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Compliance Alert: Modern Award Changes

September 19, 2017

 

Legislative reform puts you at risk

 

Honest, well-meaning Directors or Senior Executives can face the unwelcome surprise of penalties or legal expenses simply because they have been unaware of legislative changes affecting their workplace.

 

You are primarily responsible for the organisation’s obligations including employment, taxation and vast array of other legislation affecting your particular industry. Failing to meet your obligations at any point in time can potentially put you and the organisation at risk of criminal sanctions, civil sanctions, disqualification, penalties and other commercial consequences such as brand damage, additional legal expenses, investigation costs, and potentially personal liability etc.

 

Over the last twelve months there has been a number of high profile examples of organisations that have been charged by Fair Work for not meeting their employment obligations and have incurred extensive negative press, penalties and legal costs.

 

Your employment obligations can change whenever the government introduces a legislation reform.

 

Most recently, the Fair Work Commission issued a major decision on modern awards for casual and part time workers, allowing casuals to convert their employment to full/part time, within various restrictions. 1

 

Initially employers use casual staff to fill in for staff shortages. Over time, employers can fall into the trap where casual staff work regular and consistent hours over a long period of time and the employer is potentially expose to the risk that those casual staff could be classified as permanent part time. 

 

Other legislative reform examples to be aware of:

 

  • In 2014, new workplace bullying laws formed part of the Fair Work Act 2009.2 This Workplace Health and Safety reform directly places obligation and liability on the employer and directors can be held personally liable if they fail to provide a workplace free from bullying and harassment.
     

  • Did you know that the legislation requiring employers to create a safe workplace environment free from violence, discrimination and harassment now includes discrimination on the grounds of domestic and family violence? 3
     

  • In March 2017, the Government passed the Fair Work Act 2009 Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 20174, which will place significant additional responsibility on franchisors and group companies over the employment practices of their franchisees or subsidiaries. This will create a substantial increase in the maximum penalty for serious contraventions of the Act, up to $540,000 for a corporation and $108,000 for an individual.
     

  • In June 2017, the Fair Work Commission handed down:
     

- Its decision confirming that penalty rate reductions in the retail, hospitality, pharmacy and fast food sectors will be phased in over the next few years. In some cases, the full cut will not be implemented until 2020.
 

- Its annual wage review decision for 2017, which applies to all employees covered by modern awards and enterprise awards, as well as award-free employees. As a component of this, the Fair Work Commission has approved a 3.3% increase on minimum wages to $18.29 an hour. 5
 

Well performing organisations have an Enterprise Risk Management Framework. This involves making decisions and establishing governance systems that embed and support effective risk identification and mitigation, as well as building an organisational culture that supports alertness, openness and responsiveness to change.

 

WorkPlacePLUS offers a range of risk mitigation services to help ensure you are meeting your employment obligations. We provide HR audits, change management reviews, educational training programs, IR mediation and independent workplace investigations.

 

For more information, please contact us today.

 

WorkPlacePLUS is the “Preferred Human Resource and Employee Relations Provider” for Speech Pathology Australia and all of its members.

 

1. Casual workers win right to request permanent employment after 12 months under Fair Work ruling

2. Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) sections 789FA – 789FI 

3. The Australian Human Rights Commission recommended that federal anti-discrimination legislation and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) prohibit discrimination on the ground of domestic and family violence: Consolidation of Commonwealth Discrimination Law – domestic and family violence, (2012); Post Implementation Review of the Fair Work Act 2009 (2012)Australian Law Reform Commission: Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws: Employment and Superannuation (2011).

4. Fair Work Act 2009 Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017

5. 4 yearly review of modern awards / penalty rates decision

 

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