Opportunity before IR changes

by 30 Oct 2008

ASSESSING EMPLOYMENT arrangements during the economic downturn will help to ease the burden of change for business when the Federal Government’s new IR laws are introduced early in 2010, according to an employment law firm.

As Australian businesses are being hit hard by world economic turbulence, many companies may be left wondering how they will get through this cycle intact.

Shana Schreier-Joffe, partner at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, said that it is an unfortunate probability that more jobs may be lost as companies suffer a downturn, and predicted that a different business landscape may emerge in time for the Federal Government’s Forward with Fairness laws which are set to come into effect in July 2009 and January 2010.

“This is the time to get all your ducks in a row,” Schreier-Joffe said.

“The current financial situation demands that companies take stock of their business and procedures. Assessing your employment arrangements now will help to ease the burden of change when the new IR laws are introduced early in 2010.”

Schreier-Joffe noted that a number of clients are struggling to carry the cost of their staff, but the flipside is that they can’t afford redundancy payouts.

“This is regrettable fallout from our times of prosperity and robust hiring, when Australian employers were focused on growth without considering or preparing for the possibility of an economic downturn,” she said.

However, this is an opportunity for companies to review their business processes, according to Schreier-Joffe. “For instance, if a company has performance issues, this is a good time to address them. It’s also a good time to review employee contracts to ensure that all aspects of employment – including probationary periods and notice clauses –are set out clearly so that employers and employees know where they stand.”

It is not entirely clear what the laws will entail, Schreier-Joffe said. However, early comment from Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and policy documentation has revealed some of the key changes that will be made through Forward with Fairness, including the extension of unfair dismissal protection, and compulsory redundancy payments to all employees.

“It is important to do the right thing by your company, as well as your employees, and a strong contract can certainly help towards protecting everyone’s interests during times of economic difficulty,” she said.


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