Annual Wage Review decision is in

Annual Wage Review decision is in

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Annual Wage Review decision is in

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The Fair Work Commission’s Expert Panel has handed down this year’s Annual Wage Review decision which will see the federal minimum wage and award rates increase by 3.75% from 1 July 2024.  

The decision notes that impending tax cuts and the increase in the superannuation guarantee charge were moderating factors but also acknowledged that:  “Modern award minimum wages remain, in real terms, lower than they were five years ago, notwithstanding last year’s increase of 5.75 per cent, and employee households reliant on award wages are undergoing financial stress as a result.”

Balancing that, the decision also noted that: we consider that it is not appropriate at this time to increase award wages by any amount significantly above the inflation rate, principally because labour productivity is no higher than it was four years ago and productivity growth has only recently returned to positive territory”.

More to come?

For some industries – those which predominantly employ women – there will be more to come.

We have already had significant wage increases of up to 28% in aged care and there is currently a review being undertaken in relation to nurses and midwives.

In today’s decision, there is a commitment to doing more in this space as per the following statement:

“Modern awards and classifications applicable to early childhood education and care workers, disability home care workers and other social and community services workers, dental assistants, medical technicians, psychologists, other health professionals and pharmacists will be the subject of Commission-initiated proceedings to examine and address gender undervaluation. These proceedings will commence shortly after the issue of this decision and we intend that they will be completed by the time of next year’s Review, which will then move on to the consideration of other gender undervaluation issues.”

So, if you are an employer in any of those industries, you can expect that there will be further “work value” wage decisions in the year ahead.

What do you need to do?

You need to review all employees’ wages to verify that they remain above award when the minimum and award wage increases take effect on 1 July 2024.

If employees are paid sufficiently above award, the increases can be fully absorbed against over-award payments unless there is an enterprise agreement or employment contract that says otherwise.

If you are paying people on an annualised salary or a flat weekly wage, you need to review that to verify that, when you take into account all of the payments that would apply to an employee under the relevant award and based on the hours that they work, the employee is still better off overall on the salary of wage than they would be under award conditions.

Some awards have specific rules ion annualising wages or default provisions which [provide for a certain margin above award offsetting other award conditions. Check the relevant award for your workers to see if any of these apply. 

Don’t forget that the superannuation guarantee charge is increasing by another 0.5% from 1 July 2024 taking it to 11.5% of ordinary time earnings.

Finally, it always an opportune time to review your employment contracts when these annual wage reviews occur. That is even more true this year with all of the changes to the Fair Work Act and modern awards that have been occurring of late.

We can assist you in all of these areas.

If you would like to learn more about ways that we can do this, please call us on 1300 108 488 or email us at 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

1300 108 488

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Closing loopholes – casual employment

Closing loopholes – casual employment

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Closing loopholes – casual employment

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The Courts and Government have been jumping from one definition or interpretation of what casual employment is to another and then another over recent years and that is happening again under the Albanese Government’s Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Act 2023.  Is it just the pendulum swinging back as happens on a change of government or is it more than that?  

S15A(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 currently provides that an employee is a casual employee if the employer offers employment on the basis that “there is no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work for the person” and the person accepts the offer on that basis and becomes an employee as a result of that.

So the emphasis is on what is in the contract regardless of how the arrangement really works in practice.

Under the changes being introduced, the concept that a casual employee is one who has no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work remains but the emphasis shifts to the practical reality of the relationship rather than just what is written in the contract.

The question of whether there is a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work will be determined by a number of questions:

  • whether the employer can choose to offer (or not offer) work to the employee and wether the employee can choose to accept or reject an offer of work
  • whether continuing work is reasonably likely to be available given the nature of the business
  • whether part-time or full-time employees are undertaking similar roles in the workplace
  • whether the employee has a regular pattern of work..We know that the vast majority of business owners try to do the right thing and want to be compliant with their obligations. 

Casual conversion

The ability for casual employees who serve a minimum period of engagement with a regular and systematic pattern of hours of work has been a feature of awards for decades and has been legislated for a few years now. So it isn’t a new concept.

Under the new rules, a casual employee of a small business employer (ie one with less than 15 employee) will be able to apply for conversion to full-time or part-time employment after 12 months service if they believe that they no longer fit the definition of a casual employee. For employees of larger employees, that opportunity comes after 6 months’ service.

The employer will have to respond to any such request within 21 days and, if the employer refuses the request, the employee can make application to the Fair Work Commission for mediation, conciliation or arbitration of the matter as a dispute.

The employer will have to comply with whatever agreement is reached or decision is made in those proceedings.

Employees are under no obligation to convert – they have the option of remaining a casual employee if that is their preference.

There are transitional arrangements whereby the current rules on casual conversion will continue after 26 August 2024 in respect of existing casual employees for a period of 6 months in the case of employers with 15 or more employees or 12 months for employers with less than 15 employees.

Casual Employment Information Statement

All casual employees must be provided with the revised Casual Employment Information Statement on or before commencement or as soon as possible thereafter.

Additionally, under the new rules, they will also have to be provided with it again:

  •  in the case of a small business, after 12 months of employment
  •  in the case of a large business, after 6 months, 12 months and annually thereafter

When is this all happening?

These changes take effect from 26 August 2024.

What do you need to do?

If you employ casual employees, review your current working arrangements eg how long they have been working with you, what their patterns of hours of work are and whether there is a commitment to ongoing employment on a regular basis (whether or not that commitment is in writing).

Secondly, review your employment contracts or letters of offer to ensure that they are consistent with the new definition and rules on casual employment.

Thirdly, ensure that you obtain the new Casual Employment Information Statement when it becomes available and read it to ensure that you understand it.

Fourthly, get prepared to have conversations with your casual employees about their status against the revised definition and rules and to deal with any likely request for conversion.

We can assist you in all of these areas.

If you would like to learn more about ways that we can do this, please call us on 1300 108 488 or email us at 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

1300 108 488

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New webinar series on HR compliance for small businesses

New webinar series on HR compliance for small businesses

Latest News & Events

New webinar series on HR compliance for small businesses

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From next month, we will be running free monthly webinars specifically designed to assist small to medium businesses in understanding their legal obligations as employers and to provide them with guidance on how to manage those obligations in practice. We are doing this because we are going through the biggest period of change in employment laws, modern awards and compliance requirements ever and that is further complicating what is already an extremely complex obligation for business owners and employers . There are seven sessions running from May to November.

The first of these webinars (on Tuesday 21 May 2024 from 10.30 to 11.15) is about all of the changes that are happening in the Fair Work Act, modern awards and other legislation….there are around 70 changes over a period of 3 years. See our video with the timeline on all of these changes: https://ridgelinehr.com.au/navigating-the-biggest-era-of-change-in-hr-ever/

Unfortunately, there is a lot of noise out there about changes that have little if any impact and lack of clarity about the ones that do. We’ll cut through the noise and tell you what matters and what you should do about it. Book in for free at https://www.trybooking.com/CQQHD or via the QR code in the image.

The subsequent webinars are:

  • Episode #2: Tuesday 18 June 2024: Understanding the Fair Work system and the players
  • Episode #3: Tuesday 16 July 2024: What do these new positive duties mean for SMBs?
  • Episode #4: Tuesday 20 August 2024: What are National Employment Standards? 
  • Episode #5: Tuesday 17 September 2024: What are modern awards and how do they work?
  • Episode #6: Tuesday 15 October 2024: What are psychosocial hazards and how to deal with them?
  • Episode #7: Tuesday 19 November 2024: Preventing sexual harassment and gender-based behaviours

If you have any questions that you need answered urgently, please contact us on 1300 108 488 or at 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

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

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Award review on “work and care” underway

Award review on “work and care” underway

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Award review on “work and care” underway

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Yesterday, the Fair Work Commission commenced its new “Work and Care” Review of Modern Awards which, on face value, could bring about the most substantial and biggest range of changes to our modern awards for decades.

When modern awards were created back in 2009, they were essentially a merger and rationalisation of thousands of pre-existing Federal, State and Enterprise-based awards leading to the 121 modern awards that we have today. 

This “Work and Care” Review has its origins in a Senate Inquiry into Work and Care established in 2022 which led to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations instructing the President of the Fair Work Commission to initiate the review.

The Fair Work Commission has issued a discussion paper has been issued which sets out the terms and process of the review and addresses relevant recommendations made by the Senate Committee and some other matters. It also has a comprehensive set of questions on the variety of matters to be considered in the review. You can access the report here.

The Senate Committee’s recommendations

Here is summary of the relevant recommendations of the Senate Committee as presented in the FWC discussion paper which shows how far reaching changes could be:

  • An enacted right to “disconnect from work” enabling and supporting productive work from home and flexibility of work, protecting workers’ rights to disconnect from their job outside their contracted hours, reinforcing that right with employers and applying a positive duty on employers to reasonably accommodate the right wherever possible;
  • Amending the Fair Work Act to provide improved rostering rights for employees and, in particular, working carers, by requiring employers to implement rostering practices that are predictable, stable and focused on fixed shift scheduling (eg fixed times and days) and increasing employers’ existing obligations to genuinely consider employee views including working carers on the effects of roster changes andS  other work arrangements;
  • Conducting a work value case in care sectors including early childhood education, aged and disability care and sectors covered by the SCHADS Award with a rage of entitlements specifically mentioned eg payment for work-related travel time, administrative responsibilities and essential training and a minimum shift call-in time;
  • Extending the definition of “immediate family” for carer’s leave purposes to include any person who has been a member of the employee’s household for at least 18 months, an employee’s children including adopted, step and ex-nuptial children, an employee’s siblings or the siblings of an employee’s spouse or de facto partner or any other person significant to the employee to whom the employee provides care;
  • Consideration be given to the adequacy of existing leave arrangements including separate carer’s leave and annual leave;
  • Reviewing access to and compensation for paid sick leave and annual leave for casual and part-time workers;
  • Requiring employers to provide at least two weeks notice of roster changes, to genuinely consider employees’ view on the impact of roster changes and to accommodate the needs of employees plus an employee “right to say no” to extra hours with protection from negative consequences;
  • Reviewing the operation of the 38 hours week with consideration of stronger penalties for long hours and other possible ways to reduce them including through the work health and safety system to ensure safe working hours;
  • Introducing an enforceable “right to disconnect from work, restricting employers from communicating with workers outside their contracted hours except for emergency or welfare reasons plus increase penalties for wage theft for unpaid additional hours;
  • Introducing mandatory annual reporting of companies with 20,000 or more employees in Australia on workplace practices to ensure roster justice and flexible working arrangements and related collection of data on requests for flexible working arrangements made and shift roster changes;
  • Developing a new statutory definition of casual employment that is restricted to work that is genuinely intermittent, seasonal or unpredictable and restricting the use of “low base” contracts, ensuring part-time employees have access to regular and predictable patterns and hours of work with consideration of penalty rates for work outside contracted hours;
  • Developing standard definitions of full-time and part-time employment for inclusion in the Fair Work Act 2009;
  • Undertaking a review of standard working hours with a view to reducing the standard working week.

Please remember that these are just recommendations which are to be considered in the review being undertaken by the Fair Work Commission. Some of the items require legislative change and that would be up to the federal government to negotiate through Parliament. So it will be a while before we know exactly what any award or legislative changes that flow from the Senate Inquiry will look like in real terms.

What this all means

The last year and a bit have delivered far more change in workplace relations law and employment rules via legislation, modern award reviews and decisions made by the Fair Work Commission and the Courts than we have seen in years.

This review tells us that we can expect more of the same in the years ahead.

The other element here is the WHS one that is noted in relation to extended working hours but equally links the positive duty to eliminate or control psychosocial hazards, many of which can be connected to some of the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry – eg around remote work, organisational justice, reward and recognition, etc.

The positive duties are really just being ruled out across the country via State and Territory legislation

For this reason, it is important to consider the agenda here in that broader context and the smartest way to do that is to consider whether any of the issues raised here are demonstrative of an issue in your workplace and the need for you to do something about that.

Conversely, have a think about whether you already accommodate some of the items raised here or perhaps you could actually do so. Remember that the Fair Work Act and modern awards provide minimum standards and there is nothing that should stop you from considering what you might be able to offer more than those in any way.

Given the challenges that we have in both accessing the talent we need for our businesses and looking after our own and our employees’ wellbeing, anything you can do over and above those minimum standards helps you on both counts.

You could also consider negotiating an enterprise agreement with your employees delivering on some of those above award benefits and using that was a public validation of your commitment to your people/your Employer Value Proposition.

We will monitor developments in the review and communicate further as and when developments occur.

If there is anything here that resonates with you and you would like to explore further, give us a call on 1300 108 488 or email enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au. We would love to have a chat about it.

 

 

 

 

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

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“Same job same pay” has limited impact

“Same job same pay” has limited impact

Latest News & Events

“Same job same pay” has limited impact

example flexible working arrangement

The “Same job same pay” amendment to the Fair Work Act that is publicised as affording a labour hire worker the same pay as a worker directly hired by the host business is in but how extensive will the impact be.

Despite the very loud public outcries from some business organisations that this will be disastrous for business and reduce flexibility and productivity, the reality is that most organisations will not feel any impact at all.  

Like many of the Albanese Government’s workplace relations reforms, they are designed to redress perceived imbalances in certain situations and sometimes they are limited to particular industry sectors.

What does the legislative change mean? 

Applications can be made to the Fair Work Commission for a Regulated Labour Hire Arrangement Order through which the FWC can direct that an enterprise agreement applying to the host business in relation to its direct employees can be extended to also cover labour hire workers doing the same work as that  covered by that enterprise agreement.

In essence it means that the Fair Work Commission can order a labour hire firm to pay its employees the same monetary entitlements that apply under an enterprise agreement to workers employed by the host organisation (ie the business that the labour hire firm provides labour hire workers to). 

So it follows that your business will not be directly affected by this change if:

  • if you don’t have an enterprise agreement and/or
  • if you don’t use labour hire in your business and/or
  • if yours is not a labour hire business and/or
  • for other than labour hire businesses, if you are a small business employer with 15 or less employees.

There is quite a bit of detail on exemptions and rules and we don’t propose to go into that here. What we mainly want you to know is that this legislative change will have little if any impact on most organisations.

Plus,  because these Regulated Labour Hire Arrangement Orders cannot legally take effect until 1 November 2024, there is also plenty of time for the few really affected organisations to adjust to this new regime.

If you are using labour hire or are providing workers to perform work for another business and you want to check on your situation re this legislative change, give us a call on 1300 108 488. 

 

 

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

New rules for fixed term contracts

New rules for fixed term contracts

Latest News & Events

New rules for fixed term contracts

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Do you utilise fixed term contracts in your business?

If so, you will need to comply with new controls on fixed term contracts that the Federal Government has legislated under the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022.

The changes take effect from 6 December 2023.

Limits on fixed term contracts 

The legislative change limits the use of fixed term contracts for the same role to a maximum of  two years (including renewals) or two consecutive contracts – whichever is shorter.

So, for example, if an employee has two back-to-back fixed term contracts of 6 months each, the maximum engagement on fixed term contracts would be 12 months because there are two contracts and the aggregate period is less than 2 years.

On the other hand, if an employee had two back-to-back contracts of 18 months each, the maximum period of engagement would be 2 years.

Once an employee continues in employment beyond the available limit on fixed term contracts, they will be deemed to be a permanent employee.

The new rules will only apply to new contracts entered into on or after 6 December 2023 but any pre-exisiting fixed term contract will count for the purposes of assessing whether there have been more than two contracts.

Exceptions

There are a range of exceptions that allow fixed term contracts beyond these limits and these include:

  • performing a discrete task for a fixed period,
  •  apprentices and trainees,
  • undertaking essential work during a peak demand period (such as a harvest),
  • temporarily replacing another employee on long leave (such as parental or workers compensation leave), or
  • where the employee has a remuneration level above the high income threshold ($167,500 from 1 July 2023).

Any such exceptions will have to be genuinely necessary and appropriate for the particular circumstances.

Exemptions also apply where fixed term contracts are permitted by an applicable modern award, and the Minister can make regulations to exempt certain types of contracts, for example toaddress sector specific arrangements.

Dispute resolution

Where employees and employers have a dispute about a fixed term contract that cannot be resolved at the workplace level, the Fair Work Commission is empowered to resolve them via conciliation, mediation or consent arbitration. In addition, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and Magistrates Courts can deal with disputes under the small claims procedure.

Fixed Term Contract Information Statement

Employers are required to provide a Fixed Term Contract Information Statement (the Statement) to all employees entering a fixed term contract. The Statement will be developed by the Fair Work Ombudsman and will set out details on the fixed term contract limitations, exceptions and the dispute resolution procedure. 

Conclusion

If you use fixed term or maximum term contracts in your business, you need to review those against the new rules and ensure that your policies and processes and contracts comply with the new legislative requirements.

If you are going to continue using fixed term contracts, you need to ensure that your processes include provision of the Fixed Term Contract Information Statement to be produced by the Fair Work Ombudsman. 

Need help?

  • Give us a call on 1300 108 488 to arrange your free first consultation to see how we can help with advice and support on this or any other HR matter

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH