If you’re a small business owner, a good team is possibly your biggest asset, but it can be tricky to stay abreast of the rules around employing staff.
These rules changed again recently, following the passing of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022.
So, what’s new, and how could it affect your business?
For starters, employees’ right to request flexible work arrangements has been strengthened.
That puts the onus on business owners to try to accommodate them, offer other reasonable alternatives or demonstrate why requests aren’t possible, according to McCabes Lawyers Principal Tim McDonald.
“If there’s no agreement, the employer can be taken to the Fair Work Commission, and it can make a ruling as to whether it’s reasonable for the employer to agree to those requests,” McDonald says.
“Business owners may need to consider how they’ll handle any conflict that may arise should an employee learn they’re being paid less than a co-worker in a similar role”
Keeping it quiet
Requiring employees to keep their remuneration details confidential – a common provision in employment contracts historically – is no longer permissible.
Revised pay secrecy provisions mean it’s now up to the individual employee to decide whether they want to share.
As well as updating employment policies and contracts to reflect the change, business owners may need to consider how they’ll handle any conflict that may arise should an employee learn they’re being paid less than a co-worker in a similar role.
“That could be an issue in a small business if you’ve got people on different remuneration, and it’s made known to other employees,” McDonald says.
Strengthened sexual discrimination and harassment legislation
While sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace were already unlawful, employers will now have to take more proactive measures to prevent and eliminate it.
“On a day-to-day basis, it’s going to have to be treated more like occupational health and safety,” McDonald explains.
“In the same way employers have to think about the health and safety risks that ensue when people are put in certain situations, they’ll have to consider what risk there might be of sexual harassment, on a work trip or at an industry function, for example.”
Fixed-term contract restrictions
Repeatedly employing individuals on fixed-term contracts, in lieu of offering them permanent work has also been outlawed. Under the new provisions, it’s ‘one and done’.
“For some small businesses, taking on a permanent employee can sometimes be a big commitment, and they’ve been more comfortable maintaining fixed term arrangements which don’t carry an ongoing obligation,” McDonald notes.
“But the government’s view was that it was unfair that employees had no remedy, if successive fixed terms contracts were brought to an end, so those circumstances have been restricted.”
Seeking professional advice
The Secure Jobs, Better Pay amendment represents the biggest change to employment law since the introduction of the Fair Work Act, and there’s a lot that business owners need to be across.
Human resources management is one of the most complex aspects of owning a business and the cost of getting it wrong can have monumental financial implications for business owners, notes Jess Gleeson, Strategy and Compliance Manager at HR consultancy Now Actually.
Taking advice can help ensure you don’t inadvertently fall foul of the new provisions.
“Determining what needs to be done can feel overwhelming, but you don’t need to do it alone – there are professionals who can assist you,” Gleeson says.
Cover for employment-related claims
Ensuring you’re compliant with legislation and have appropriate insurance in place will help protect your enterprise.
Employment practices liability cover can help mitigate the risk of employee claims related to discrimination, unfair dismissal and harassment. To discuss your cover needs, contact your broker today.
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