Employment law covers a range of workplace issues and affects most people at some stage of their lives.
Workplace laws and regulations change frequently, and employers may need a professional ‘sounding board’ or tailored advice to ensure they are complying with their obligations and mitigating risk and disputes in the workplace.
Employees facing disciplinary matters or other issues such as bullying or harassment will typically feel vulnerable and may need assistance navigating these complex situations.
We assist employers and employees with a range of employment related legal matters.
Whether hiring a junior receptionist or CEO, an employment contract is essential to set out the terms of service, remuneration and entitlements, and to provide clarity regarding the rights and responsibilities of each party. Your employment contracts may include additional protections for your business such as confidentiality clauses and restraint of trade provisions.
A well drafted employment contract can help manage your expectations of employees and minimise costly future disputes. Employment contracts are not necessarily ‘one size fits all’, so speaking with our experienced team can help you to cover essential terms and conditions and ensure that your employment relationship starts off on the right foot.
Termination and unfair dismissal
Termination of employment may occur through voluntary resignation by an employee or dismissal by the employer on the grounds of redundancy or other reasons. Generally, employees must be provided with written notice when their termination is instigated by the employer unless the employee’s termination is due to certain misconduct. The notice period will depend on the length of service of the employee.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, an unfair dismissal is one which is harsh, unjust, unreasonable, or not a ‘genuine redundancy’ (where the employer no longer needs the role to be performed). There is a strict 21-day time limit to bring an unfair dismissal claim, so it is important to consult our team as soon as possible if you are under the impression that your dismissal was unfair.
Conversely, if one of your employees has brought a claim for unfair dismissal, we can provide professional advice on how to manage the situation quickly and effectively.
Generally, redundancy occurs when an employer no longer requires the employee’s job to be done by any other person, or in the event of the employer’s bankruptcy or insolvency. Subject to the employee’s length of service and type and conditions of employment, the employee must receive redundancy pay.
If a purported redundancy is not genuine, an employer could face an unfair dismissal claim. A genuine redundancy may be shown by the introduction of new technology which replaces human labour, discontinuance of the business operations and relocation.
Discrimination and harassment
Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of personal characteristics. Where adverse action is taken against an employee because of certain attributes, this may be unlawful subject to the general protections clauses of the Fair Work Act. Adverse action may include dismissing someone, not hiring someone, treating a person differently or offering employment on less favourable terms, among other actions. Such actions might also amount to a breach of various anti-discrimination laws at a state or federal level.
Employers have an obligation to manage the health and safety of employees in the workplace, including protecting employees from sexual harassment. [If you need assistance with a discrimination or harassment claim, speak with one of our experienced lawyers today.
Industrial and workplace disputes
Just like in other areas of life, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise in the workplace. Disputes arise where people disagree about an outcome and the matter remains unresolved. In most cases, these disputes can be resolved informally.
The process for resolving more serious disputes may depend on the terms of the award or enterprise agreement that covers the employment. Broadly, awards require that parties first attempt to resolve a dispute within the workplace and, if the parties cannot reach a negotiated outcome, a dispute may be referred to the Fair Work Commission.
All enterprise agreements, prior to being approved by the Fair Work Commission, must have a procedure for resolving disputes, including allowing an employee to have a representative. We can assist both employers and employees alike in the negotiations of an enterprise agreement to ensure the agreement in favourable to both parties while also meeting the requirements set by the Fair Work Commission.
Risk management and Work, Health and Safety (Occupational Health and Safety)
Over the years, employment law has changed dramatically, with successive governments overhauling legislation. While the Fair Work Act has remained fairly consistent, many employers are unaware of their obligations under this legislation, as well as other acts.
If you are unsure of your obligations as an employer under the Fair Work Act or any applicable award, it makes it very difficult to comply with those obligations. Given that there are penalties that may apply for breaching your obligations as an employer, our advice and services can save you lost time and money due to common mistakes arising from unawareness to important legislative obligations.
We also provide comprehensive work, health and safety audits including a review of your policies and procedures dealing with WHS and OHS.