BlandsLaw - Blog posts from Industrial Relations
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Circumstances may arise in which the employment of your employees need to be terminated. Termination attracts various legal obligations of which employers ought to be mindful in order to avoid or minimise litigious repercussions.

From 1 July next year, the Federal Government's changes to the Work Choices unfair dismissal laws will take effect, which will in turn alter the current legislative termination landscape.

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With a few busy months ahead for many businesses holding work social functions and Christmas parties, it is a good time to consider the issues around drugs and alcohol in the workplace. From a legal risk management perspective, best business practice around these issues involves the implementation of workplace policies that cover not only drugs and alcohol, but also performance management, occupational health and safety, discrimination and termination. It may be useful at this time of year to remind employees what policies are in place and when these apply.

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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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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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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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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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Andrew Bland with Peter Switzer on Sky Business News discussing the industrial relations impact of the Qantas dispute.


Andrew

Andrew Bland with Peter Switzer on Sky Business discussing Qantas dispute

 

Don’t Discount Redeployment Options to a Junior Role When Making Employees Redundant

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) ("the Act") provides guidelines and provisions on the process of dismissing an employee, and in what circumstances a dismissal may be consider unfair. Under the Act, an employer will be exempt from an unfair dismissal remedy if the dismissal is made by way of a redundancy. However, the redundancy must be one that is considered genuine. At s389 of the Act, a person’s dismissal is not classed as a genuine redundancy if "it would have been reasonable in all the circumstance for the person to be redeployed within (a) the employer’s enterprise; or (b) the enterprise of an associated entity of the employer".

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Recently, there have been a few articles in the national news covering the issue of employees who have been sacked via text message. As an employment law firm, we have also witnessed the use of email and other electronic means to terminate employees.

In the recent text message case, Fair Work Australia (FWA) had to decide whether an employee was unfairly dismissed when a retail shop owner, Ms Sarkis of Modestie Boutique in Liverpool , summarily dismissed her employee, Sedina Sokolovic by sending her a text message which read:

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

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During times of low unemployment, and critical shortages of workers in some industries, it is not uncommon for employers to find themselves in the situation where they are selling themselves and their business, to potential employees. Likewise for recruiters, who will work hard to secure the best candidates for their clients, and in doing so will be making certain representations to those candidates about the overall performance and potential of the company.

Many employers and recruiters may find themselves in a situation where they and other business are vying for the services of a particular individual. In many of these instances, it is not just the salary that a potential employee is concerned with, but other less measurable factors such as career prospects, company growth and gaining increased credibility and exposure in their particular fields. The summary of a court ruling below illustrates the importance of taking care when making representations about these particular issues, to potential employees.

In the recent case of Moss v Lowe Hunt & Partners[2010]

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