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The recent Fair Work Commission decision in Mr Georg Thomas v InfoTrak Pty Ltd T/A InfoTrak [2013] FWC 1134 highlights the importance for  employers of considering both the substance and the process surrounding redundancy.

In this case, Mr Thomas, an Operations Manager of an IT company, brought an unfair dismissal case alleging that his redundancy was not ‘genuine’ because his employer had not discussed it with him or considered him for alternative positions.

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The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recently commended McDonald’s Australia for conducting a self- audit on its employees’ wages and other entitlements, leading to improved workplace relations for the 90,000-strong restaurant chain.

McDonald’s had agreed to participate in the self-audit following an unsuccessful attempt to have an enterprise agreement approved by Fair Work Australia. Although the enterprise agreement was approved on appeal, McDonald’s agreed to enter into a Deed to achieve two compliance activities:

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We live in a country that unfortunately experiences catastrophic bushfires, flooding, cyclones and other similarly damaging natural events. If your business  is negatively impacted by a natural disaster, what are your obligations towards your employees during this difficult time? We briefly consider three scenarios affecting the employment relationship in the event of such a disaster.

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Harmonisation background

In late 2012 an Exposure Draft of proposed new federal anti-discrimination legislation was released by the government. The draft bill seeks to harmonise federal anti-discrimination legislation. Currently there are multiple different federal Acts[1] each of which deals with a different ground of discrimination. The proposal seeks to consolidate all these into one piece of legislation which will cover all the different grounds within one standard legal framework.

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A recent tribunal decision in Queensland highlights how important it is for employers to understand the dos and don’ts of performance management. In Ram v Yes Distribution Pty Ltd and Anor[1], the employer, an Optus reseller, required a sales employee to move to their Townsville store when forced to close their Cairns store for business reasons. The catch, however, was that during discussions with the employee about this relocation the employer chose to raise performance issues as part of the discussion. The employee subsequently claimed that she had been discriminated against on the basis of family responsibilities and that her family commitments prevented her making the move from Cairns to Townsville.

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It’s mid February already. If you’re a small to medium business owner you may be finalising your business plan for the year ahead – or perhaps your team has its head down, on the way to achieving its goals for this quarter. Managing your business’ performance effectively entails managing your employees’ performance effectively. An annual performance appraisal is an integral part of this process but should not be the only time that there is feedback between the employer and the employee.

Regular performance reviews enable you to: 

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The Federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment has released its findings on bullying in the workplace. The report, entitled Workplace Bullying: We just want it to stop was tabled on Monday 26 November 2012 and provides 23 recommendations to create a harmonised set of minimum standards and guidelines for the management of bullying in workplaces.

A nation-wide definition of workplace bullying

The Committee recommends the establishment of a national advisory service to offer advice and guidelines to both employers and employees on what does and does not constitute workplace bullying.  To this end it recommends the adoption of a nationally consistent definition of bullying and what constitutes bullying behavior:

“Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.”

This contrasts with the current situation where there is no express prohibition on workplace bullying in any Australian laws, and with different definitions of bullying and no real guidelines in State and Territory legislation. Add

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 Andrew Bland on Switzer's Business program: Linfox, social media and unfair dismissal

Hear Andrew Bland of BlandsLaw discussing with Peter Switzer the recent Linfox v Stutsel case: the Linfox employee who successfully claimed unfair dismissal after his employment was terminated, because he made inappropriate remarks about his managers on Facebook. He was found to be unfairly dismissed by Fair Work Australia because, among other things, he had inadequate knowledge of Facebook, and his employer didn't have an adequate social media policy.

Four important changes to unfair dismissal laws: how they impact you

In October, the Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced that parliament will implement numerous important changes to the Fair Work Act this year, following an independent review of the Act in June 2012. Chief among these changes are those concerning complaints brought about by employees upon termination of their employment. Here is a summary of the four key changes that we believe will impact positively on businesses and workplace relations.

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Employers beware: Be clear – and legal – when dismissing an employee

If you are a business owner or HR practitioner, consider this fraught scenario: an employee is dismissed after refusing to agree to changes in his employment terms and conditions, and threatening to involve a union – leading to a claim of adverse action against the company. The employer claims the person was terminated for causing a workplace accident, but did not state this reason in his letter of termination. The result: reinstatement of the employee until his case of adverse action against the company is determined.

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SOCIAL media might be the "biggest gift" for any small business but be warned there are strings attached.

Experts have warned that, without proper training, it can do more harm than good.  And while some businesses bury their head in the sand, there is little escape.

 

BlandsLaw "has been able to mix it with heavyweight firms" thanks to its focus on the evolving social media platforms.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/news/be-socially-aware-in-business/story-fnejnq06-1226499402893#ixzz2A5M8sFhe

 

Do You Need a Mobile Devices Policy?

Smartphones have become a ubiquitous sight in public and in the workplace. IPads and tablets are similarly common now in the office. These are all examples of mobile devices, and more companies are making these devices available to their employees and allowing remote access to system servers.  Increasingly, employees have devices of their own, and expect to be able to use them at work.  Most agree that these mobile devices are an indispensable tool, and many argue that they could not imagine working or running a business without them. But few people – and perhaps fewer employers –realise  the potential hazard they hold in their hands.

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Performance Reviews- A Guide for Employers

 

The procedural fairness requirements of the Fair Work Act, 2009, together with recent decisions of Fair Work Australia (FWA), impose on employers an obligation to act carefully and consistently when managing and disciplining employees. This article addresses some practical strategies for effective performance management in the workplace.

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Drug Testing in the Workplace - FWA Full Bench Declares HOW it Can be Done

Recent Fair Work Australia determinations have reiterated that even compulsory testing is a reasonable employer instruction in response to the risks to employee safety posed by drug and alcohol use. However the tribunal has taken a balanced approach in upholding a FWA decision which prohibited urine testing on employees on the basis that it was “unjust and unreasonable”. The tribunal stated that urine testing would potentially detect drugs taken days earlier or over a weekend and this would not be a reasonable indicator of whether the employee was unfit for work on the day of testing.

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Employee or Independent Contractor? It's Not the Title That Counts

The recent case of Kuat Chee v Renown Business Solutions Pty Ltd [2012] FWA 5137 (9 July 2012)  addressed the difficult topic of when a contractor is truly a contractor, and when they are properly classified as an employee.

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Minimum Wage Review 2012

Fair Work Australia’s minimum wage panel released its 2012 Annual Minimum Wage Decision on Friday, 1 June 2012. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, the Minimum Wage Panel of Fair Work Australia must conduct an annual wage review in each financial year.

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When is Restraint Unreasonable?

Recently the Federal Court considered a case in which an Australia-wide 2 year restraint period for a former director and founder of an HR outsourcing business was upheld and considered to be reasonable in the circumstances.

The case reinforces the importance of employers including well-drafted restraint clauses in their employment contracts to protect their business in the event that an employee with important company or business knowledge and contacts is not able to unfairly compete with the employer when leaving the company.

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