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The Punnet – March 2023

By March 6, 2023Newsletter
The Punnet

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

New requirements on Workplace Sexual Harassment

From 6 March 2023, the Fair Work Act will prohibit sexual harassment in connection with work, which includes the workplace. This protection will apply to employees, contractors, work experience students, volunteers, future workers, and anyone conducting a business or undertaking. This is in addition to existing protections offered by current state and federal legislation.

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 Fair Work Commission (FWC) can now hear disputes and has expanded its powers to deal with disputes about sexual harassment, including arbitrating disputes by consent.

As a small business owner, having a few policies that sit on a shelf is not enough. You must ensure you are proactively educating your employees on acceptable workplace conduct.

6 reasons to book a Workplace Conduct Training session

Workplace conduct training can bring several benefits to small businesses, including:

  1. Promoting a safe and respectful workplace culture: Conduct training can help small businesses create a safe and respectful work environment that encourages diversity and inclusion. It can also teach employees to recognise and report unacceptable behaviour such as discrimination, harassment, or bullying.
  2. Preventing legal issues: Training can help small businesses avoid legal problems and ensure compliance by educating employees about their legal rights and responsibilities in the workplace.
  3. Boosting productivity and morale: Conduct training can enhance employee productivity by fostering a positive and collaborative work environment. It can also improve employee morale by creating a workplace culture prioritising respect, accountability, and fairness.
  4. Enhancing customer satisfaction: A well-trained workforce can provide superior customer service, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  5. Increasing employee retention: A positive workplace culture and a commitment to training and development can attract and retain high-quality employees, reducing employee turnover and associated costs.
  6. Improving reputation: A small business that demonstrates a commitment to ethical and respectful behaviour can enhance its reputation and appeal to potential customers and employees.

Strawberry Seed Consulting can provide customised Workplace Conduct Training for your team.

Our session includes:

  • What is acceptable workplace conduct?
  • Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
  • Discrimination and Unconscious Bias
  • Workplace Harassment and Workplace Bullying
  • Managing conflict and disagreements with a coworker
  • Employers’ and employees’ obligations to maintaining a mentally safe workplace

Workplace Conduct Training is delivered via video for your team at a time that works for you. We record the session allowing you to make it part of your ongoing training for current and future employees. In-person sessions are available by request; travel costs may apply.

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

Upcoming changes to temporary workplace shutdowns

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has recently determined that 78 awards should be updated to include a new model shutdown provision.

Many awards currently contain provisions allowing employers to direct employees to take leave without pay or leave in advance if they do not have sufficient annual leave available to cover a shutdown period (such as over the Christmas and New Year period). These will now be replaced.

The FWC invited submissions from relevant parties regarding its decision, of which many opposed the change. However, the FWC ultimately determined that the new provisions would be effective from 1 May 2023.

This decision means that employees who do not have sufficient accrued annual leave to cover the shutdown period may, in some circumstances, be entitled to wages during the shutdown period if they do not agree to take leave without pay or leave in advance.

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.

Time to plan ahead

First, determine early any planned shutdowns for Christmas and New Year. Then you will have a clear idea of how much leave employees must have available. Communicate this to employees early. You may need to reassess the length of the shutdown.

Starting now, proactively manage employees’ annual leave to ensure they will have enough leave available to cover any planned shutdown.

Other strategies you may want to consider include banking rostered days off, the use of TOIL, or managing employee leave requests. Leave must be managed thoughtfully and will require careful planning.

Finally, remember that any employees that commence in the year’s second half may not have enough leave accrued by Christmas. This should be part of upfront negotiations with employees.

What next?

If you have employees covered by one of the 78 modern awards impacted by the decision, you should take the time to review your current policies and procedures concerning annual leave before 1 May 2023.

We also recommend reviewing employment agreements to clarify that employees agree to take unpaid annual leave if they do not accrue sufficient annual leave.

Ensure all managers with the ability to approve leave understand the changes and are educated on how to manage annual leave approvals moving forward.

Need help?

If you need assistance navigating these changes for your business, contact the Strawberry Seed team at (03) 4216 5200 or

Important changes to the Profesional Employees Award 2020

In January 2023, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decided to entitle professional employees covered by the Professional Employees Award 2020 to receive penalty rates for additional and unsociable work hours. This includes engineering, science, information technology, and quality auditing professionals.

This decision intends to address the low pay of certain professional full-time employees who are required to work significant additional hours without compensation, balancing it against the flexibility that salaried employment offers to employers in covering ‘reasonable additional hours’.

The changes to be introduced include:

  • A 125% penalty rate for all hours worked (whether ordinary or overtime hours) before 6:00 am or after 10:00 pm on Mondays to Saturdays;
  • A 150% penalty rate for all rostered hours worked (whether ordinary or overtime hours) on Sundays and public holidays; and
  • Payment in accordance with the hourly rate in clause 14 of the Award for all hours worked in excess of 38 hours for the week or time off in lieu.
  • For casual employees, the above penalty rates will be in addition to their casual loading.

Employers will also have to ensure they keep full and proper records of all hours worked by their full-time employees in excess of 38 hours, and any work performed in the above timeframes where the new penalty rates are applicable.

Employees with an annual salary of 25% or more in excess of the minimum annual wage for their classification will not be entitled to the penalty rates or the additional payments above. Professionals engaged in wholly or principally managerial positions are also excluded.

These changes are anticipated to come into effect in March 2023.

Ahead of these changes, employers should:

  • Ensure they are fully aware of the incoming changes and how they may affect their employees’ pay entitlements;
  • Conduct a review of current employee contracts for employees covered by the Professionals Employees Award 2020 and their salary levels, as well as the overtime practices within the business;
  • Implement sound record-keeping systems for overtime hours, if necessary.

If you need assistance navigating these changes for your business, contact the Strawberry Seed team at (03) 4216 5200 or

Upcoming Training and Development

Upcoming Leadership Training Workshops – Torquay and Brisbane

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 risk to the organisation.

Next Available Workshops

Torquay – Monday 20th March 2023 

Brisbane – Thursday 4th May 2023

For more information and details on how to book, click here.

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 Senior HR Advisor and Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Frances Orr, is an accredited MHFA trainer and has been delivering in-house MHFA training for many of our clients since 2021.

We now have a regular schedule of public blended online workplace MHFA, and the next ones are coming up in May.  The public courses allow businesses to send a smaller number of their team to attend the course. We will also be offering discounted rates for our HR Business Support Package and previous Fixed Price Package clients, so reach out to your HR Advisor for the codes.

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 then followed up by component 2, which is two 2.5 hour instructor-led webinar sessions. Each attendee will receive an MHFA manual, and a certificate of attendance and can gain accreditation for mental health first aid. 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.

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 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

Expressions of Interest for Training in 2023

We will have several existing and new training programs running in 2023. Please fill in this EOI survey if you are interested in upcoming courses.

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.

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