First-quarter employment law tune-up

The end of the first calendar quarter for the year is fast approaching, and this is a great time to think about improving your employment processes and procedures.  To get you started, these are our favourite employment law ‘nuts and bolts’ that may need some tightening.

Tailor your Employment Contracts to your workplace

Business owners often use a standard employment contract that is altered slightly from employee to employee.  This can sometimes work if the contract was properly drafted in the first place.  However, where it falls over is if you need something more comprehensive, or that reflects specific industry quirks or a particular role within your organisation.  Your employment contract needs to be relevant to your workplace, the laws that apply to it and any Awards that your employees are entitled to.

A standard employment contract is also only useful if it is kept up-to-date.  The law in this area changes frequently, so it is important to review your contracts to make sure they comply with current law and practices.  If it is more than 3 years old, the odds are that it is not up to scratch.  We recommend having your contracts reviewed by a lawyer to capture any changes, (of course we do!).

Update your Job Descriptions to get leverage in your employee management processes

The job description you started with when you first hired someone is unlikely to stay the same as their role progresses.  Yet few business owners take the time to sit down with their employees and review their job descriptions on at least an annual basis.  That is fine when things are peachy, but it makes it next to impossible to performance-manage a trouble employee.

The start of a new year is a great time to sit down with each of your employees and update their job descriptions with current duties and expectations. This helps to eliminate any tension between your expectations of the employee and their understanding of the role. If you are not on the same page, it gives you an opportunity to correct things before mistakes are made or resentment sets in.

Tune up your Workplace Policies

In our view, policies are the hardest-working documents in a workplace. They enable you to communicate your expectations of your employees’ behaviour, performance and attitude. Better yet, they provide flexibility because they can be updated or amended as needed, unlike an employment contract. We categorise policies into two main types: compliance and cultural.

Compliance policies are those that cover off on duties that are imposed by law. This includes bullying and harassment, work health and safety, and privacy obligations. These policies should be reviewed regularly to ensure they reflect any changes in law or industry standards.

Cultural policies are those that record procedures or patterns of behaviour that set your business apart. To prepare a cultural policy, you need to ask yourself ‘What makes us better than our competitors at doing X?”. ‘X’ might be almost anything – responding to customers, producing work product, hosting events, etc. You then need to put pen to paper to record how you do that task so well. Identify the behaviours that make that task successful, and then compile those behaviours into a system of undertaking that task. The system then becomes the policy, to ensure that those successful behaviours are adopted by the whole team, all the time.

The new year is also a great time to consider whether you need to implement any new policies. Have you introduced any new technology or procedures recently? Or is there any new legislation or industry standards that need to be communicated to staff? Any significant changes require a corresponding policy, otherwise you have no recorded expectations against which you can hold your staff accountable.

Consider putting Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFA) to work

An Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) is a document that enables you to agree with an employee to override certain terms of their Award to give them a better remuneration package. Typically, the Award terms that can be varied are those relating to allowances, overtime and penalty rates. For example, you can agree to pay your employee a higher salary in lieu of overtime and penalty rates.

Any changes to the Award made through your IFA must result in your employee being ‘better off overall’. The IFA should state what terms of the Award are being overridden, and how that change results in your employee being better off overall.

Most IFAs are used to introduce a higher flat rate of pay for employees in lieu of all the various Award entitlements.  This is appealing because it streamlines the administrative work required to ensure the employees’ entitlements are being met. IFAs can also help attract and keep good employees, because they provide a tailored offer which represents a better deal than the law requires.

Getting started

Setting clear expectations for your employees is necessary to maintain a strong business and a consistent brand. This is a perfect time of year to make sure your staffing arrangements are in tip-top shape.

Call us today on 1300 654 590 to get started.

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