EMPLOYERS MUST prepare themselves for a myriad of questions and the possibility of increased scrutiny regarding their practices following the release of the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet, employment lawyers have warned.
“HR needs to appreciate that in complying with the legislation, they might actually be opening up a pandora’s box of questions and concerns from their workforce,”said Joydeep Hor, managing partner at Harmers Workplace Lawyers.
The Workplace Relations Fact Sheet is an information sheet to be distributed by employers to employees under the Workplace Relations Amendment (A Stronger Safety Net) Act 2007.
It is compulsory for all employers under the federal system to distribute it to their employees, or risk facing fines of up to $110 per employee. One of the major implications for HR will be in complying with the legal requirements in providing the sheet to employees.
While the sheet assists employees and employers in understanding key aspects of WorkChoices, Alistair Salmon, partner at Fisher Cartwright Berriman, said employees with a greater awareness of their rights could scrutinise their employers more.
“There is a requirement there for employers, prior to agreement making and implementing provisions under the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard that they ensure they get their own advice right. If not, employees will be able to assess the fact sheet and make phone calls to the Workplace [Authority] information line for advice on particular things,” he said.
“Up to now, the significant majority of Australian employees would not have had much exposure to concepts such as unlawful termination or what role is played by workplace relations bodies,” Hor said.
The starting point for employers should be to get a proper understanding of exactly how WorkChoices applies to their businesses, he added.
“Once they’ve understood that, recognising that it’s more likely than not that they’ll need some level of external input and advice, they should then review the fact sheet to see what areas might cause employee anxiety or uncertainty.”
Armed with this information, employers can then determine the most effective way to distribute the fact sheet and whether it might be necessary to have a covering letter to go with it, said Hor.