayment case, his supporters have blamed the complexity of the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 as a factor in non-compliance. That doesn’t hold any water in our view for a business of that size (especially as George has a long history of campaigning against penalty rates so he obviously knew about them) but there is no question that it is true in small businesses. Most people open a business with the best intentions and want to do the right thing. As their businesses grow, they need people and that’s when they are confronted by the complexities of our workplace relations system. We help them deal with these complexities every day and, even though we do (and are better at it than most), we are challenged from time to time in understanding just what an award clause really means. To illustrate the point of the complexity, let’s go a step beyond the restaurant industry into the construction industry which, by the way, is really important because of our reliance on infrastructure to drive the economy. Here is a little sample of what you’ll find in the Building and Construction Industry On-site Award 2010: That is just a snapshot but illustrates how ludicrous it is to expect a small business owner who knows excavators (not employment law) to comply. It also shows how patently unfair some of these conditions are. These are the issues that the award modernisation should be dealing with – simplification and fairness in a modern workplace. One of the objectives of modern awards prescribed in the Fair Work Act 2009 is “the need to ensure a simple, easy to understand, stable and sustainable modern award system for Australia that avoids unnecessary overlap of modern awards”. That unfortunately is not happening because the players are still living in the last century – we won’t get a different outcome using the same old tired IR process which created the award complexity problem in the first place…….and that is why the first four yearly review is still going with little to show in the way of “modernisation”. One option for businesses (employers and employees) who want to have something simpler, easier to understand and fitting with their workplace is to put in place an enterprise agreement. This is a complicated process but one that can be beneficial for all parties by doing at the enterprise level what award modernisation has failed to deliver. We can help you through the process. Next we will look at what the award modernisation process could deliver with just a bit of common sense. [/av_textblock]

Time to review that contract?

Time to review that contract?

Over the past couple of years, there have been lots of changes in employment conditions and related legislation, regulations and modern awards.

Do you have a regular review of your employment documentation to ensure that your employment contracts and HRM policies and procedures are consistent with current workplace relations requirements?

Can you demonstrate as an employer that you are responsibly exercising your duty to provide your people with compliant wages and conditions of employment?

Here are just some of the things that have come in over the past year and you need to cover off:

  • New leave to deal with family and domestic violence provisions in modern awards and National Employment Standards
  • New casual conversion provisions in modern awards
  • Variations to flexible working arrangement obligations in modern awards
  • Variations to penalty rates for evening and weekend work in modern awards in some industries
  • Variations to termination of employment provisions in many modern awards
  • A new Victorian Long Service Leave Act 2018 in November 2018 (and a new Long service Leave Benefits Portability Act 2018 taking effect for some industries in 2019)
  • Federal regulation on employment contract content required in casual employment to avoid double dipping on casual loadings and leave entitlements
  • Every year, there is an adjustment to the national minimum wage, award rates and various other benchmarks and a new Fair Work Information Statement is published.

In this area, we are “Helping PEOPLE in BUSINESS” by keeping abreast of these changes and reviewing employment contracts and HRM policies and procedures to address them.

If you need a hand, please feel free to give us a call on 0438 533 311 or email