WR Bi-Monthly Edit Jan/Feb 2022


Welcome to the New Year everyone, with the office closed for the month of January we have brought together a Bi-Monthly edition with January and February industry news, our exclusive monthly article along with State and Federal news and events.

I hope you all had the opportunity to take some time out over the  New Year and have been enjoying the new freedoms with easing COVID restrictions. This has allowed many businesses to reopen and see the return of workers to the office. Our news this month provides information on services available for those looking for support for both their business and employees. We also provide you with updates from the Fair Work Ombudsman and articles on current issues facing our workplaces.

I’d like to share recent staff changes in our office. We farewelled Christine Bourke who retired at the end of last month. I thank Christine for her dedication to her work and to our clients, she will be missed. We welcome Vanessa Baglieri who will work with us on our media and administration.

Lastly a bit of humour to kick off the month since it is cricket season… Cricket Australia is touting Novak Djokovic as the next Australian Cricket Coach… He might not know much about the game but it took Australia two weeks to get him out  🙂

I look forward to working with you in 2022.

Rosa Raco
Principal
Workplace Resolutions Law     

 
New reports suggest otherwise.

by Dianne Dempsey

It was my first year of teaching in a Victorian country school of some 300 students. At the first staff meeting I attended (all aquiver with enthusiasm and nervousness) the issue that concerned the school principal wasn’t school inductions or literacy rates but the mess in the staff room.
 
Why were there dirty cups in the sink? He wanted to know. He was so frustrated about the dishes that he said he had just drawn up a roster which would mean that the women would now have to take turns to do the dishes according to his list and it was terrible he had had to formalise the arrangements. That nobody objected to the absence of blokes on the roster was par for the course back in the days when Neanderthals roamed the planet.           
 
The gender bias that existed in our school was confirmed by the fact that all the senior positions, including that of the principal, were filled by the men.  Even though 80% of staff were female. 
 
That we have come quite a way in the past few decades as far as women’s rights are concerned is a relief but then sadly, when it gets down to the hard-core issues of pay equality and leadership, there is still heaps of work to be done.
 
Last year Women’s Agenda reported on a study written by independent researcher Kevin McGrath which revealed that male teachers continued to be promoted in public schools at a higher rate than female teachers. Women’s Agenda journalist Jessie Tu quoted McGrath as saying, “There’s historically been more men in leadership roles, and this has been taken as this glass escalator effect. One of the reasons given for the male preference in leadership roles given by McGrath was that “men are perceived to have the stereotypically masculine characteristics.”
 
When we look to the issue of income, even in female dominated industries such as healthcare and education, there are still persistent gaps. Wendy Tuohy reporting on research from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) pointed out that in healthcare, the gender pay gap was 14.4 per cent and in education and in training it is 10.5 per cent.
 
The WGEA report also revealed that men are twice as likely to be in the top quarter of earners, at $120,000 and above, while women are 50 per cent more likely than men to sit in the lowest earnings bracket of $60,000 or less.
  WGEA director, Mary Wooldridge, concluded that progress in the workforce was “way too slow given the benefits we know gender equality brings men, women and communities, businesses and the economy as a whole.”

 
Social and Community Services Award – minimum payments for part-time employees

There are changes being made to the Social and Community Services Award for part-time employees. Some changes are already in place and started a transition from 1 February 2022. All changes will be fully implemented in July this year. If you are unaware of these changes, keep yourself informed about how these may impact your business and employees by visiting the Fair Work Ombudsman website or contact WR Law for advice

Horticulture Award changes – minimum hourly wage for pieceworkers

The Fair Work Commission has reviewed the Horticultural Award reaching a decision to include a minimum hourly wage guarantee and the requirement to record hours by pieceworkers. Changes will take effect from the first pay period on or after 28 April 2022. Detailed information, tools and resources related to Horticulture on the Fair Work Ombudsman website are currently being updated to reflect the decision. You can read detailed outcomes about the decision here.  

 
Free Mental Wellbeing Online Education Program

On 13 February 2022 State Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford announced free access to Mindarma, an online mental health support tool available to Victorian small businesses and employees to help with their mental health and wellbeing in response to the pandemic. Mindarma is an evidence-based online mental health education program that takes employees through 10 short interactive sessions and is accessible on computers and devices. It focuses on mindfulness, resilience and managing workplace stress. The education program is being rolled out as part of the Wellbeing and Mental Health Support for Businesses Initiative. You can register for free access to Mindarma until 30 June 2022. For additional tools and support for businesses visit business.vic.gov.au.

Tools for Reopening Businesses

The Fair Work Ombudsman has developed tools for businesses that are reopening after lockdown, including an interactive support tool. You can also find information on COVID requirements in your workplace. For a transitioning back to business as usual booklet and Working from home checklist see our resources for further support.

Latest on WorkSafe COVID-19 Notification Requirements

In mid-January, the Victorian Government made changes to the OH&S regulations that required employers and the self-employed to notify WorkSafe of a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in workplaces during the infectious period. With ongoing management of COVID-19 in workplaces, the safety risk notification is no longer necessary. While notification of a confirmed diagnosis is no longer required, employers have an ongoing responsibility to protect workers, manage risks and report workplace-related COVID-19 incidents such as hospital care or deaths. Changes to WorkSafe OH&S regulations do not override any Department of Health requirements issued to employers which currently state notification is required where five positive cases have attended work premises in a seven day period. Find detailed information on managing COVID-19 in your workplace. Report notifiable incidents here.

Bus your Bike  

The Victorian Government has expanded its Bikes on Buses initiative, cyclists will soon be able to travel with their bikes on local buses in Bendigo, Castlemaine and Heathcote. Bike racks will be installed on buses travelling along local routes. Exercise plays a major role in both physical and mental health and wellbeing, and for many assists in managing work, life and family stressors. This is welcome news for our community. Read on for more details.  

World-class performances for Regional Vic

In support of Victorian Arts and Culture the State Government ‘Touring Victoria’ has provided grants to performers and creatives to assist them in touring regional locations. Bendigo will soon host performances by The Australian Ballet and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. You can find out more about this initiative at the Creative Victoria website. The ‘Touring Victoria’ grants will support our local tourism, retail, hospitality and supply chain sectors.

Appropriate Conduct in the Workplace

On 9 February 2022 Rosa had the pleasure of being invited to Access Australia Group’s Staff Development Day, presenting to over 200 employees on Appropriate Conduct in the Workplace. Thank you to Liz March and all AAG employees for their warm welcome and positive response.

Social, political and media discussion on workplace conduct over the last 12 months has sparked a #metoo movement following Brittany Higgins allegation of rape. While the discussion has been largely focussed on Federal Government conduct, we are aware this inexcusable and systemic behaviour exists within businesses and organisations large and small.

Employers can take action by ensuring employees have a safe and confidential means of reporting inappropriate behaviour, an understanding of appropriate workplace conduct, access to counselling and education, appropriate levels of support available and strong leaders who are proactive rather than reactive. If you are a business in the Bendigo region and would like to engage us to present Appropriate Conduct in the Workplace to your employees, please contact Rosa on (03) 5499 6131.

 
What you should know about contract workers, employment contracts and employment relationships

Recent High Court rulings may impact employers and employees when determining employment relationships. Two cases identify the importance of how lawful written contracts are defined specifying mutual rights and obligations and identifying individuals as either employees or independent contractors.
 
In both cases employment terms were not clearly defined, the Full Court ultimately determined the employment status based on whether the worker/s were providing services enabling the employer’s business to function, or whether they were providing services for the contractor’s business to function.
 
In CFMMEU v Personnel Contracting, the court ruled a construction worker working for a labour-hire company was deemed an employee due to specified conditions in the employment contract, despite the employee being described as a contractor.
 
In ZG Operations vs Jamsek, two truck drivers working solely for the company for decades were not deemed employees as their lawful written contract and work performed were not specific enough to determine an employer-employee relationship, the truck drivers were deemed contractors.
 
The rulings may see employers defining employer-employee relationships via written consent rather than work performed, a shift towards employment of contractor services in non-traditional contractor industries and a rise in sham contracts. Fair Work Act obligations could be evaded as no specific legislation protects workers under ‘characterisation’ of work. Where sham contracting is identified employers are in breach of the Fair work Act.  

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