Management is not easy. From recruitment, through to induction and on-boarding, performance reviews and termination, managers have to deal with a wide range of employee issues and behaviours.

Australian Business Lawyers and Advisors (ABLA) Managing Directors, Joe Murphy and Luis Izzo, recently shared the top 10 employment laws every manager must know during one of ABLA’s popular webinars. 

The award-winning employment law specialist outlined the essential tips for navigating the complex world of compliance, including:

1. Leave – accrual payment and cashout

The rates of leave accrual vary for different types of leave. Annual leave is expressed in weeks and personal leave is expressed in days – but most systems calculate leave in hours.

Joe and Luis explain what this means for part-time employees, full-time employees and shift workers, and why you can’t rely solely on your payroll system to get the calculations right.

2. Award coverage and compliance

You can’t assume someone’s salary covers the award provisions to which they are entitled. Awards apply across industry and occupation – salary and job title aren’t taken into account. “It is critical to have an understanding of who is and who isn’t award covered,” says Luis.

Employees may be missing out on travel allowances and set break times, and you may be breaching workplace regulations resulting in hefty fines.

3. Offsetting

“This is still quite a tortured concept and one that causes a lot of confusion,” says Luis.

“If you are paying an ordinary rate of pay to an employee to satisfy their base rate under their award, you cannot then turn around and say this is intended to pay you for penalty rates on the weekend, or the first aid allowance that we forgot to pay, unless you’ve actually said so upfront at the beginning of the payment,” he explains.  

The pair advise, given such a large cross-section of the workforce are covered by awards, it’s best to include an ‘off-set’ provision in contracts where you are paying employees above the base rate to satisfy all obligations under their award.

4. Reasonable notice

If an employee is terminated and their contract does not have a specific period of notice, your business can be exposed to a claim of ‘reasonable notice’. Ensure you have up to date, relevant and compliant contracts of employment with all employees.

5. The probation periods

It’s best to use probation periods as a HR tool, rather than a safety net. They can help employees manage expectations associated with the job and their performance. 

6. Procedural fairness

According to Joe, “procedural fairness is your friend”.  While it seems fairness is in favour of the individual making a claim, it also empowers the investigator to get all the facts.

A few basic rules are:

  • obtain all the relevant facts
  • interview the employee who made the complaint and all relevant witnesses
  • present the information to the employee who is subject to the allegations
  • give the employee an opportunity to consider and respond to the allegations
  • consider the employee’s response before implementing any penalties

7. Exclusions on termination of employment
An employer cannot dismiss an employee due to temporary absence from work whether attributed to illness or injury. Joe and Luis advise applying a minimum 3 month prohibition period if the reasons for dismissal relate to a person’s absence or illness.

8. Managing bullying issues 

“You must address the concerns that people make from time to time. And if you don’t, there’s a commercial – and potentially cultural – cost to your organisation,” says Joe. 

“That doesn’t mean pleasing every employee, every time they make a complaint. It does mean investigating where an investigation is warranted.”

Luis adds, “Get in early, acknowledge concerns early, respond to concerns early – you’re always in a better position. This is where an investigation is your friend.”

9. Workers compensation – it’s no one’s fault!

You can do everything right and injuries and illness will continue to occur in the workplace. Approach all claims as genuine claims unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary.

10. Workplace surveillance

You can lawfully conduct workplace surveillance if you give 14 days’ notice (and comply with policy requirements). Notice must include:

  • the type of surveillance – camera, computer or tracking
  • how it will be conducted
  • when it will be conducted
  • if it will be continuous or intermittent
  • if it will be for a limited period or ongoing

Next steps

You can watch the full webinar and hear detailed explanations of each point here. If this article raised any issues for your business, get in touch on 1300 565 846 or