If you’re a small business owner, you probably already know that there are numerous workplace awards which govern the minimum conditions on which people of various roles and professions may be employed (and if you are a small business owner who has not heard of workplace awards you should call our office for an appointment ASAP!).
However, as much as you know that the awards exist (and, if you’re lucky, you roughly know which award(s) your employees are covered by and how much you have to pay them as a minimum) you may not know all you need to in order to comply with the applicable awards.
For example, do you employ any casual employees? If so, what award are they covered by? Does that award include a clause which requires you to have a process by which casual employees can apply to “convert” to a permanent role? (as a hint, MANY awards have this requirement).
Take the Clerks—Private Sector Award 2020 for example (which has an extremely broad coverage and applies to many administration and support staff employed in the private sector), which includes an obligation to provide a compulsory handout detailing the rights of the employee to request a conversion within 12 months of that employee’s first engagement (or by 1 January 2019 if the casual was already employed as of 1 October 2018).
The obligation to provide information regarding conversion rights is unfortunately one of many obligations included awards which employers commonly miss.
Contravention of a modern award is a breach of section 45 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and section 45 is a “civil remedy provision”. What does that mean? Well, at the extreme, a serious contravention can allow for the imposition of a penalty reflecting 600 penalty units (i.e. a fine of over $126,000.00!). Now, that’s enough to sink an otherwise profitable business. Even less serious breaches can allow for the imposition of a penalty reflecting 60 penalty units (i.e. a fine of over $12,600) – easily enough to disturb the short-term profitability of many small businesses.
You might be thinking – how can I avoid pitfalls like this and ensure I am doing the right thing by my employees? Well, you could spend years reading every award and scouring the Fair Work website – or, you could have a chat with us.
If you are in need of any assistance with regard to employment law and how best to pay and support your employees, please contact us on 08 7001 6135 and book an appointment with myself or my colleagues Rich Stanley and Danial Esmaili.