For many managers and business owners, one scary part of having employees is the mountains of laws that relate to them. No matter where you are, the principles are similar – protect your people from harm (health and safety laws), and treat them fairly (employment and anti-discrimination laws).
Because the specific details can change from year-to-year, we won’t put each individual law under the microscope, but we will try to help you navigate the basic principles of the laws and how to make sure they work for you.
Employment law in Australia can be complicated. There is legislation, then industrial instruments like Enterprise Agreements, plus Awards and, not to forget, contracts of employment – all which may apply to any one employee at once. The first thing you need to understand is how they interact with each other.
Industrial Relations Legislation
These are the basic set of entitlements for all employees, without exception. You can’t get out of these entitlements – you must provide these standards as a minimum for your people, at all times. This is the law (the thing that the Government can and does change when power changes). Industrial Relations legislation includes items such as minimum entitlements for annual leave, sick leave, maximum hours of work per week, and redundancy, to name a few.
These are specific terms and conditions that apply to employees in a specific industry or role. For example – individuals who work in an administrative role may be covered by a Clerical Award. But it’s not always that simple. One business may employ administration staff, plus mechanics, plus engineers. Separate Awards cover these roles. It’s important to check if there is a relevant Award for each of your people, as you are required to meet the obligations of these as a minimum, on top of the legislation.
These Agreements are negotiated with your employees directly (collectively, not individually), and can determine terms and conditions above and beyond the legislative and Award conditions. Enterprise Agreements sit on top of the legislation and relevant Award, and are not exclusive of those obligations – they must be equal or better for the employee than the Award and legislation. It is important to note that Enterprise Agreements are not an automatic requirement – many workplaces don’t have them. However, if you are eligible to negotiate an Enterprise Agreement and your employees request one, you must negotiate it.
If your workplace has an Enterprise Agreement, they do allow some flexibility for employers (and employees alike). Enterprise Agreements allow you to contract out of some Award entitlements, but you need to be across the intricacies of the legislation to ensure you are allowed to do what you want to do.
It can be tricky, but knowing the laws well and how to work them for you can save money and time in the long run. And, importantly, give you more flexibility with your employees.
When negotiating Enterprise Agreements, give HR Gurus a call on 1300 959 560 and we can provide you with a number of options to get the best outcome for you – whether it is formal training, ongoing coaching, or leading the negotiations on your behalf.
Written by Head Guru – Emily Jaksch.