From 1 January 2010, all private sector employers and employees have been covered by the national workplace relations system administered by the federal government.
All existing awards (both federal and state) have been streamlined into around 120 modern awards.
There are 10 new National Employment Standards (NES).
Since the 1st January, 2010 these standards have applied to all businesses and all employees regardless of whether they were previously covered by a federal award or a NSW state award.
The 10 National Employment Standards are:
More information about the NES is available at Fair Work Online.
Agreements set out the conditions of employment between an employee or group of employees and their employer.From 1 January 2010, only "enterprise agreements" can be made between employees and employers.
Other types of agreements made previously under the Workplace Relations Act 2006 cover the conditions of individual employees, or a group of employees. These include:
Those agreements made prior to 1 January 2010 will continue on until they are terminated or replaced.
Only some of the entitlements under the National Employment Standards apply to casual employees.
In addition, casual employees who have been employed for at least 12 months by an employer on a regular and systematic basis and with an expectation of ongoing employment are entitled to:
There are laws to protect discrimination in the workplace against people because of their sex, marital status, age, disabilities or race.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory organisation that works to protect and promote the human rights of all people in Australia. They can assist you to resolve issues involving discrimination in the workplace.
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An independent contractor works under a contract for a specific job or length of time. For example, a plumber is hired to fix a leak.
Unlike an employee, an independent contractor generally doesn't work regularly for an employer, and can choose whether or not to do a particular job they're offered.
The Fair Work Act 2009 contains penalties for what it describes as "sham arrangements" where an employee is incorrectly treated as an independent contractor. If your business receives services on a regular basis from independent contractors, it is important to ensure that your understanding of their legal status is correct.
Courts will consider a range of factors in determining whether a worker is an employee or a contractor, including:
The distinction is complicated, and you should obtain legal advice before making any decisions about independent contractors.
Read more about Contractors at Fair Work Online - Contractors and their different legal rights and obligations at .
It is important for businesses to be clear about whether their relationship with their workers is as an employer or as a contractor.
If you are unclear, then you should seek legal advice.
Although you are referred to as a 'casual' employee, it is possible that, in fact, you are not. Generally speaking, this may be the case if you are getting regular work and the understanding between you and your employer is that the work will continue.
The rights of casual employees are different to those of permanent ones. If you think you are classified incorrectly by your employer, you should obtain legal advice or ring Fair Work Online on 13 13 94..
Workplace bullying is a current concern for employers and employees alike; nobody wants workplace bullying to exist within their place of work. There is information out there to assist all involved. The Australian Human Rights Commission website has a fact sheet that defines workplace bullying and mechanisms for dealing with it when it occurs:
Similarly, the SafeWork SA web site provides significant guidance to both employers and employees:
Safework SA's checklist to stop the workplace bully:
While an employment contract should set out the legal entitlements and obligations of the employer and the employee, the purpose of employment policies and procedures is to guide the parties in their day to day interactions.
Where an employment contract would ordinarily cover an employee's entitlement to annual leave, the policies would ordinarily deal with the process for making a leave application.
While the needs of different organisations vary, all organisations should have policies or procedures in relation to occupational health and safety, bullying, equal opportunity and sexual harassment, and policies in relation to leave applications.
When drafting policies, it is important to avoid using "promissory" or contractual language (i.e. "Leave applications will be approved as long as they are made four weeks in advance of the date of the leave"). Recent cases have indicated that terms of policies which appear to be contractual in nature can be enforced as contractual terms. It is preferable to ensure that the employer retains discretion (i.e., "Leave applications which are made four weeks in advance of the date of the leave may be approved, subject to the requirements of the business").
When an employee's performance becomes an issue for an employer, it is important that it is managed fairly and reasonably. A failure to do so on the part of the employer could give rise to claims of bullying, as well as a potential unfair dismissal. When considering whether to dismiss an employee for poor performance, there are a number of factors which need to be taken into consideration:
Poor performance is rarely a grounds for summary dismissal, so you should provide an employee with notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice.
Disciplinary action may be necessary where an employee's behaviour or conduct in the workplace is inappropriate. Examples of when disciplinary action may arise include:
Disciplinary action can involve informal discussions, formal warnings, and may result in the termination of employment. The key questions to consider are as follows:
Where an employee has engaged in serious or wilful misconduct, or has engaged in conduct which causes a risk to the health and safety of a person or the reputation, viability or profitability of the employer's business, it may be appropriate to terminate the employment summarily. However, it is always best to obtain legal advice before summarily dismissing an employee, as this often gives rise to litigation.
A person has been unfairly dismissed if Fair Work Commission finds that:
A small business is a business that employs less than 15 full-time equivalent employees. Casual employees are included in the head count if they are employed on a regular basis. Related business entities are counted as one business.
An employee must have worked for a small business continuously for one year before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal.
Employees in businesses with more than 15 staff must have been continuously employed for six months before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal.
When Fair Work Commission is considering whether treatment is harsh, unjust and unreasonable it looks to see if :
Further information is available from the.
If you are unsure as to whether you have been unfairly dismissed or not, it is best to obtain legal advice or to speak to Fair Work Online - Homepage
Claims for unfair dismissal must be lodged within 14 days of dismissal. Fair Work Commission may allow extra time in exceptional circumstances.
Employers of all classifications are subject to legislation governing discrimination and sexual harassment (called unlawful termination).
There are a number of legal risks which can arise if an employer wishes to terminate the employment of an employee who is absent due to illness or injury.
If the reason for the termination relates to the injury, or the period of absence from work, the termination could constitute a breach of the Fair Work Act 2009, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and/or the Equal Opportunity Act 1985.
If the reason for the termination relates to the employee's performance, the employer must consider the extent to which the performance is affected by the injury or illness in making its decision. It may be lawful to terminate if it is not possible for the employee to perform the reasonable requirements of the position.
If the termination arises from a redundancy, the employer may need to be able to demonstrate that the criteria for selecting employees for redundancy were not biased against employees with injuries.
If the injury occurred in the workplace and is the subject of a claim for workers compensation the employer may also have obligations under those laws and should not terminate the employee without first checking their obligations under those laws..
These risks need to be considered before any decision is made in relation to terminating the employment of an employee who is absent due to illness or injury.
Paid Parental Leave scheme is administered by the Family Assistance Office.
This deals with your entitlement to be paid during parental leave.
Whether or not you are entitled to parenting leave and for how long is a separate issue.
Fair Work - Parental leave explains what you are entitled to and what you must do. This usually includes giving at least 10 weeks notice of your start and end dates.