Mitigating Industrial Relations risks

There is a growing trend of managers and directors being targeted and prosecuted by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Recent cases have resulted in fines and penalties being imposed against the individuals who run the company as well as the companies they run.

Gone are the days that you can assume your Human Resources department has it covered. As a Director you are now personally well and truly on the hook. It is critical you understand your obligations.

As Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director, Michael Campbell says in a media release:

"We will not hesitate to pursue individual directors in cases where they are centrally involved in denying workers their entitlements...”

This is a clear warning to employers.

The combination of the Employer’s obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009, the Modern Awards, the National Employment Standards and now the recent changes and introduction to the WHS Laws in January 2012 all make it very confusing for employers.

The simplification of the employment laws with changes introduced on 1 July 2009 mean all businesses are now obligated to comply with the National Employment Standards which consist of 10 minimum employee entitlements which each bring to light a number of concerns for employers:

  1. Maximum weekly hours – what are reasonable additional hours?
  2. Flexible working arrangements – what is a reasonable ground to refuse an employee?
  3. Parental Leave – what is your policy?
  4. Annual Leave – when can an employee cash out?
  5. Personal/Carers Leave and Compassionate Leave – what is compassionate leave?
  6. Community Service Leave – can my employees take unlimited unpaid leave to volunteer?
  7. Long Service Leave – transitional arrangements in place – what are they?
  8. Public Holidays – can I request my employee to work on a public holiday?
  9. Notice of Termination and Redundancy Pay – Small business are exempt?
  10. Fair Work Information Statement – Serious penalties for non-compliance?

There are 122 modern awards designed to replace thousands of State based awards to ensure a safety net exists around workers. However, deciding which Award to apply for each employee can be a challenging decision for many employers.

Also with the recent introduction of a harmonised system of Occupational Health and Safety Laws on 1 January 2012, which imposes a firm duty upon “Officers” of the business, the environment for employers and Company officers just became more challenging.

Research and the increase in the number of fines and prosecutions by the Fair Work Ombudsman show us that many small and medium businesses have not adopted the changes in the law and are simply putting it in the “too hard basket.” Many employers fall into the trap of thinking because they are paying at “above” award rates, then they are in the clear with these laws.

To help you navigate the Industrial Relations maze, Azure Group is holding a breakfast seminar on Thursday, 29 March.

Our guest speaker will be Jason Donnelly from National Workplace Lawyers taking you through the recent WHS changes. Azure Group’s own Michael Derin will talk about how you can mitigate your IR risk and minimise liability to company directors.

The seminar is free when you bring along a friend.

RSVP to the event here

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About Author

Kelly Morgan
Kelly Morgan

Kelly Morgan has over 25 years experience as a Chartered Accountant and is a Senior Client Partner at Azure Group heading up our Business Accounting and Accounting & Assurance divisions. Kelly is passionate about working with business owners. By working closely with her clients, Kelly helps them to maximise the opportunities in their business and assist them to achieve their goals.

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