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The Punnet – May 2021

By May 19, 2021May 24th, 2021Newsletter
The Punnet

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

Mental Health First Aid Training

Strawberry Seed Consulting is excited to launch our latest service, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training. Our HR Advisor, Frances Orr, became an accredited MHFA trainer at the end of 2020.

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.

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.

What does the course look like?

We run the Standard Mental Health First Aid course, which is 12 hours in total. The course can be run in two six-hour sessions or four three-hour sessions, however, it can be tailored to your business.

We can run it in-house or at a location of your choice. We can also customise content to make it relevant for your industry. For example, if you are an allied health professional, this training could be helpful in dealing with your patients. If you employ customer-facing staff, this training will benefit them in communicating with your clients.

Already a Strawberry Seed consulting client? We are offering discounted rates for our HR Business Support Package and Fixed Price Package clients.

To learn more, click here or contact Frances for an obligation free customised quote at mhfa@strawberryseed.com.au.

Changes to unpaid parental leave entitlements – What do you need to know?

On 26 November 2020, the Fair Work Act was amended to include new unpaid parental leave entitlements for parents.  These changes include entitlements for parents who experience traumatic events during or ahead of their unpaid parental leave and provisions for parents to use a portion of their unpaid leave flexibly.

These provisions only apply to a child who is born, or whose placement happens on or after 27 November 2020.

Traumatic Events

From November 2020, parents who are eligible to take unpaid parental leave can still access this leave for a maximum of 12 months if they experience

  • a stillbirth;
  • the death of a child during the first 24 months of life.

Employers cannot direct parents to return to work or, in effect, cancel the employee’s unpaid leave after a stillbirth or death of a child.  Parents may choose to return to work after a stillbirth or death of a child, ending their period of unpaid leave.

Premature birth and birth-related complications

Employees who experience premature births or other birth-related complications that result in their baby having to stay in hospital or being hospitalised immediately after birth can agree with their employers to put their unpaid parental leave on hold to return to work.

This means that while their newborn is hospitalised, parents can return to work, and this period of work will not be deducted from their unpaid parental leave. The employee can then resume their unpaid parental leave at the earliest of:

  • a time agreed with their employer
  • the end of the day when the newborn is discharged from the hospital, or
  • if the newborn dies, the end of the day when the newborn died

Compassionate leave

Parents who experience a stillbirth or death of a child may be entitled to take compassionate leave while on unpaid parental leave.

Another employee may also be entitled to take compassionate leave if the child was, or would have been, an immediate family or household member of the employee.

New flexible unpaid parental leave entitlement

Parents are now also entitled to use up to 30 days (6 weeks) of their maximum 12-month unpaid parental leave period on a flexible basis. This leave is known as flexible unpaid parental leave.

Flexible unpaid parental leave may be taken as:

  • a single continuous period of 1 or more days, or
  • separate periods of 1 or more days each.

Flexible unpaid parental leave needs to be taken within the first 24 months of the birth or adoption of a child and can be taken in a way that complements how they’re receiving payments under the Paid Parental Leave scheme. Parents may choose to take flexible unpaid parental leave for several reasons including sharing caring responsibilities between parents or helping with gradually returning to work.

Parents must follow certain notice requirements to be able to take flexible unpaid parental leave. Evidence requirements also apply.

Notice requirements for flexible parental leave

An employee who would like to take flexible parental leave needs to tell their employer:

  • at the same time they give notice of their continuous parental leave, or
  • at least 10 weeks before the start of their flexible parental leave if they’re only taking flexible parental leave.

Notice can also be provided later if the employer agrees. When they give notice, an employee needs to tell their employer the total number of days of flexible parental leave they intend to take.

An employee must confirm their flexible parental leave dates with their employer at least 4 weeks before they start their leave. If there have been any changes to the dates, the employee should tell their employer as soon as possible. If an employee cannot give 4 weeks’ notice, they need to provide as much notice as possible.

What should employers do next?

Now is the time to review your existing Parental Leave policies to ensure they reflect these changes. Strawberry Seed Consulting HR Business Support Clients will receive their updated manuals shortly.

If you have any questions on this process, please reach out to our team.

FAQ – Managing employees with an outside work injury

We have recently experienced an influx of inquiries from clients managing an employee with a non work-related injury or medical condition. When an employee is physically or mentally unable to complete their job, it can cause headaches for the employer.

While each situation is unique and needs to be managed based on specific circumstances, here are some tips to help you navigate the situation.

Risks

There are legal obligations that must be navigated carefully when managing this process. These include obligations under work health and safety legislation and anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunity (EEO) legislation.

Appropriately managing an incapacitated employee will help employers safely navigate their legal obligations and the risk of legal claims by the employee.

Communication is key. If you have concerns about an employee’s physical or mental capacity, then start by talking to them. Outline your concerns and identify any risks to the employee’s health and safety in the workplace.

If you are concerned the employee’s health and safety may be compromised in the workplace, consider offering alternative duties on a temporary basis or, in specific circumstances, ask the employee not to attend work while you obtain medical advice. Always seek advice before standing down an employee under these circumstances.

Medical Evidence

Any decision about managing an employee who is physically (or mentally) incapable of performing their job must start with obtaining current medical advice from an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Don’t rely on second-hand information or assumptions from either the employer or employee.

If the employee hasn’t already provided medical information, seek consent from the employee to write to their treating medical practitioner for advice about the impact of any incapacity on the performance of their job.

You need to provide more than a job title and brief overview. Ensure that you include specific details of the employees’ physical and mental requirements so the medical practitioner can provide you with accurate recommendations.

What is a ‘Reasonable Adjustment’?

Under anti-discrimination and EEO legislation, there is an obligation on employers to provide reasonable adjustments or accommodations to employees with a disability or impairment such as a physical incapacity.  Reasonable adjustments or accommodations may include:

  • changes to the employee’s hours of work,
  • physical adjustments or equipment in the workplace, and
  • adjustments to the allocation or rotation of work.

Medical practitioners can make recommendations on the required adjustments, but they cannot determine what would be reasonable for your workplace.

If the adjustments required to allow the employee to perform their job would impose an unjustifiable hardship on the employer (for example, if they are prohibitively expensive or would impose unreasonably on other employees in the workplace), they may not be considered reasonable.

For example, the recommendation may be the employee is temporarily unable to work on the tools but can work their ordinary 38 hours per week doing administration duties in the office. If you do not have enough appropriate work available for the employee to do, you are not obliged to provide the full 38 hours of work.

Possible Outcomes

Once you have received the advice from a medical practitioner, there are usually three possible outcomes:

  • The employee’s incapacity is expected to resolve over the short to medium term.  The employee may take paid or unpaid leave during their recovery or, if appropriate and medically approved, may undertake alternative duties on a temporary basis.  Once fit to do so, the employee returns to their job.
  • The employee’s incapacity is ongoing, and the employer provides reasonable adjustments to allow them to continue to do their job.
  • The employee’s incapacity is ongoing, and there are no reasonable adjustments that can be made to allow the employee to do their job.  In these circumstances, the employer should consider if the employee may be redeployed or it may be lawful to terminate the employee’s employment on the basis that they can no longer perform the inherent requirements of their job.

Every decision you make during this process needs to be based on the information available and not assumptions. It is understandable that it can be frustrating for employers when there are medium or long term conditions that make it difficult for the employee to return to their pre-injury position.

Our best advice is to be patient and reach out to the Strawberry Seed team to help you step through the process so you don’t accidentally end up with unexpected outcomes.

If you need help with this process, speak to a member of the Strawberry Seed team.

2021 Superannuation Increase

Effective 1 July 2021, employers will be required to increase the minimum superannuation contribution to employees from 9.5% of “Ordinary Time Earnings” (OTE) to 10%.

Depending on whether an employee’s salary is expressed as inclusive or exclusive of superannuation, it may decrease an employee’s take-home pay or increase costs for the employer. This will be specific to how it is expressed in their employment agreement. Always seek advice if unsure.

Now is a good time to consider how this impending increase will impact your business. For assistance with this process, speak to a member of the Strawberry Seed team.

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

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