What is happening in the world of HR for small businesses?
COVID-19 – 2 years in
It was 2 years last Friday since we sent out our first update on planning for the COVID-19 pandemic! Remember when we were only concerned if we had employees that were planning a trip overseas? It seems like a lifetime ago.
So much has changed in the world of HR during this period and while we hope the worst of it is over, we are still getting questions every week as business owners come up against new challenges they have not experienced before. This is particularly relevant for our clients outside of Victoria and NSW that managed to avoid some of the impacts a lot longer than the eastern states. Luckily they also have the advantage of learning from what worked and what didn’t and not making the same mistakes.
We are still getting a lot of questions in two main areas so we thought now was a great time for a reminder.
Management of Leave
With so many variables, management of leave is still the area we get the most questions. We have prepared a summary of the different scenarios you may encounter and the leave that will apply. You can access our HR Fact Sheet here.
Depending on your location, industry or profession, you may have had to navigate vaccination mandates. These can vary by state and have provided many challenges that small business has never had to manage before, particularly with existing employees.
We have been working with a number of clients that have had to manage employees that have chosen not to get vaccinated or have medical exemptions. It is imperative that you get advice specific to your situation as there can be many variables at play and risks you may not be aware of.
As we move forward, we highly recommend that you are implementing ongoing documentation and policies to ensure there are clear expectations for employees. Specifically, we advise that you review the following areas to ensure they reflect the current state of play:
- Employment Agreements and onboarding documentation
- HR and OHS policies
- Recruitment processes
- Employee records management
If you need any help working your way through this process, or need advice on a specific employee issue, please reach out to the Strawberry Seed team on (03) 4216 5200.
Changes to Sex Discrimination Laws
In late 2021, the Federal Government passed the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Respect@Work Act), which adopts six of the 55 recommendations from the Respect@Work Report.
There are several changes that employers we would like to highlight.
Extending the scope of the Sex Discrimination Act
The Sex Discrimination Act now:
- includes, amongst others, all members of State and Federal Parliament, State and Territory public servants, and judges along with their staff and consultants;
- applies to any “worker” and “person conducting a business or undertaking”, concepts which are taken from the model Work Health and Safety Act 2011. This means that interns, apprentices, volunteers, and self-employed persons are now covered by the Act;
- covers harassment that occurs in connection with the person being an employer or employee. As such, a person who is harassed does not need to be performing work when the harassment occurs to be covered; and
- covers any person who “causes, instructs, induces, aids or permits sexual harassment and sex-based harassment”. This has the effect of introducing accessorial liability into the Sex Discrimination Act.
Sex-based harassment is now an express form of unlawful conduct
This amendment provides additional examples of what sex-based harassment may include, based on the circumstances. These include:
- asking intrusive personal questions based on a person’s sex;
- making inappropriate comments and jokes to a person based on their sex;
- displaying images or materials that are sexist, misogynistic or misandrist;
- making sexist, misogynistic or misandrist remarks about a specific person; and
- requesting a person to engage in degrading conduct based on their sex.
Extended time for complaints
Complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act cannot be terminated on the ground of time-lapse until 24 months have passed since the unlawful discrimination took place. This is an increase from 6 months giving a potential complainant more opportunity to both consider and make their claim.
Sexual harassment can be a valid reason for dismissal
The unfair dismissal provisions of the FW Act have been amended to clarify that sexual harassment can be a valid reason for dismissal for the purposes of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) when determining whether a dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable.
What are the next steps?
Now is a good time to review your current HR policies to ensure that they now reflect these changes. For assistance with this process, speak to a member of the Strawberry Seed team.
Training and Development
Mental Health First Aid Training
Undetected mental health issues have a long-term negative impact on your staff as well as the wider workplace. Recognising the signs and symptoms of mental health issues is the first step to supporting an employee or workmate who’s struggling.
Our HR Advisor, Frances Orr, became an accredited MHFA trainer at the end of 2020. She has been delivering in house MHFA training for a number of our clients over the past 12 months.
We are excited to announce that we are about to start offering public courses for smaller business owners that want to only send one or two employees to a course. We will be offering discounted rates for our HR Business Support Package and previous Fixed Price Package clients.
If you are interested, please complete this Expression Of Interest survey.
Why is Mental Health First Aid training important?
As a manager or business owner, you’re likely to 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 you’re worried about saying the wrong thing?
Mental Health First Aid training teaches you practical first aid skills to help a team member or co-worker who’s experiencing mental health issues. We’ll teach you how to approach someone who’s struggling, ask the right questions and help them access professional help.
Strawberry Seed Consulting – New Webinar Series
We are excited to have launched our new series on free monthly webinars!
The first session is on the 23rd March 2022 at 7.30 pm. Bookings can be made here and please feel free to pass this on to other business owners.
Getting Ready to Employ? A guide for new employers.
Hiring your first employee can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. A little preparation can save you a lot of time and frustration down the track.
This webinar is designed to provide small business owners with a step-by-step guide to employing for their small business. We will cover:
- Working out job requirements
- Types of engagement – full time, part-time, casual and contracting
- Setting a salary
- Employment documentation
- Understanding the employment laws
- Recruitment and onboarding
Our upcoming April webinar will have a guest co-host, Tania Cross from Cross the T who will join our Director Carli Saw to discuss the differences and obligations around Employees and Contractors.
We have had a few changes to the team at the start of 2022!
We would like to welcome Kelly Furniss to the team as our new Recruitment Advisor. Kelly will be coordinating all of our client recruitment needs and has already hit the ground running.
Emily Messina is taking a step back from work for a while but will still be around as she will move into a casual support role later this year. Rebecca Brauer is also taking a leave of absence for 6 months and we hope to see her back on board in the second half of 2022. Luckily, Natalie Raidme is now fully returned from parental leave and able to step into her shoes.
Like every small business, we are constantly changing and adapting to the challenges of the last few years. For us, that also means allowing our team to adapt too so you may also notice a few team member have changed their hours or days of work. If in doubt, you can always call our main number on (03) 4216 5200 and a member of the team will be able to assist.