The Elephant in the Room

The Australian managing Director of Rio Tinto, David Peever says that the Fair Work Act is the elephant in the room when it comes to the productivity debate in Australia.

Heather Ridout, who used to be the head of the Australian Industry Group and is now on the Reseve Bank board said on a recent Q & A programme that the “Fair Work Act gives 120 new rights to unions and nothing to employers”. On the same programme,  Judith Sloan, an economist and commentator suggested that it was ironic that the Act assumes that the right of unions is paramount when it comes to work place contracts but only 13% of the private work sector belong to unions.

Calls by industry leaders for a more flexible, productive and fair work place relations system are becoming more strident.

Perhaps the Government has heard the calls.  There are amendments proposed to the Fair Work Act involving an overhaul of the costs provisions.  Under the proposed changes, Fair Work Australia will have new powers to make cost orders against Applicants who bring “unreasonable claims”.

At the moment, it is most unlikely that, if an applicant fails in Fair Work Australia, he or she will have to pay the employer’s costs.  This is because the employer must make application for costs swiftly and, more importantly, must demonstrate that the applicant’s proceedings were manifestly untenable or brought vexatiously.

It is understood that, under the costs regime proposed, an employer will be able to recover its costs if the applicant’s claim is unreasonable.  This is still not the way things work in other litigation concerning breach of contract or statutory obligation, where costs  follow the event unless the circumstances are exceptional.

The commentators suggest that the proposed changes to the costs regime will provide some relief for small business.  It is hoped that it will enable litigation in Fair Work Australia to be conducted more efficiently and drive early resolution.

Costs aside, the best way for a small business to protect itself from unmeritorious claims is to implement fair and compliant dismissal processes.  The employment team at Everingham Solomons can help with dismissal issues because at Everingham Solomons Helping You is Our Business.

Click here for more information on Mark Johnson.

Redundancy Rights and Risks

jmhIf you are an employer faced with the difficult task of making employees redundant, it is important to know what obligations you have and what steps you ought to take to meet those obligations.

If you are an employee faced with redundancy, it’s important to know your rights and ensure you receive the correct entitlements.

What does redundancy mean?

A redundancy occurs when employment is terminated because the employer decides they no longer want that person’s job to be done by anyone, or because the employer becomes insolvent or bankrupt.

In order for a redundancy to be a ‘genuine redundancy’, it must be shown that:

  1. The job will not be done by anyone else and the position will not be filled by any other person.
  2. The requirements in the applicable modern award, enterprise agreement or industrial instrument to consult with the employee about the redundancy have been followed.

Redundancy pay

Redundancy pay may be up to 16 weeks of ordinary pay and is calculated upon the length of service. There is no legal requirement to pay redundancy pay to employees who have been employed for less than one year. Redundancy pay is paid in addition to any other entitlements, such as outstanding wages and accrued leave entitlements.

Steps to redundancy

Firstly, an employer ought to consider all options and alternatives to redundancy, like redeployment, job sharing and reduced overtime.

Secondly, an employer should meet with the employee who is to be made redundant to explain the situation and give him or her opportunity to ask questions.

Thirdly, written notice of the redundancy ought to be given to the employee.

Whether you are an employer or employee, Everingham Solomons will be more than happy to assist you with any employment queries because Helping You is Our Business.

Click here for more information on Jessica Simmonds.