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The Punnet – August 2023

By August 30, 2023Newsletter
The Punnet

What is happening in the world of HR for small businesses?

Spring is in the air – the home stretch for 2023

Spring is days away, and I don’t know about you, but I look forward to nicer weather!

At Strawberry Seed, we think now is also the best time to consider your staffing levels for the rest of 2023.

  • Will you shut down over the Christmas break, and for how long?
  • What public holidays are coming up?
  • Do any of your team plan on taking leave?

Christmas Shutdowns

Here is your reminder to not leave this to the last minute. Start planning for this now, especially if you plan to shut down for a period.

As we outlined in the March Punnet, there have been changes to the provisions on temporary shutdowns across 78 Awards. In summary:

  • Employers must give affected employees 28 days’ written notice of any temporary shutdown period or any shorter period as agreed between the parties.
  • Employers may direct employees in writing to take paid annual leave if the employee has an accrued annual leave entitlement, providing the direction is reasonable.
  • Should an employee not have sufficient annual leave to cover the whole shutdown period, by a written agreement, the employee may take leave without pay or annual leave in advance during the temporary shutdown.
  • Employees can no longer be required to take leave without pay if they do not have sufficient annual leave or leave in advance to cover the whole shutdown period.

Contact our team if you need help navigating this for the 2023/24 Christmas period.

Public Holidays

Almost every state in Australia has at least one public holiday between now and Christmas (if you are in Victoria, there are two). Christmas Day and Boxing Day are a Monday and Tuesday in 2023 so there will be no requirements for substitute days.

In the April Punnet, we told you about a new Federal Court decision that now requires that Employers “request” employees to work on public holidays rather than simply roster and allow the employee to decline the shift.

If you are going to be rostering employees to work on Public Holidays, we highly recommend that you have a method of requesting the employees to work the public holiday shift as a step before the rostering process. 

Contact our team if you need help navigating the upcoming public holidays.

How are you tracking with the 2022/23 Secure Jobs, Better Pay changes?

Since December 2022, there have been multiple changes in Australian Workplace Laws that have been rolled out. With most of the changes now in place for small and large businesses, we thought it was worth a reminder to ensure you are still compliant.

Prohibiting Pay Secrecy

Changes to Pay Secrcy were effective from the 7th of December, 2022. The Fair Work Act now gives employees and future employees new workplace rights to share or not share information about their pay and ask other employees about their pay. Employees can’t be forced to give this information to another employee if they don’t want to.

The six-month grace period is now up. Fines may apply if you provide employees with new or updated employee agreements that still contain a pay secrecy clause.

Family & Domestic Violence Leave

Entitlements under the National Employment Standards have changed. Family & Domestic Violence Leave has been amended to 10 days paid leave per year. These changes are now in effect for all businesses around Australia.

You need to ensure that your policies are up to date. There are also updates to the Fair Work Information Statements you must provide new employees, so ensure you have the current version from Fair Work.

Prohibiting Workplace Sexual Harassment

Since March, the Fair Work Act now prohibits sexual harassment in connection with work, which includes in the workplace. This protection applies to employees, contractors, work experience students, volunteers, future workers, and anyone conducting a business or undertaking.

A person or company will also be liable for sexual harassment committed by an employee or agent in connection with work unless they can prove that they took all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. The FWC can now hear disputes and has expanded its powers to deal with disputes about sexual harassment, including arbitrating disputes by consent.

Employers must be able to demonstrate they are taking ‘all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment’. This means being more proactive in your approach. Update your policies. Talk about it in the workplace. Think about how you are promoting positive behaviour in your workplace.

At Strawberry Seed, we have been delivering Workplace Conduct Training for many of our clients this year as part of their strategy. This is an excellent way to be proactive and set the standards for your workplace. This training can be delivered nationwide via video, with many clients choosing to record it for new employees.

If you would like to explore this training for your team, call us for a quote at (03) 4216 5200.

Unpaid Parental Leave and Flexible Work Arrangements

Since June 2023, employers have new obligations before they can refuse a request from an employee for a flexible working arrangement or extension of unpaid parental leave. Employers must consult with employees to make a genuine effort to accommodate requests and only refuse the requests on reasonable business grounds. The employer must respond in writing within 21 days of the request with an explanation of the reasonable business grounds for refusing, and other changes the employer is willing to make or not make, and the new dispute resolution provisions that the FWC have.

The FWC will also now have the power to deal with disputes about requests for extending unpaid parental leave, which include arbitration. FWC will also have the power to start court proceedings for alleged breaches of orders made if the Commission arbitrates a dispute.

Fixed Term Contacts

The final change from this legislation will be in place from 6th December 2023. Employers will no longer be able to employ an employee on a fixed term contract that is greater than two years, or the sum of, and with no more than one extension. A new contract cannot be substantially similar to the previous contract. Anti-avoidance provisions are in place, and the contract will become permanent if the employer offends.

Exceptions apply for training agreements and if the employee is covered by an Award that allows fixed-term contracts in the above circumstances.

From 6th December 2023, employers must give employees they’re engaging on a fixed-term basis new fixed-term contracts and a Fixed Term Contract Information Statement. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) will be able to hear disputes about the new requirements. Employees can access small claims court, too, should they want to take civil action instead.

If you regularly employ fixed-term contracts, now is the time to consider your approach moving forward.

I need help!!!

We understand that there have been a lot of changes, and it is hard to keep up. The Strawberry Seed team are here to help. If we have previously compiled your HR documentation, we can review and update it with all the changes. If you are a new client, there has never been a better time to take up one of our HR Packages to ensure compliance.

If you want us to help you get up to date, call us for a quote at (03) 4216 5200.

FAQ – Notice Periods 

When it comes to FAQs, what to do when it comes to notice periods is definitely in our top 10. Common questions include:

  • Our employment contract says four weeks, but the NES says two weeks. Which one applies?
  • My employee has resigned. Do I have to have them work out their notice, or can I have them leave today?
  • Do I have to accept it if an employee gives me more than the required notice?

Our HR Advisor, Kylie Simmons, has your back in her latest article for Strawberry Seed, Navigating Notice Periods: An Employer’s Guide to NES and Employment Agreements. She shares advice so you can avoid misunderstanding and costly errors.

2022/23 Webinars

Did you know that you can go back and watch the back catalogue of free Strawberry Seed webinars? Over the last 18 months, we have covered topics including:

  • Getting Ready to Employ – A guide for new employers
  • Contractors vs. Employees – Do you understand the difference?
  • Leave Entitlements – Answering our most FAQ on leave
  • Discipline and Terminations – Why don’t we discuss them before it’s too late?
  • Restructure and Redundancy – Understanding how to get it right

You can access all of these recordings and more on our website or YouTube.

Upcoming Training and Development

Free Upcoming Webinars 

Difficult Workplace Conversations – Practical tips and strategies for people managers

The next of our free webinars will be held on the 4th of October 2023, at 7.30 pm.

At Strawberry Seed, the most requested topic for training is how to have a difficult conversation with employees.

Ideally, everyone is looking for a magic bullet that will make it easier. The reality is that it will always take work. Fortunately, we can help you understand how to plan and approach these conversations to allow for more productive discussions and better outcomes.

Join our Director Carli Saw as she shares her experience and insights from more than 25 years of coaching people managers through challenging employee issues.  As we understand small business people have busy days, we have scheduled this session for the evening (so you can enjoy it with a glass of wine if you wish)!

Bookings can be made here, and please feel free to pass this on to other business owners. Don’t worry if you can’t attend on the night. You will receive a recording to watch at your convenience.

Coming Soon: The last topic for 2023 will be ‘101 of HR for Building and Trade‘. Hosted by Helen Dodd, our Principal HR Advisor, this is part of our ‘101 webinar series, designed to get into the nuts and bolts of managing employees in specific industries, allowing us to go deeper into the details that matter. Click here for more information.

Mental Health First Aid Training

Undetected mental health issues have a long-term negative impact on your staff and the wider workplace. Recognising the signs and symptoms of mental health issues is the first step to supporting a struggling employee or workmate.

Our Principal HR Advisor and Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Frances Orr, is an accredited MHFA trainer who has delivered in-house MHFA training for many clients since 2021.

We now have a regular schedule of public face-to-face and blended online MHFA courses, and we currently have spaces available for courses in September and October.  The public courses allow businesses to send a smaller number of their team to attend the course.

Blended Online Workplace Course

The blended online course is split into two components.  In the first component, your team will undertake a self-paced eLearning component (4-6 hours online directly with MHFA).  This is followed up by component 2, two 2.5 hour instructor-led webinar sessions. Each attendee will receive an MHFA manual and a certificate of attendance and can gain mental health first aid accreditation. During this course, we can address current industry issues or concerns you are experiencing in your organisation. This public delivery is limited to 12 participants in each webinar session.

The cost of this course is $250 plus GST for each attendee.

The dates for the upcoming instructor lead webinar sessions can be found here.

Face-to-Face Standard MHFA Course

The face-to-face course is conducted over two full days.  All attendees will receive an MHFA manual and a certificate of attendance and can gain mental health first aid accreditation. During this course, we can address current industry issues or concerns you are experiencing in your organisation. This public delivery is limited to 20 participants; refreshments, lunch, and afternoon tea will be provided.

The cost of this course is $350 plus GST for each attendee.

The dates for the upcoming face-to-face sessions can be found here.

Why is Mental Health First Aid training important?

As a manager or business owner, you will likely have been confronted with mental health issues at your workplace. Do you know how to talk to a team member who’s struggling? Maybe you hold back because you don’t know what to say or worry about saying the wrong thing.

Mental Health First Aid training teaches practical first aid skills to help a team member or co-worker experiencing mental health issues. We’ll teach you how to approach someone struggling, ask the right questions and help them access professional help.

To learn more about our in-house training options, click here or contact Frances for an obligation-free customised quote at

Upcoming Leadership Training Workshops – Sydney and Melbourne

One of our popular HR services is to develop and deliver customised in-house Leadership Training for our clients. However, we realise that not all small businesses are large enough to have a session independently.

Our Leadership Training Workshop is designed to bring together people managers from the small business community to share their experiences and develop their knowledge and skills to be better leaders. This workshop aims to ensure leaders get the most out of their people, improve productivity and reduce organisational risk.

Next Available Workshops

Sydney – Monday, 11th September 2023

Melbourne – Friday, 20th October 2023 (rescheduled from August)

Discount codes are available for HR Package clients. For more information and details on how to book, click here.



Carli Saw

Author Carli Saw

Carli is a Human Resources professional with more than 20 years of experience across a range of industries and a passion for supporting small business.

More posts by Carli Saw