When I talk to clients, I often ask “Do you send out the Fair Work Information Statement?” and, admittedly, many of them look at me blankly. I then let them know that they have a legal obligation to send out a copy of this document to every new permanent employee – or risk a fine.
They are typically shocked and frustrated by yet another thing they need to do to be compliant.
So why is it important for business owners to know and understand the NES? Well, the first part is a legal compliance obligation and secondly, you need to ensure that your business is adhering to their minimum obligations when it comes to employees. Here is a link to the document to help you out: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/FWISdocs/Fair-Work-Information-Statement.pdf
So, practically, for a business owner what does this mean?
There are 10 minimum workplace entitlements in the NES – bear in mind that these are the minimum.
1. A maximum standard working week of 38 hours for full-time employees, plus ‘reasonable’ additional hours
There is much debate about this one but essentially my view would be more than 30 mins extra per day, every day, could be deemed as unreasonable by FWA Ombudsman. That said, I think this would vary on the industry and the salary earned
2. A right to request flexible working arrangements to care for a child under school age, or a child (under 18) with a disability
The key word here is ‘request’ – but it is becoming increasingly difficult to say no, unless the decision will mean financial hardship for your business rather than mere inconvenience. A word of caution – employees are becoming more aware of these rights and there will be an increase in this type of request – but let’s remember, in these economic times it is the exception rather than the rule where employees take extended periods of unpaid leave.
Flexible arrangements might mean reduced hours, a later start to allow for childcare drop offs, part time work, working from home or a 9 day fortnight. It is also about compromise, with both parties making it work. There is also a formal process that needs to be followed to manage this request and response process
3. Parental and adoption leave of 12 months (unpaid), with the right to request an additional 12 months
This means potentially losing an employee for a period of two years – the upside is that if this is arranged up front it may be a more attractive option for a contractor, or you might look to bring someone into the role for career development on a temporary basis
4. Four weeks paid annual leave each year (pro rata)
No real change here but you may want to think about a forced shut-down – maybe at Christmas to maximise productivity down times. Check your Modern Award as there are timing and process issues to be considered
5. Ten days paid personal / carer’s leave each year (pro rata), two days paid compassionate leave for each permissible occasion and two days unpaid carer’s leave for each permissible occasion
Personal Leave covers sick leave for the employee but also leave to care for immediate family members as well.
6. Community services leave for jury service or activities dealing with certain emergencies or natural disasters. This leave is unpaid except for jury service
If you have employees that are members of the SES you need to have a contingency plan in place for when this employee might be on extended, unpaid leave
7. Long service leave
As per your State Legislation entitlements – for example, NSW is 8.67 weeks paid leave for ten years’ service
8. Public holidays and the entitlement to be paid for ordinary hours on those days
Some Awards will allow your employees to take a day in lieu for working a public holiday
9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay
Before Fair Work, you were only entitled to redundancy, if it was a contractual entitlement. Now everyone is entitled but their length of service only starts from 1/1/2010
10. The entitlement for new employees to receive the Fair Work Information Statement
This is the link attached above which should be sent out with the employment contract and letter of offer: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/FWISdocs/Fair-Work-Information-Statement.pdf
The benefits of adhering to these is that you reduce your exposure to fines for breaches and you are more likely to have a happy and harmonious team.
I believe employees are becoming more aware of these rights so it is important to be aware of your obligations and to determine if, and how, you can accommodate these requests – or whether you have the option to decline the request. As with all legislation, there are some processes that need to be followed – for example, the timeline for responding to a request for flexible working in writing. Make sure you and your team are aware of these obligations and it will be ‘smooth sailing’.