FWC rules that dismissal for refusing mandated vaccination is fair

FWC rules that dismissal for refusing mandated vaccination is fair

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FWC rules that dismissal for refusing mandated vaccination is fair

covid vaccine injection

At a time when businesses are grappling with what they can do with employees who refuse vaccinations that are mandated by public health orders, a majority decision of a full bench of the Fair Work Commission has provided some relief.

That decision upheld the dismissal of an employee by Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care for refusing to have a flu shot that was mandated by a public health order.

The employee claimed that she had a medical exemption but that did not stand up to scrutiny because the medical certificate was issued by a doctor who did not examine her and relied on her advice to him that she had had a previous reaction to a vaccination. On the other hand, the employer relied on the advice of the Chief Health Officer and public documents which indicated that adverse effects of flu vaccinations are rare and the fact that she might have had a reaction to a vaccine in the past did not mean that she should not have the flu vaccination.

In the original decision earlier this year, the FWC ruled that the employee could not perform the inherent requirements of her job without a flu shot.

The Full bench was considering her application to appeal which they rejected as they found that she didn’t have a valid medical exemption.

Clearly, this tells us that, subject to going through due process, if there is a public health order requiring vaccination of employees as a condition of working in the particular industry setting and an employee does not get vaccinated and does not have a valid medical exemption, the employee’s services can be terminated due to their inability to meet the inherent requirements of the job.

This obviously has ramifications for the construction industry in Victoria where workers are not permitted on construction sites without having at least the first COVID vaccination or providing a valid medical exemption.

We are hearing numerous reports from our clients about employees who are hesitant or refusing to get vaccinated and do not have any basis for a medical exemption.

Most employers we speak to tell us that they don’t want to sack anyone for not getting the jab but they might reluctantly be forced to do that with any employee who chooses not to be vaccinated. Many of these employers are small businesses often in regional communities where relationships go beyond just the workplace and so this is quite a stressful situation for employer and all of their employees.

If you need assistance in dealing with a situation such as this, give me a call on 0438 533 311 – your first consultation is free.

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
Abn : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

PARTNER LINKS

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

Dealing with the construction industry lockdown and vaccinations

Dealing with the construction industry lockdown and vaccinations

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Dealing with the construction industry lockdown and vaccinations

lockdown vaccination

Construction businesses are being called on by the Victorian Government to lift their game in assuring compliance with COVID safety requirements.

The Government has advised that nearly 50% of construction sites inspected were not compliant and that around 150 construction sites had become contact sites.

Initially, the directive was that all construction workers had to get a first jab of COVID vaccination if they were going to be permitted to work on a construction site.

Then, on last Monday following violent demonstrations, the Government decided to lock down the industry for 2 weeks.

What does this mean for construction employers?

If there is no other work available for construction employees, they would then be stood down without pay for the two week lockdown. People will be able to return to work on Tuesday 5 October 2021 provided they have provided their employer with proof that they either:

  • Have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination, or
  • Have medical exemption issued by an authorised medical practitioner.

Employers must verify what each employee’s situation is in relation to vaccination and must maintain records of vaccinations and exemptions.

If an employee does not provide the required evidence or just refuses to get vaccinated, the employer must not allow them to return to work and so that again means that the employee would be stood down without pay until such time as the employee produces the evidence required or the vaccination mandate directive is lifted (which is not likely to happen soon).

You should ensure that stand down directions with reasons are provided in writing to each employee that is being stood down.

We are assisting many construction employers in dealing with this issue by providing advice and drafting communications and notices for them.

If you need assistance, call us on 0438 533 311 or email enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au.

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
Abn : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

PARTNER LINKS

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

Why was lockdown engaging?

Why was lockdown engaging?

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Why was lockdown engaging?

 As we continue the progression back to the new normal (whatever that might look like), one of the interesting things that many businesses and studies are reporting is that employee engagement levels have actually increased during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Why would that be the case?

Are there lessons that we can take from this?

Let’s explore why that might have happened.

 The Lucky Ones

There are people who have continued to work pretty well in line with their contracted hours of work albeit perhaps in a different setting (eg at home) or with modifications within their workplace. They would be grateful that they have had the good fortune to get through this difficult period largely unscathed especially when they look at others who have been locked down for months.

 A taste of flexible working

Of course, there are people who have enjoyed the flexibilities that go with working from home and the saving of time on the commute to work. For many, time is the most precious of commodities and they would see significant silver linings in the clouds of COVID-19.

There are lots of stories about people getting better balance in life during the last year and a balance that they want to retain.

Doing things differently

We also know that there are those who haven’t enjoyed the physical isolation but have learned new ways to be connected eg with various virtual teleconferencing platforms.

Learning and experiencing new ways of doing things have their own rewards and have opened up new possibilities with work that people value.

So all of the above are things which have contributed to employees feeling more engaged with their workplaces/employers.

We think there is another that is really important to recognise.

Loss of the physical and visual comfort zone

When people are in the office, we can see them and have intended or incidental face to face interactions which give us a sense of comfort that we are in control and things are OK with them.

For many managers, this is very much a case of all is OK in the world as long as people have their heads down and bums up and unless someone puts their hand up to say otherwise.

So what happens when that comfort zone is stripped away ie people are working from home so we can’t see them and we can’t just walk over and talk to them?

For many managers, that means that “I have to have check-ins with people to keep on top of things and ensure that the work is getting done, our customers are being satisfied and I am meeting my responsibilities as a manager.” 

If you are in that space, you have probably had more conversations/1-on-1s with each of your people during lockdown and guess what? Because of that, people can feel more connected and more valued and more engaged.

Smart businesses will explore with their people what lessons you can take from the lockdown experience that will make a positive difference to your “new normal workplace”.

We know that regular, positive and constructive conversations with people make that difference regardless of the setting in which they work. 

If you would like to learn how to do that, we would love to help you.

 Give our Practice Leader, Peter Maguire a call on 0438 533 311 to book a free consultation!

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
Abn : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

PARTNER LINKS

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

Heads up on award wage increases – round 3

Heads up on award wage increases – round 3

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Heads up on award wage increases – round 3

When the Fair Work Commission handed down last year’s annual wage review decision it divided awards into 3 groups based on the level of impact that COVID-19 had had on the particular industry. Some had the 1.75% increase applied from 1 July 2020, some from 1 November 2020 and those worst affected now have their turn from 1 February 2021. These are in the main awards that apply in the hospitality, entertainment, tourism and retail sectors.

The relevant awards are:

 Air Pilots Award 2020
 Aircraft Cabin Crew Award 2020
 Airline Operations-Ground Staff Award 2020
 Airport Employees Award 2020
 Alpine Resorts Award 2020
 Amusement, Events and Recreation Award 2020
 Commercial Sales Award 2020
 Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award 2020
 Fast Food Industry Award 2010
 Fitness Industry Award 2010
 General Retail Industry Award 2010
 Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010
 Horse and Greyhound Training Award 2020
 Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2020
 Live Performance Award 2010
 Mannequins and Models Award 2020
 Marine Tourism and Charter Vessels Award 2020
 Nursery Award 2020
 Professional Diving Industry (Recreational) Award 2020
 Racing Clubs Events Award 2010
 Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award 2020
 Registered and Licensed Clubs Award 2010
 Restaurant Industry Award 2020
 Sporting Organisations Award 2020
 Travelling Shows Award 2020
 Vehicle Repair, Services and Retail Award 2020
 Wine Industry Award 2010

For employers, the different scenarios that can apply are:

1. If you have employees who are covered by a modern award and you otherwise apply all of the terms and conditions of the award, you must ensure that employees are paid at least the award rate for their classification as adjusted for this decision.

2. If you have employees who are award free and not covered by an enterprise agreement, you must ensure that they are paid at least the National Minimum Wage as adjusted for this decision.

3. If you have employees who are covered by an award and you pay them on an annualized wage basis or on a salary or all purpose rate which sets off certain monetary employment conditions such as annual leave loading, overtime and shift loadings, penalty payments and allowances, you need to recalculate the rate of pay to ensure that the employee remains better off overall against award entitlements and comply with any award provisions that might apply to annualized wage arrangement.

4. If you have employees who are covered by an enterprise agreement which provides for annual adjustment of wages in line with Annual wage Review decisions of the Fair Work Commission, you need to adjust wages by 1.75% from the operative date for the relevant award.

5. If you have employees who are covered by an enterprise agreement but the agreement does not provide for annual adjustment as per 4., you need to ensure that wages paid are at least equal to those applying to the underpinning modern awards or the National Minimum Wage as applicable from the relevant operative date.

6. You need also to have regard to any provisions in employment contracts which might provide an obligation to pass on any increases separate from or additional to any of the above scenarios.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has a Pay Calculator Tool on its website and also publishes Pay Guides for each award – these provide detailed advice on ordinary time and overtime and penalty rates for each classification in the relevant award. You can access these resources at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/minimum-wages/pay-guides.

If you need assistance in understanding and applying the effects of this decision in your business, we are happy to assist.

To can take advantage of our free first consultation – contact us on 0438533311 or at https://ridgelinehr.com.au/contact-us/

 

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
Abn : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

PARTNER LINKS

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

So what now in 2021?

So what now in 2021?

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So what now in 2021?

Did you stay up on New Year’s Eve just to make sure that 2020 left?

It was a hell of a year, wasn’t it?

So what does 2021 hold for us?

Compliance is the first priority

If you haven’t made sure that you are compliant with Fair Work and all of those employment laws and regulations, get compliant!

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s 2019/20 Annual Report tells us that they: 

  • Recovered $123,461,548 in underpaid wages and entitlements for 25,583 workers
  • Resolved 22,000 workplace disputes between workers and businesses
  • Had 21.8 million visits to its website
  • Answered 422,455 calls

So the odds are that, if you aren’t doing the right thing or you are not able to show your people that you are (even if you think you are), you might get that call.

There are big fines and the Fair Work Ombudsman does publicly report stuff and you don’t want that. Check it out at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/default.

Sorry…. but that compliance stuff is ramping up

Last year, the Victorian Government passed legislation making wage theft a criminal offence (that takes effect from no later than 1 July this year) and the federal government has also introduced a bill that would make wage theft a criminal offence. 

Businesses and organisations are now being held to account to make sure that their contractors and supply chains are compliant with workplace laws….and that contractors are really bona fide independent contractors.

If you happen to be in the construction industry and work on major civil projects or otherwise supply to government, a finding of non-compliance could result in disqualification and really hurt your business.  

Added to all of that, if you are in Victoria and you use labour hire, you must ensure that the firm you are using is a registered labour hire provider or run the risk of prosecution for using an unregistered provider. Find out more at https://labourhireauthority.vic.gov.au/host/.

COVID has changed the rules and the expectations

We all have to have COVID safe workplace plans and to ensure that everyone understands and complies with the rules for your workplace.

Then there are the people who have been working from home. Some will have enjoyed that and want to do more of it even as the restrictions relax. Then again, some are delighted to be getting back to the old workplace.

The important things here are to work out what can work in balance for your business and your people and respect the fact that one size does not fit all. So sit down and have a chat with each of them individually and work out what works best for both of you. 

Positive leadership is more important than ever

In ordinary times, the way that you lead your people is a major factor in their wellbeing and performance and, guess what……really critical for your wellbeing and performance too.

So when we have been through what we have over the past year and with what we have ahead of us, this quality of leadership is even more important.

Science tells us that having a positive leadership mindset and a positive workplace culture centred on gratitude can make remarkable differences to organisational performance and the happiness and wellbeing of your people.

We use a platform called ShareTree to support that culture and encourage other businesses to have a look at this. See www.sharetree.org.

About us

Ridgeline HR is a boutique People and Culture consulting practice based in Croydon.

We have been Helping PEOPLE in BUSINESS with PEOPLE BUSINESS like all of this stuff since 2000.

We offer a free first consultation if you have a HR issue that you need some advice on.

We are happy to come to you or shout you a cuppa over a chat at a local café.

If you would like to take up that offer, call us on 0438 533 311 or email enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
Abn : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

PARTNER LINKS

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

Our 4R Recovery Roadmap

Our 4R Recovery Roadmap

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Our 4R Recovery Roadmap

Relating, reflecting, recalibrating and reconditioning

In Melbourne, as we have been emerging gradually from lockdown and business activity
picks up again, there is a need to have a think about what the COVID-19 situation has meant
for our own business and people and what that means for our people strategies going
forward.

In doing that, it is important not to take a “one size fits all approach” because there are so
many differences in the needs of our people, their respective experiences during the
pandemic and their preferred way of working.

Some had to work from home, some had to go to work and some had no work at all.

Some had to home school, some suffered from social disconnection and loneliness and
many had challenges with maintaining physical fitness and/or mental health.

For some, having tasted it, working from home will have its attractions and for others, the
opposite will be true and the social environment of the office will be the clear preference.

Many will want a bit of both and this hybrid model of working is one that will become very
common in the years ahead.

Some will decide that they want to do something different altogether from what they have
done professionally for many years while some will be happy just to be back doing what
they know and are comfortable with.

So how do you work all of that out and come up with a reasonable approach for your
business and your people? We suggest the following 4 steps.

Relating

Talk to your people and ask them where they are at.

What do they each (individually) want their personal future work situation to look like – the
job that they will do and when, where and how they will do it.

By all means, talk about what might be possible in the context of business needs but don’t
make promises that you can’t keep and don’t discard ideas without really giving them
proper consideration.

That is just really about having a genuine and respectful and open conversation.

Reflecting

Take some time to have a think about what each of your people has said about their
experiences and their preferences going forward.

There could be genuine opportunities that could present in honestly thinking about
different ways of doing things and providing flexible or remote working opportunities.

Are there things that have worked OK or perhaps even better during lockdown?

How can you structure things in ways that are going to work better for the business and
your people?

Recalibrating

The recalibration is about resetting the work experience for people based on what has been
learned from the pandemic situation in the context of the needs of your business and your
people.

The first part of that recalibration is getting your COVID-19 safe workplace plan in place and
ensuring that everyone understands it, is equipped to play their part and does so.

How do you embed the use of technology ongoing where that has reaped benefits during
lockdown and offers opportunities for the future?

Many businesses are reporting higher levels of employee satisfaction with the support they
received from their managers – probably because the need for timely communication
became a priority and more communication activity occurred as a result. Put simply, more
conversations occurred.

How can you maintain a culture of continuous conversations and coaching that will
engender greater employee wellbeing, engagement and higher performance.

Reconditioning

As with any process of change, people take time to adapt.

Many people who have been without work or working from home for months on end will
take time to adjust back to the routine of coming to work.

People need reconditioning – physically, socially, with their use of time and with personal
and family commitments. As noted above, some will want to make adjustments to their
working arrangements to get better balance in their lives.

There are also those who are still concerned about the COVID-19 threat and who therefore
may be reluctant to return to the normal workplace. Education on how you will keep people
safe at work (ie your COVID-19 safe workplace plan) will help this situation.

Then of course there is yourself. What are you doing to ensure your own wellbeing and the
optimal performance of your business for yourself, your family and your people?

If you need any help in answering that question, please feel free to give us a call for a free
consultation.

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
Abn : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

Peter Maguire : 0438 533 311

PARTNER LINKS

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH