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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Employment Law – Court Dismisses Employee’s Misleading Conduct Claim

Employment Law – Background

The Federal Court has rejected a high earning employee’s claim that her employer engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct when the media company told her that her new role would be “long-term”.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • Nunn Media dismissed their head of strategy during her probationary period, alleging she was often late and the quality of her work did not meet their standards
  • However, the employee claimed that Nunn Media had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct because when recruiting her they said if she was hired, it would be a “long-term” commitment
  • She claimed that she was dismissed because she made a complaint about a director’s work performance and took personal leave for illness
  • To support her claim she relied on an email from the managing director to another employee which said “WTF (what the f***) in response to the employee informing Nunn Media that she required time off to see a doctor.
  • Continue reading…

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Employment Law – Couple Working From Home Employees

Employment Law – Background

Putland v Royans Wagga Pty Limited is a clear example of sham contracting. In this case, the Federal Court of Australia decided that a husband and wife who performed largely home-based clerical work for one company were employees, not independent contractors.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • The couple were employed by a truck repair company, Royans Wagga Pty Ltd
  • The couple’s relationship with Royans began in 2005, when the wife worked in the business’ offices monitoring accidents
  • In 2008, the husband helped provide the 24 hour, 7 days a week ‘accident reporting service’ which was based either at their home or in a demountable shed on the business’ premises at various times
  • However in 2015, Royans outsourced the service to an independent call centre
  • Since 2007, any contract between the parties was described as “partly oral and partly in writing”. However, Royans argued that the couple had been independent contractors at all times
  • Continue reading…