January is a good time of year to ensure that your employment contracts and workplace policies are up to date, so that you can focus on growing your business. If you would like any of your employment documentation reviewed, or have any other questions then please contact Ryan Martin on 9215 7500.
There have also been some developments that may have an impact on your business coming into the new year and you should be aware of.
Modern Award Transitional Provisions
The transitional provisions in Fair Work Modern Awards have now come to an end. Some workers covered by a Modern Award may be entitled to additional allowances or increased minimum wage rates and other workers may no longer be eligible for certain entitlements.
If you are unsure of whether you are meeting your obligations under the Modern Awards or would like to discuss these changes further, please contact us.
Work Health and Safety Bill 2014
At the end of January the public comment period for the Work Health and Safety Bill will close, meaning WA could be one step closer to adopting the model workplace safety legislation that has been introduced in most other Australian states in an effort to harmonize these laws across the country.
We will keep you updated of these changes, but if you have any questions in the meantime, please let us know.
Anti Bullying Laws
In 2014 the anti-bullying legislation was introduced, which entitles workers who “reasonably believe” that they have been bullied at work to make an application for an order to stop bullying. While the first year of these laws being in place did not result in as many claims as expected by the Fair Work Commission, it is still important that you have up to date workplace policies that adequately deal with workplace bullying to help reduce the likelihood of a claim.
The Cost of Sexual Harassment
2014 also saw an increase in cases in which the Courts ordered employers to pay compensation to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
In the case of Richardson v Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd, the Federal Court ordered an increase in compensation payable to a worker who had been sexually harassed by a co-worker from $18,000 to $130,000.
In the NSW case of Trolan v WD Gelle Insurance and Finance Brokers Pty Ltd, the Court ordered the employer to pay $730,000 in damages to Ms Trolan, because the employer had failed to provide Ms Trolan with a safe place to work, to take reasonable steps to protect Ms Trolan’s wellbeing and had exposed Ms Trolan to the continued and repeated sexual harassment.
In another case, Ewin v Vergera the Federal Court ordered an employer to pay compensation of $476,000 for conduct that constituted sexual harassment, even though it did not take place in the employer’s premises. The Court extended the meaning of workplace to include places that are reasonably connected to a worker carrying out the duties of their employment.
With this in mind, it is important that you have up to date workplace policies and training that adequately deal with workplace harassment.
High Court rules there is no implied duty mutual trust and confidence
Another important decision in 2014 was the decision of Barker v Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where the High Court settled the matter on whether there was a duty of mutual trust and confidence implied into all contracts of employment. The High Court held that this was not the case, and that there is no implied duty of mutual trust and confidence between employers and their workers. Importantly, Mr Barker’s employment contract specified that the employer’s policies did not form a part of the employment contract and were instead directions of the employer. This distinction is important, and you should ensure that your employment contracts are up to date in accordance with this decision.
If you have any questions about any of this or would like your employment documents to be reviewed to ensure that they are up to date and compliant with the most recent legislative changes and court decisions, then please do not hesitate to contact Ryan Martin on 9215 7500 for a discussion.