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Blog

Workplace Law's Blog featuring amendments to the Fair Work Act and more.

May The Force Be With You

FWC finds resignation warranted

Managing employee exits can be tricky business, particularly when dismissing an employee for unacceptable conduct and behaviour.

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Tripping Out

FWO investigation finds Uber drivers not employees

Since it arrived in Australia, Uber has been under fire for its disruption of the transport industry and its complicated relationship with its drivers.

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Doing It For The 'Gram

Social media, sporting clubs and athletes

Since it arrived in Australia, Uber has been under fire for its disruption of the transport industry and its complicated relationship with its drivers.

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The Stalking Horse

FWC warns of abuse of stop bullying jurisdiction

It has unfortunately become a common occurrence for employees who are subject to management action to immediately seek redress by filing a claim against their employer (or other employees) alleging things such as adverse action, discrimination or bullying.

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Super (not so) Simple

Court finds independent contractor owed superannuation

There are benefits to engaging individuals as independent contractors where there is a particular task, project or specialised kind of work that needs to be performed.

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The Clash

The FWC on employee disputes and workplace bullying

When emotions are running high and differences are unable to be resolved, employees often turn to the anti-bullying jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

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Pay Attention

Director ordered to training following due diligence failure

The model Work Health and Safety Act (Model Act) imposes a duty on officers to exercise due diligence to ensure that the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) complies with safety duties.

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Take It Back

Employer ordered to withdraw unreasonable safety warning

A recent decision of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has reminded employers of the importance of taking a measured and consistent approach to enforcing workplace policies and procedures.

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No Take Backs

Employer successfully recovers stolen money from former employee, despite deed of release

One legal instrument commonly used to provide the parties with assurances about the finalisation of matters between them is a deed of release.

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Talk to Me

The importance of consultation in the redundancy process

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) provides that a person will not be unfairly dismissed where the person was dismissed as a result of genuine redundancy.

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De-Fame!

Employer ordered to pay $237,000 for defaming former employee

Defamation in the workplace is more often than not associated with disgruntled employees making adverse or negative remarks about their employer (or former employer).

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Family Feud

FWC orders managing director to stop bullying HR manager

In response to an application to stop bullying, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has the power to make any orders it thinks necessary to prevent workplace bullying from continuing.

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No good in goodbye

Employee on stress leave did not abandon employment

Some employers may find themselves in the situation where an employee fails to show up to work for a period of time with no notice and no communication about their absence – never to be heard from again.

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Safety Is Not A "Sometimes Thing"

Employer fined for failing to effectively enforce safe systems

The NSW District Court has convicted and fined a KFC franchisee after a young worker sustained third degree burns when his foot slipped into hot oil while he was cleaning the hoods of an overhead ventilation system.

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Valid point

Unfair dismissal claims and “valid reasons”

According to the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC’s) most recent annual report, unfair dismissal applications are by far the most common type of application lodged with the FWC.

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The truth will set you free

Consequences of providing false and misleading evidence

When dealing with litigated matters, we cannot stress enough the importance of having evidence and witnesses that are credible and reliable to support a party’s position in the proceedings.

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Ten in the bin

Injunctions against suspensions from work

A suspension is a reasonable and lawful direction from an employer where, for the period of suspension, an employee will not be required to perform their duties in the usual manner they would normally be performed.

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A break from banter

FWC upholds dismissals from workplace with “robust environment”

It is becoming increasingly challenging for employers and employees to understand where the line is between a relaxed, open and friendly workplace culture

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You've got email

WCC finds addressing email issues with worker not reasonable action

Under workers compensation legislation, the “reasonable action” defence is one often relied upon by insurers against claims of work-related psychological injury.

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Handle with care

Managing the new family and domestic violence leave entitlement

The introduction of family and domestic violence leave entitlements into modern awards and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) last year was a significant development in Australian workplace relations.

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On repeat

FWC finds employee’s persistent breaches justified dismissal

The matter involved a history or unacceptable conduct by an employee that resulted in the termination of his employment.

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Care and control

Negligent host employer ordered to pay damages to injured labour-hire worker

A recent decision from the District Court of New South Wales has highlighted the importance of a host employer’s duty of care to any labour-hire worker it engages where the work directions and conditions are within the host employer’s knowledge and control.

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Who's the boss?

Employee loses redundancy pay after refusing other acceptable employment

The FWC has reduced an employee’s entitlement to redundancy pay to nil after an employer successfully argued that it obtained ‘other acceptable employment’ for the employee, which the employee had refused.

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No ordinary job

Employer fails to demonstrate that redundancies were due to the ordinary and customary turnover of labour

The FW Act provides a minimum entitlement to redundancy pay in situations where an employee’s position is genuinely made redundant.

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Put it in writing

Court rejects employee’s proposed adjustments to workplace

Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation imposes positive obligations on employers to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to accommodate an employee’s disability, unless doing so would cause unjustifiable hardship to the business.

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Weighing the costs

Employer awarded $35,000 in costs after defeating adverse action claim

In a matter recently before the Federal Circuit Court of Australia an employer successfully claimed that an employee acted unreasonably in the course of proceedings and the employer was awarded costs of $35,000.

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Reckless

Self employer convicted and given jail time following death of worker

Conviction under work health and safety legalisation can result in significant fines and/or imprisonment.

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Is it safe???

The importance of documented and accessible safe systems of work

A workplace incident involving a worker struck by a forklift has demonstrated the importance of having documented systems of work and induction processes in place that are accessible for all workers.

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Free free, set them free!

Common misconceptions about dismissing an employee in their probation period

An employer was ordered to pay $10,000 in compensation to a former supervisor who had been dismissed five months into her probation period.

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Culture club

Workplace culture gone wrong and how to make it right

What does “workplace culture” really mean and what happens when workplace culture becomes damaged or toxic?

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Pistol Pete

Employee who brought firearms and explosives to workplace not unfairly dismissed

We all have different hobbies, activities or interests we want to share with our friends and colleagues. However, not all interests are appropriate for the workplace.

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In conTEXT

FWC finds employee not dismissed by text message

In most cases, it is clear when an employee is dismissed or has resigned. There is usually some formal discussion or at the very least, a termination or resignation letter.

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Free Fallin'

Worker injured whilst visiting the workplace suffers work-related injury

Under workers compensation legislation, an employer will only be liable for an injury if that injury arises out of or in the course of the worker’s employment.

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Anyone can accessorise

The accessorial liability provisions of the FW Act

Employees making claims against their employers are able to name individuals they believe to have been involved in the contraventions of the FW Act that make up their claim.

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Muddying the waters

Adverse action taken against employee for failure to perform duties

The general protections provisions under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) make it unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against a person for a prohibited reason.

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Fly, eagle, fly

Lessons from the Manly Sea Eagles head coach resignation saga

The NRL’s Manly Sea Eagles have faced an uncomfortable situation regarding a key employee in recent times.

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I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that

Can a computer be the decision-maker in an adverse action decision?

As the functionality of HRIS increases and technology generally gets smarter, will an employer’s reliance on the recommendations or decisions of a HRIS put the employer at risk?

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Personal-IT

Personal devices in the work context

With so much information at our finger tips, it is easy for the personal and the professional to be confused. This is particularly the case where employees can BYOD (bring your own device) and use their personal devices for work purposes.

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Brand -new day

Employees, their relatives and social media – where is the line?

The 76ers are in the spotlight again following recent posts on the Twitter account of Bob Muscala, the father of one of its players.

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Safety first

Why employers should encourage a strong work health and safety culture

By taking a “safety first” approach, workers are educated in WHS matters, how to report WHS issues, concerns or near misses and are assured that such matters will be taken seriously.

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Better safe than sorry

Best practice for dealing with poor performance issues

Performance issues can be some of the most difficult for employers to manage and when performance management results in disciplinary action, employers need to be on the front foot to protect their interests and ensure compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).

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I'm no Wonder Woman

Supporting the mental wellbeing of business leaders

Reports estimate that 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition at some stage in their lifetime and the mental health and wellbeing of employees is recognised as a significant workplace issue.

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It’s all about me

Employer reasonable in not accommodating employee’s variation of hours request

One of the logistical challenges often faced by employers is the management of rosters and employee working hours. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when it comes to this.

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It wasn’t me

Fair Work Commissioner considers Facebook posts as evidence in an unfair dismissal matter

Employees active on social media (such as Facebook) fail to consider who might be able to see their personal online posts at any given time.

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Notice me!

Notice of termination and the common law

In this blog, we explore the subtleties of one of the most standard clauses in the employment contract- the notice of termination clause.

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No shirt, no service

Fair Work Commission orders the suspension of protected industrial action involving a uniform ban

Under the Fair Work Act, employees are entitled to take protected industrial action in circumstances where they are bargaining for a new enterprise agreement.

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WHS and Sport

College accepts responsibility for death of football player from heatstroke

The tragic death of a 19 year old college football player in the USA serves as a reminder to sporting organisations at all levels about the duty of care owed to their players.

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Paw patrol

Employer considerations for pet-friendly workplaces

Pets are widely understood to have the effect of improving an individual’s mood and reducing levels of stress and anxiety, sentiments that are invaluable in a workplace.

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A moving experience - Part 2

What to expect and what to consider when relocating

In this Part 2, we turn to the types of employment issues employers can expect to face during the process of relocating.

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PCBU fined $375,000 following death of turf stacker

Imported item 102

In yet another decision resulting from a tragic workplace safety incident, an employer has been fined $375,000 after one of its workers was fatally crushed by a turf harvester.

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Deficient work practices resulted in ladder fall death

Imported item 103

The NSW District Court convicted a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) of failing to comply with a health and safety duty after a worker died following a fall from a ladder

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A moving experience - Part 1

What to expect and what to consider when relocating

Down-sizing, upgrading, outgrowing and restructuring – change in the life-cycle of a business is inevitable and changes in size and operational needs often demand a relocation.

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Flight of fancy

Flight attendant’s claim that excessive drinking was not his fault rejected by FWC in unfair dismissal case

Fair Work Commission (FWC) considered whether a flight attendant was unfairly dismissed after he failed to attend for work following a night out in New York.

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Cecchin in on your employees

Managing mental health in the workplace

One of the National Rugby League’s (NRL’s) leading referees to retire at the end of the 2018 season has (again) prompted discussion about the obligations of employers when managing mental health in the workplace.

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Are you ready (willing and able) for it?

When employees are unable to perform their contractual duties

One of the fundamental principles of the employment relationship is the work-wages bargain – an employer pays an employee wages in exchange for work performed.

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Law of the jungle - Panthers v Tigers

Sports Law - Employment Contracts

The last 48 hours has seen a lot of discussion in sports media about employment contracts centred around the Wests Tigers, Ivan Cleary and the Penrith Panthers

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Size doesn’t matter

Dismissed employee compensated despite vulgar language

Small business employer’s “disgraceful and grossly unfair” dismissal process has cost it over $10,000 in compensation.

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And a step to the right

Coles loses appeal of $1 million claim for safety step injury

ACT Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by Coles Supermarkets and confirmed an earlier decision in which a Coles employee was awarded more than $1 million in damages.

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The fine cut

Small Business Employers and Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Small businesses have a litany of rules, regulations and red tape they are required to comply with, including registration and tax compliance, employee minimum entitlements, fair trading, work health and safety and privacy obligations.

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You say it best when you say nothing at all

The risks of providing unfavourable or false references

There are range of important considerations for those delivering references to take into account and often conflicting interests can creep into the equation.

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Checking it twice

The importance of pre-employment and reference checking in recruitment

Conducting pre-employment and reference checks may turn out to be the most important part of the recruitment process, particularly for senior positions.

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The truth Hertz

Vehicle services attendant dismissed for lying on his CV

Employers are often required to exercise a significant degree of trust and reliance in job candidates, believing that they will be truthful in recruitment processes.

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Yes, yes, no

FWC rejects employee’s bid to reopen unfair dismissal claim after parties fail to sign terms

The purpose of a conciliation is to help the parties resolve the matter without the need go to a full hearing before a FWC member.

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Welcome to the 21st Century

Social Media and Industrial Action

Social media is also recognised as a powerful information sharing tool and many social movements are commenced and advanced online.

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Take me to your leader

FWC Full Bench rejects Aldi’s EAs due to restrictive NERR

At the commencement of bargaining for a proposed enterprise agreement, employers are required to give relevant employees a notice of employee representational rights (NERR).

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Losing on penalties

$200,000 penalty imposed for adverse action taken against employees underpaid because of their race

Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO’s) successful prosecution of a hotel operator and its owner who took adverse action against two employees because of their Chinese race and Malaysian extraction.

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Resistance is futile

Modern award basics for employers

One of the biggest challenges for Australian employers is navigating the often complex and confusing landscape of the modern awards.

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Careless whisper

A lesson on the importance of formal communication structures in the workplace

Last-minute meetings and unexpected emergencies (especially safety emergencies) mean that messages and information often need to be relayed to employees almost instantly.

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You’re banned

What to do when a client or host employer won’t work with an employee

Employee, worker, talent, resource, temp, contractor – there is an abundance of terms used to describe the people that perform work in a workplace.

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Nothing but Net

The 76ers Twitter saga and confidentiality in the employment relationship

Sports and pop culture website named ‘The Ringer’ published a report about the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers that sparked controversy worldwide.

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100% guaranteed

The return to work guarantee under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

Tennis champion Serena Williams as she returned to her first Grand Slam tennis tournament following the recent birth of her daughter.

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Say it to my face

FWC sends strong warning to employees about social media

Intimidating and threatening behaviour by a supervisor towards a subordinate employee via text message and on social media.

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Respect my authority

Employee awarded compensation for dismissal over Facebook Messenger

Unfair dismissal application lodged by an employee who was summarily dismissed in a Facebook Messenger chat.

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I Want It That Way

FWC upholds dismissal following obstructive and uncooperative conduct of employee and union rep

Disciplinary process involves discussions about dismissal, employers should not unreasonably refuse a request from the employee to have a support person present.

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A New World Language

Managing emojis in the workplace

It started out as the humble smiley emoticon “:-)” in 1982 created by a computer scientist who wanted a “joke marker” to help people decipher his jokes in emails.

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Hush Hush, Hush!

Why the term ‘hush money’ is misleading

Settlement agreements, terms of settlement, deeds of release or release and undertakings are all terms which are used interchangeably to refer to the binding and confidential agreements.

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Jailhouse Rock

Court orders jail term for owner-operator who failed to comply with orders resulting from Fair Work action

In June 2015, Judge Jarrett of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia found that a Northern Queensland-based tour company and its owner had underpaid five employees and contravened the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

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Vendetta, vendetta!

FWC finds attempted character assassination and confidentiality breach valid reasons for dismissal

Managing conflicting personalities can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a manager. Particularly when low level disagreements escalate to formal complaints, investigations, attempts at character assassination and breaches of confidentiality.

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Meet me halfway?

FWC criticises employer’s inflexible refusal of Pilates

FWC has found an employer was unreasonably inflexible when it dismissed an employee who had requested to finish work 15 minutes early to attend prepaid Pilates classes.

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Not on the shop floor

Inappropriate workplace behaviour justified summary dismissal

In a clear sign that employers should act on inappropriate behaviour, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has held that an employee’s dismissal for serious misconduct arising from his unacceptable behaviour was not unfair.

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Induction Construction

How to level-up your induction process to increase buy-in

Conducting a comprehensive induction for new employees is critical for compliance reasons but should also be viewed as an opportunity to connect new employees to the values and culture.

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Director delusion

FWC finds title of “Director” not sufficient to defeat award coverage

It has often been the case that “managers” and senior officers of an enterprise will not be covered by a modern award or enterprise agreement.

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Show and Tell

Employer ordered to advise employees about FWC’s stop-bullying orders

The purpose of the Fair Work Commission’s anti-bullying jurisdiction is not to punish bullies or to compensate an individual who has been bullied but to prevent future bullying in the workplace.

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Need not apply

Anglo Saxon applicants preferred in online job advertisement

Job advertisements should be carefully drafted to ensure that they focus on the essential skills of the position and not any irrelevant or subjective factors.

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You used to call me on my cell phone

Getting your mobile phone policies right

It is rare to come across someone who does not have their mobile phone in their hand, pocket, bag or otherwise within reaching distance at all times.

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Show me the money

Employee’s failed attempt at extortion resulted in justified dismissal

Baseless complaints or attempts at extortion are capable of amounting to serious misconduct, as exemplified in this case.

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Big Little Lies

Dishonesty in the workplace and the potential ramifications

If dishonesty does find its way into the workplace, employers must act swiftly and hold employees accountable where necessary, so that it does not become a part of the workplace culture.

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Pulling up stumps

What the Australian cricket saga can teach us about leadership

Australian sports fans were shocked when three Australian cricketers were caught up in a ball tampering scandal, leading to the downfall of the Australian cricket captain and his deputy.

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Can you back it up?

Dismissal unfair where allegations that an employee leaked information were unsupported and employee’s WHS reporting was justified

Employers should be mindful that employees have a responsibility for health and safety within the workplace and are entitled to (and should be encouraged to) raise health and safety matters.

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PIPped at the post

Dismissed employee’s illnesses not enough to defer performance management processes

A failure to take into consideration an employee’s health concerns during a performance management or disciplinary process may not only place an employee’s health at further risk but can also increase an employer’s exposure to claims under employment, workers compensation, bullying or discrimination laws.

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Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

Managing sick leave during the cold and flu season

For employers, the sick leave provisions of the FW Act and the authority to issue directions are excellent ways to manage both “sickies” and “workplace warriors.”

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Was blind but now I see

General Manager wilfully blind to contraventions

General Manager of a labour hire business was fined $43,000 for his involvement in contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

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The dos and do-nuts

The dos and do-nuts of business growth and expansion

It is estimated that there is over $70,000 in unpaid wages owing to employees, and many of those are international workers on visas who are not eligible for the government-funded Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme.

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A guy, two part-time jobs and an overtime claim

Federal Circuit Court dismisses claim for cumulative overtime

Multi-hire arrangements are a popular way for employees to supplement their income and to have flexibility.

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Hand it over

FWC finds employee fairly dismissed for refusing to hand over investigation evidence

When an employee refuses to hand over information or evidence that the employer considers is relevant to an investigation, a formal direction may be issued.

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Message delivered

FWC denies delivery driver anti-bullying orders

Where possible, employers should be upfront with their workers about changes to usual business processes and procedures and the reasons for those changes.

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Should I stay or should I go

Employee suspended without pay later terminated due to absence from work

Employers can often find themselves in a difficult position when they are advised by an employee that they have been charged with a non-work related criminal offence and may be unable to attend for work.

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Turn around

What is proper notice of termination and when does the exception to redundancy pay apply?

Some employers operate exclusively on a continuous rotation of cycling client contracts won and lost regularly, but what does it mean for the employees engaged to perform work under those contracts?

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Don’t be so reckless

Work health safety prosecution update

Codes set out the minimum standards to meet work health and safety requirements and are admissible in WHS prosecutions. Guides and Australian Standards will also be relevant safety material that employers should consider when creating safety documentation.

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Let’s keep it casual

“Casual” employee entitled to annual leave after 15 years of service

Issues arise when casual employees are engaged on a long-term basis, have regular and systematic hours and a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment.

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