No Comments

Warning! Casual Employee Entitled to Annual Leave

In a major decision, the Full Bench of the Federal Court has held that a worker expressly engaged as a casual was entitled to annual leave and other entitlements upon termination.

In our view, in doing so the Court has cast doubt on decades of accepted industrial practices and the decision threatens to undermine casual employment relationships around the country.

The Facts

In WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene:

  • the employee was employed by a labour-hire company in the mining industry as a dump-truck operator and the employment was governed by the WorkPac Pty Ltd Mining (Coal) Industry Workplace Agreement 2007 (Agreement)
  • although the letter of employment stated he was a casual, he was subject to a continuous 7 day ‘fly-in, fly-out’ pre-set roster arrangement, worked regular and systematic shifts, stayed in accommodation at/near the mine and was expected to attend each shift
  • an ‘all-in flat rate’ of pay was payable for each hour of work although WorkPac did not specify what entitlements this flat rate of pay purported to absorb
  • Continue reading…

No Comments

Bullying and Harassment Claims High in Local Government

Safe Work Australia have identified that local government employees are the third most represented group when it comes to compensation claims for Workplace Bullying and Harassment.

For the three years to 2016, approximately 190 local government employees received compensation for workplace bullying and harassment a year.

Bullying and harassment can take varying forms. It can be subtle or take the form of more overt behaviour.

What is Workplace Bullying and Harassment?

Bullying at work, as defined by the Fair Work Act 2009, occurs when:

  • a person or a group of people behaves unreasonably and repeatedly towards a worker or a group of workers while at work; and
  • the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

However, bullying does not include reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.

Wollondilly Shire Council

David Wilson aged 61 years, plant operator, took his own life the same day that he was informed that his most recent complaint was found to be unsubstantiated.
Continue reading…

No Comments

Employment Agreements

The Importance of Comprehensive Employment Agreements
Navigating Australia’s complex employment system can pose significant challenges for employers including when it comes to employment agreements.

Protect and Defend
The importance of comprehensive employment agreements cannot be overstated as they can:

  • afford an employer greater control and power over matters such as remuneration, duties, termination, confidential information, intellectual property and restrictive covenants
  • promote compliance and consistency with the Fair Work Act and relevant industrial laws and instruments
  • assist employees to minimise (and sometimes eliminate) a wide variety of claims including underpayment claims and breach of contract / constructive dismissal claims
  • assist employers to pursue claims for any loss suffered due to an employee breach of a confidentiality, intellectual property and/or restrictive covenant obligation

Depending upon the situation at hand, the costs of not having comprehensive employment agreements in place can be catastrophically high.

Essential Terms
Terms that should be contained in a comprehensive employment agreement include:

No Comments

Employment Law – WARNING! Inappropriate Christmas Party Behaviour

Employment Law – Christmas Party Behaviour

With the festive season upon us, a few timely reminders to avoid the celebratory hangover and deal with its effects should it arise. Although we wish all of our staff enjoy the end of year parties and behave themselves, alas this does not always occur.

Below we set out some of the key employment law matters an employer needs to bear in mind:

Do’s and Don’ts

  • do ensure you have suitable workplace policies in place including drug & alcohol policies, bullying, harassment and discrimination policies, WHS policies, grievance procedures and any other relevant codes of conduct
  • do remind and train staff including managers about your relevant workplace policies before the function and, for guidance purposes, give examples of behaviour that is and is not acceptable
  • do empower relevant managers to act if they observe any improper conduct during the course of the function
  • do check your insurance policies to ensure they cover the type of event being held
  • Continue reading…

No Comments

Employment Law – Bupa Criticised for Disciplinary Process

Employment Law – Background 

The Fair Work Commission has found that a vulnerable aged care worker was unfairly dismissed due to her employer, Bupa Aged Care, acted unconscionably. Bupa were criticized for their “unprofessional, discourteous and unfair” disciplinary process.

Employment Law – Facts 

In essence:

  • Shahin Tavassoli, a refugee from Iran with limited English skills, was employed by Bupa
  • On the weekend of 13-14 November 2016, a colleague secretly recorded her on his mobile singing “I can do anything better than you” following a heated exchange between a resident and a nurse and also allegedly laughing and joking at the death of two residents
  • A second video, recorded the following day, allegedly captured her sitting in the TV room ignoring resident’s buzzers
  • These videos were shown to David Brice, acting general manager of Bupa Mosman a Miriam Lyman, care manger
  • On 16 November, Tavassoli attended work training. However, at 2pm Brice escorted her from the premises, only telling her that there had been serious allegations made against her and he was waiting for more documentation in a few hours.
  • Continue reading…

No Comments

Employment Law – Dismissal for Drug Test Refusal Invalid

Employment Law – Background

The Fair Work Commission has held that a company who dismissed an employee for refusing to provide a blood sample for a drug test had no valid reason to do so.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • Green was employed by Lincon Hire & Sales as a work platform operator
  • On 1 March 2017, Lincon received anonymous information that the employee and others were using drugs
  • Lincon’s drug and alcohol policy allows random drug testing, and asserts that refusal to partake will be considered a positive test, allowing for potential disciplinary action, including dismissal
  • On 6 March 2017 all employees underwent a drug test. Green provided a negative sample. However, Lincon received further anonymous messages claiming that Green and others had used substitute samples
  • On 7 March 2017, Green was informed he had to undergo a blood test because the previous tests had been “fudged”
  • Employees, including Green, felt that a blood test was an invasion of privacy and Green offered to do a urine test instead
  • Continue reading…

No Comments

Employment Law – Employee Compensated After Award Obligations Ignored

Employment Law – Background

The Fair Work Commission has compensated an employee who was unfairly dismissed because her employer failed to comply with their consultation obligations under the relevant award.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • Carer’s that Care (CTC) terminated Ms Morris’ employment because it could not afford to pay her full-time wage after losing a significant number of clients
  • Ms Morris argued that she hadn’t received any warnings but was only told that CTC was shutting down and staff would be made redundant
  • She also argued that she was not provided with the opportunity to respond, because the managing director refused to have any discussions with Morris
  • Morris lodged an application for unfair dismissal

Employment Law – The Relevant Law

  • Section 389 of the Fair Work Act (‘The Act’) states that a genuine redundancy occurs when an employee’s position is no longer required and the employer has complied with any obligations under the modern award or enterprise agreement
  • Continue reading…

No Comments

Employment Law – Poor Response to Parental Leave

Employment Law – Background

A company was found to have taken adverse action against a pregnant employee and were ordered to pay $57,000 in compensation because they made her redundant just days before she took maternity leave.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • In 2015 the company decided to make several roles redundant as of November 12
  • However, they moved the redundancy date for a pregnant employee forward to two days before she took maternity leave
  • They believed moving the date was in her best interest
  • The employee claimed that she was dismissed because of her maternity leave

Employment Law – Decision

Judge Salvatore Vaster of the Federal Circuit Court:

  • found that the employer had taken adverse action against the employee
  • whilst noting the reasons for the redundancy were genuine, believed that moving the date of the employee’s redundancy amounted to changing her position to her prejudice, on the basis she did not have the chance to discuss the reasons for redundancy or contemplate other appropriate positions in the company
  • Continue reading…