Articles

Can employees be stood down in the event of an IT systems failure?

In June, the world’s largest meat producer, JBS Foods was targeted by a large scale cyberattack that caused it to suspend its operations across North American and Australia. While there was no official word from the company’s Australian division, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU) claimed that the producer had stood down approximately 10,000 workers without pay. The situation was eventually resolved when the company agreed to pay a ransom of AU$14.2 million. In statements to the media, the AMIEU noted that JBS had allowed full-time and part-time employees to access their leave entitlements over this period, however that…

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Director faces prison for workplace death

In a stark demonstration of the consequences of failing to properly meet work health and safety standards, a company director in Western Australia has become the first person to serve a prison sentence in consequence of a workplace death. Whilst terms of imprisonment are not new to work health and safety laws – being introduced in Western Australia in 2004 – it is still quite quite rare for a person to spend time behind bars for breaching safety laws. With the new offence of industrial manslaughter rising to prominence in some states and territories, the ruling serves as a timely…

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Changes to part-time employment in retail

In late June, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) determined to vary the General Retail Industry Award 2020 (Retail Award) to, in its words, “resolve uncertainty” in how part-time employment operated under that award. While the FWC’s determination does clarify some points, it proves to be something of a mixed bag when it comes to providing flexibility to employers in rostering part-time employees to best and practical effect. These changes came into effect from the first full pay period commencing on or after 1 July 2021.   The fundamental change – “guaranteed hours” Employers who engage part-time employees under the Retail…

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Understanding parental leave entitlements

By Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal Parental leave (sometimes referred to as maternity or paternity leave) is an entitlement that will be accessed by a significant number of Australians throughout their working lives. However, it is also one of the more complex parts of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act). There are potentially three components that make up an employee’s entitlement to take parental leave: the Fair Work Act; social security legislation; and any employment contracts or policies and procedures that provide a higher entitlement. In this article, we summarise when and how these entitlements operate, and the rights…

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Terminating casual employees: a euphemism-free zone

By Alex Millman and Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal Over the last few years casual employment has received significant attention, first because of two major court cases which challenged the notion of what it means to be a casual, and then because of Parliament’s efforts to mitigate the effect of these court cases on the status quo. These court cases, and indeed the legislation, emphasise that in order to be a casual employee, the employee must not have been promised ongoing work, and the employer is free to offer or not offer work at their discretion according to their need. Conversely,…

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Mental health and performance management: Achieving the right balance

By Andrew Piper and Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal Heath authorities have warned, and it is fast becoming clear, that the anxiety and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will have drastic consequences for the mental health of Australians. With the pandemic continuing to be a fact of life for at least the near future, it is anticipated that in the coming year, employers will see a higher than usual number of employees experiencing mental health issues. Employers have a valuable role to play in assisting their employees in the management of these issues. It should be clearly stated that a mental health…

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Understanding the differences between employees and independent contractors

By Calum Woods and Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal Over the past decade, the ‘gig economy’ has fundamentally reshaped large sections of the economy, from professional services to transport, postal and warehousing. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that as of August 2020, there were approximately 1.02 million independent contractors in Australia. While for many years the construction industry has held by far the largest utilisation of independent contractors, with 30 percent of all independent contractors engaged within the sector, it experienced negative growth between 2019 and 2020. While this was no doubt partly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and…

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Doctor, doctor: When and how employers can challenge medical evidence

By Alex Millman and Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal Employees with medical conditions can present unique challenges for employers. While businesses should, and often do, seek to provide equal opportunity for all, there are some cases where this is simply not possible. It is an unfortunate truth, however, that sometimes the provision of a medical certificate is seen as a “get out of jail free” card. This is something a human resources manager will be far too familiar with; the scenario of an employee who cannot attend a disciplinary meeting, or perform a specific unpleasant duty, because of an unspecified “medical…

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Due diligence for employee entitlements during sales of business

By Calum Woods and Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal When it comes to buying or selling a business, there is no shortage of matters requiring your attention. From negotiations about the purchase price or stock-in-trade, making and receiving representations, or understanding whether there are any hidden liabilities, all of these are essential components that make up a sale. However, one of the most commonly forgotten about considerations has to do with the entitlements of existing employees of the business. While it may be a condition of the sale that all existing employees, sometimes including the current owner, become employees of the…

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Storms on the horizon as unions threaten distribution and delivery

By Alex Millman, NRA Legal The union movement has put major retail brands on notice of supply chain disruptions as part of the wider effort to secure more advantageous working conditions for transport workers. In a speech to the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) National Council in Darwin last week, TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine warned of a “winter of discontent, followed by a spring offensive” against “retailers who think they can keep squeezing transport companies and their workforces.” Mr Kaine ended his address with the warning to retailers that “I am not threatening disruption. I am promising it.”   The…

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