Employment law is frequently evolving, with changes in legislation reflecting a growing recognition of contemporary workplace issues.
Employers should understand their legal obligations when hiring and managing staff, and know when to seek professional advice when they are out of their depth with a workplace matter.
Employees confronting issues such as redundancy, termination or bullying will benefit from the guidance of an experienced lawyer to explain and protect their legal rights during this vulnerable time.
We represent employers and employees across a range of workplace matters, navigating the legal issues and moving towards workable solutions.
When hiring staff, a written contract is essential to set out the terms of employment, remuneration and entitlements, and to provide clarity regarding the rights and responsibilities of each party. Terms and working conditions must comply with legislation, the National Employment Standards, and any relevant awards.
Typical provisions of an employment contract include:
- commencement date, duration (if for a fixed term), days and hours of work;
- duties and accountabilities including reporting lines;
- remuneration and overtime arrangements;
- leave entitlements and superannuation;
- probation periods and disciplinary procedures;
- termination and notice requirements;
- performance appraisals and wage reviews;
- reimbursement for travel and other expenses;
- ongoing training and professional development;
- codes of conduct, complaints and dispute resolution procedures (which may be further detailed in relevant policies);
- restraint of trade and confidentiality provisions to protect against the potential misuse of valuable assets such as client contacts and intellectual property;
- confirmation of the legislation governing the employment relationship.
Whether you are an employer or employee, a well-drafted contract helps place the parties on the same page from the beginning, fostering certainty and transparency throughout the relationship.
Managing employment relations
Employment relations concerns the management of an entity’s human resources and the many issues and events that may affect the employer / employee relationship and the workplace. The general law implies certain terms into this relationship, and legislation sets out various statutory rights which must be taken into consideration at all phases of the employment cycle.
Discrimination, harassment and bullying can have a devastating impact, not only on an employee who falls victim to such behaviour, but the workplace in general. Employers must ensure that they understand the types of conduct (whether intentional or otherwise) that may leave them open to potential proceedings at the Fair Work Commission.
When terminating an employee, employers must act in a fair and appropriate manner to avoid a potential unfair dismissal claim. A dismissal may be deemed unfair if it was:
- harsh, unjust or unreasonable;
- inconsistent with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code;
- not a genuine redundancy.
Alternatively, an employee may make a claim based on adverse action under the general protection provisions of the Fair Work Act. These provisions prohibit the termination of employment on grounds of temporary absences related to illness or injury, union membership, making a complaint or participating in an inquiry or legal proceedings, or absences during parental leave.
Each case is unique and employees who feel they have been treated unfairly in the workplace should obtain appropriate advice.
Taking proactive steps to prevent and manage potential workplace issues by implementing good policies and procedures is essential to reduce the risk of disputes and to help everybody in the workplace understand their rights and obligations.
Policies that address work health and safety issues such as bullying and harassment may also be invaluable in showing that an employer has attempted to instil the required conduct for employees within a workplace.
Policies can address practical matters such as uniforms and leave requests, as well as potential workplace issues such as discrimination, bullying, drugs and alcohol use, email and internet usage.
Policies should be supported by systematic and fair processes and brought to the attention of each employee – by providing a written or electronic copy, explaining key points of each policy and obtaining an employee’s signed acknowledgement of the existence and terms of the policy.
We represent employers and employees across a range of workplace issues, from drafting and negotiating employment contracts, assisting businesses to understand and comply with their workplace obligations, to representing workers and employers at the Fair Work Commission.