Apprenticeships should support workforce planning

In 2013 when this most recent downturn hit I was made redundant from my job (the joys of working in a support service – you aren’t seen as an income generator so off you go).

I am passionate about youth employment and an opportunity arose for me to work in the apprenticeships & traineeships space.

What I become to learn (and alarmingly so) was that because of the down turn apprentice numbers took a sharp turn south. Companies that had in the previous years taken on a dozen or so new apprentices were only taking on 1 or 2 – or none.

These were for trades that once we come out the other side of the downturn (as past history would show we always do), would be in high demand. These were trades that up until the down turn businesses were recruiting from the eastern states and paying for existing employees to undertake trade upgrades.

Had companies maintained their apprenticeship program, by 2017 they would have had a bunch of tradies finishing their time and ready to work within their businesses, and most importantly, with a skill set tailored specifically to that business.

Apprentices & trainees should be seen by business as a way to bring fresh new talent into the business, to support their succession planning and growth aspirations and to minimise any negative impacts from current or future skills shortages.

And what a better way to have have a workforce trained to your specific business requirements than to grow your own talent. Apprenticeships and traineeships offer you the opportunity to train your up & coming employees in the areas that your business needs the most, providing your business with the skills it needs the most.

You want to know what else is great about employing youth into these roles? They bring a fresh approach & energy into a business which can have a knock on effect to other employees. A company that is willing to invest in people by supporting apprenticeships is showing a positive approach to corporate social responsibility, which is good for attracting both customers and future quality staff. It builds a positive employer brand which in turn will increase your profile as an employer that people want to work for.

And now to address the elephant in the room, I often hear business owners and older employees lament about the younger generation in the workplace; they are lazy, you have to hold their hand every step of the way, they are always on their phones.

Hands up who left school and started their first job and knew EXACTLY what to do? ……… anyone ……… anyone? Nobody can start a new job without some sort of training – ranging from “this is my first job ever and I don’t know how to conduct myself” through to “where do these documents get saved”. If you want your employees to not just exceed, but to excel, you need to spend time with them.

So if I hear “they are lazy” my response is did you asked them why they are sitting around not working; if you are telling me you have to hold their hand every step of the way I would suggest you try alternative ways to communicate, because your current method may not suit their learning style, and if I hear they are always on their phones I’m more interested in understanding why you haven’t told them to get off of it.

Depending on the industry & qualifications employers of apprentices and trainees can attract some great financial incentives with commencement, midpoint & completion payments available as well as well as additional incentives for priority areas and subsidised payroll tax for the bigger employers.

With the new financial year WA businesses can take advantage of the Jobs and Skills WA Employer Incentive. The great thing about this incentive is it is also available for school based trainees, which means you can gain a financial incentive to select and nurture your future employees from upper high school right through to the completion of their apprenticeship or traineeship. There’s a potential $8,500 in incentives on offer for a 4 year trade and $4,250 for a 2 year traineeship – woah!

Nicole Goldsworthy from Apprenticeship Support Australia is a valuable resource for employers within the Goldfields region and can answer your queries, sign your apprentices and trainees up and assist with sourcing reputable registered training organisations. You can email Nicole here.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day

Simone Pickering | The People & Culture Office


Rethinking social media at work

Employee Instragram | HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office Kalgoorlie

Posting inappropriate memes. Instagramming lunches. Facebooking a few office selfies. Browsing instead of working. Snapchatting Sharon trying to fix the printer.

These are the events companies imagine will takeover the work day if they let employees use social media on the job. Unfortunately, for businesses that ban the use of social media in the workplace, it is likely your employees are using it regardless of your policy (after all, thanks to smartphones we all have access to Facebook, Insta & Snapchat 24×7 without reliance on the work internet connection). Instead of wasting time and energy policing social media use at work, lets take a look at how business can leverage it to their advantage.

Social media use for marketing, communication or customer services purposes is no longer the new shiny thing, it’s been here for a while and it’s here to stay.

Recently Sonia from Scribe & Social wrote this post on Elevating your Social Media, click through to learn how to create an authentic voice for your business.

When I think about the case for social media in the workplace, there are many opportunities to leverage these tools as we become a more mobile and visual workforce that is literally always on the go. Social media is poised to become the office and workplace productivity tool of choice. I see 5 genuine categories where social media can be used at work helping to improve productivity, work flow and overall communication between teams, managers and business leaders who are tasked with reaching an audience of employees who are overwhelmed, disengaged and bombarded with tasks and responsibilities more than ever before.

  • Distribution and Communication. You want to reach your audience quickly and through multiple channels to ensure that the message and information is received and mostly absorbed by your employees.  Workplace by Facebook is a tool to connect employees via IM, video chat and groups to share work related information. I was lucky enough to take a look at it in practice at a local business in Kalgoorlie not long ago and was impressed by how they were using it as a communication tool. However, social media, just like any other comms tool, quite simply, will work for some businesses and not for others. It depends on the culture, the demographic and how much you can invest into it.
  • Recruitment and Hiring. Employers should look to their current workforce first to fill job openings. What better way that setting up social media or digital communication channels for employees to receive job openings to their mobile phones via instant message, direct message or by text. Social media is also a great source for engaging candidates externally. So while we are on the subject, take a look at your business Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram pages through the eyes of a potential employee, a potential employee who’s likely to be a Millennial. Do you like what you see? Is your content a good mix of sharing what you do and a touch of the personal? Does it speak in an authentic voice? Does it speak to your demographic?
  • Research and Personal Development. Social media such as Linkedin allows you access to peers, experts and individuals providing you networking opportunities, insights into experiences and most importantly personal development.
  • Employee Recognition and Engagement. Do you give out quarterly awards for employees who go above and beyond at work? Tell your social network about it! Not only are you giving a very public shoutout to the employees in question you are actively showing employees & visitors to your pages you value your employees & the work they do. Content sharing can be really powerful for spreading your message, your employees are likely to have connections that sit within your target demographic. If you can identify the active social employees within your business and recruit them to become social media champions, they can have a huge impact on sharing content to build your brand & following.
  • Employment Branding. Social media and recruiting has evolved into almost a science where candidates are reached through campaigns just like your business marketing, except this strategy is focused on the job seeker long before they apply for a job and become a candidate. Employment branding is complex like most marketing strategies and involves an understanding of the candidate you are trying to reach, your industry and geographic locations as well as experience working in HR and recruiting. I’ve written more about employment branding here and here

The most important thing to consider with social media, is that you will only get out of it what you put in. It’s really important to listen to the conversation taking place and find ways to engage your employees, by creating and sharing relevant content.

As use of mobile technology rises, it is important for businesses to give content human appeal and make the message sound genuine. Social media isn’t rocket science but you have to try things out until you find a way that works for you.

It’s time for HR to move beyond policies, practices and processes. The People & Culture Office can partner with you to gain a competitive advantage through people & culture initiatives Contact Us to arrange an appointment to discus what solutions we can put in place to drive achievement of your strategic goals.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day

Simone Pickering | The People & Culture Office


People | Process | Power

Workforce Planning | The People & Culture Office

Last week I wrote this post to give you an overview of strategic HR management and how each element adds value to your business, today we are going to take a closer look at one of those elements; Workforce Planning.

Put simply, workforce planning is “having the right people in the right place at the right time” The key principles to workforce planning are;

  • identifying future business directions and workforce needs
  • analysing and understanding the make-up of the current workforce
  • determining the necessary skills, capabilities and competencies required to achieve strategic and operational goals in the future
  • developing policies and strategies that will assist in achieving these goals

Workforce Planning provides management with a framework for making informed staffing decisions which are in line with the organisation’s strategic and operational goals. This is opposed to reactionary or “knee-jerk” staffing decisions that may seem right at the time, but eventually turn out to be ineffective in supporting the strategic directions of the organisation.

The planning process also provides a mechanism for integrating a range of human resource strategies that can assist with the attraction and retention of staff in a systematic, equitable and strategic way.

Sounds great Simone but how does this work within my business? Let’s say you are a mining contractor and you have just been awarded two separate contracts to develop and mine mid-sized open pit projects to commence in 4 – 6 months time. As part of the planning process HR would sit down with the operations manager and map out the project; what positions would be required & when needed throughout the project, what will the roster be, what will the manning of the crews look like and the duration of each contract. Armed with this information HR would go off and start to pull together workforce plan to ensure the organisations ability to meet the workforce need is approached in a systematic, proactive and cost effective way.

This may include looking at the current workforce skill set & capability to determine opportunities for promotion into Superintendent / Shift Supervisor positions, the number of new recruits required, remuneration structure, risks to attraction & retention of employees, whether there is a requirement for the creation of, or review of, HR policies & procedures and then the development of a recruitment schedule giving sufficient time for the recruitment process to occur, successful candidates to leave exisiting jobs and then mobilise to site. Systematic, Proactive and Cost Effective.

So obviously, and as with all business planning when approached with a measured and considered approach, workforce planning has numerous advantages – the ability to identify more effective and efficient use of people at work; enabling effective planning in relation to the “demographics” of the workforce to ensure business continuity; enabling proactive management as opposed to just-in-time management or management by crises; the development of a range of alternative courses of action to meet changing market environments; understanding issues associated with retention and turnover so increases or reductions in staff are managed appropriately and cost effectively with minimal impact on the workforce, individuals and to the business are just a few.

But say you’re a bit of a fly – by – the – seat – of – your – pants person? What are the risks associated with not having a planning mechanism in place? It would result in management resorting to make staffing decisions in an ad-hoc or reactionary way that does not support the longer-term goals of the organisation. This type of decision-making may lead to – a workforce that is inflexible and does not have the necessary capabilities to deliver future services necessary for an organisation to achieve its goals; an inability to attract and retain high quality staff, due to irrelevant or inconsistent human resource policies and practices; operational goals that are inconsistent with the organisation’s wider vision and strategic focus; staff development resources being funnelled to activities which do not support the strategic goals of the institution; under-utilisation of staff; increased staffing costs; a lack of leadership and succession planning and poor management decision-making. Eeeek!

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” ― Alan Lakein, author

The People & Culture Office can assist you to create overall capability and ensure that your organisation has the skilled, committed, engaged employees it requires to achieve sustained competitive advantage. We will analyse your strategic plan and goals to identify opportunities to develop people and culture initiatives that will integrate with, and support the overarching business strategy. 

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day 🤣

Sounds like a plan, Stan

HR Meeting | The People & Culture Office Kalgoorlie

Business owners, who woke up one morning, decided to start a business, and plowed on ahead with no plan, no idea of where they were headed & no structure for finances, products, clients or employees? Anyone……. Anyone…… As I thought, no-one, because who would be so blasé about their investment and reputation. Yet, going forward how many of you have employee centric plans in place? Such as, have you thought about skill requirements to ensure successful future growth? Have you thought about the documentation of your mission & values so you can ensure your employees, current and future, share them? Have you got a strategic or business plan in place and do you have employee related policies and performance management mechanisms in place to ensure they are met?

If you don’t know where you are headed, how can you expect your employees to join you for the ride?

When an organisation has made its business decisions in relation to its strategic goals, it has to determine how to make that vision a reality & to carry out its mission by executing each strategy. Each and every strategy that a business pursues will have specific HR needs and implications, an experienced HR professional will work with management to ensure there is a plan for the human resources needed to deliver on its strategic goals. This is known as strategic HR management.

There are a number of variables to be considered when managing business outcomes, these can include;

  • Organisational Structure
  • Job Design
  • Recruitment & Selection Processes
  • Recognition & Reward Programs
  • Training & Career Development
  • Performance Management Strategies
  • Employee Relations Strategies
  • Succession Planning

Organisations need to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge, abilities, motivation and commitment in its employees to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage over its competitors. Underpinning this is the contribution HR can make, from the identification of opportunities and constraints of the existing workforce through to the development of policies and practices to develop the core capabilities of the workforce, and to ensure this produces the behaviours, values and attitudes that will result in desired organisational performance.

The primary goal of strategic HR management is to implement strategic change.

The People & Culture Office can assist you to create overall capability and ensure that your organisation has the skilled, committed, engaged employees it requires to achieve sustained competitive advantage.

We will analyse your strategic plan and goals to identify opportunities to develop people and culture initiatives that will integrate with, and support the overarching business strategy. 

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day 😂

Invest in HR| The People & Culture Office
Business success through people


Constructive dismissal; what is it and have you been guilty of it?

Employee Working Contract| HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

“It would be a good idea for you to leave before we have fire you” “Times are tough and everyone needs to take a pay cut of $20,000 per year” “Tamara keeps complaining that Karen is bullying her, I mean that’s just Karen, we all know that, Tamara should just leave if she can’t handle it” “We need to change your work days & hours, I know you’ve said before you can’t work these days because you can’t get childcare but we need to make the change regardless”

Constructive dismissal, or forced resignation, is when an employee has no choice but to resign because of the conduct of the employer. The employer may expressly ask the employee to resign, or the employer’s conduct may leave the employee feeling that he or she has no other choice but to leave their employment.

This conduct generally involves an employer engaging in a serious breach of the employment contract or indicating that it no longer wishes to perform its side of the employment contract. This can include taking actions to make unauthorised variations to the employment contract such as extreme pay-cuts, demoting the employee, dramatically changing their working hours or relocating the employee. It is irrelevant that the employer’s insistence on the employee’s resignation was based on good intentions, for example to save the employee from embarrassment, or, to make it easier for him or her to find future employment; or whether the employer intended or anticipated that the employee would quit their job.

It is not always evident that an employee has resigned involuntarily. It is therefore essential for you, as an employer, to review the events leading up to an employee’s resignation. For example, if an employee resigns in the ‘heat of the moment’, they may argue that they felt they had no other option but to resign. Where a resignation is given in the heat of the moment or under extreme pressure, special circumstances may arise. An employer may be required to allow a reasonable period of time to pass and / or the employer may have a duty to confirm the intention to resign if, during that time, they were advised that the resignation was not intended.

Whether a principal contributing factor in the termination of the employment relationship was an act, or failure to act, on the part of the employer always depends on the individual circumstances of the case. Some examples of constructive dismissal can include:

  • where an employee resigns because he or she is told to resign or he or she will be sacked;
  • where an employee is subjected to ongoing sexual harassment or discrimination;
  • where an employee is subjected to systematic humiliation, verbal abuse or put-downs and adequate proof of this treatment is available;
  • where there is a serious and ongoing failure to provide a safe and healthy workplace, the employee has notified the employer of the problem and there is no improvement;
  • where an employer actively campaigns to force an employee out of work by acting in such a way as to make it impossible for the employee to continue to do his or her job and adequate proof of this treatment is available; and
  • where an employee has been demoted and the demotion involves a significant reduction of the remuneration or duties of the employee.

A clear example of constructive dismissal is found in the case of Hobbes v Achilleus Taxation Pty Ltd ATF (the Achilleus Taxation Trust). Here, an employee resigned after he was paid under half of what he was owed over a period of 4 months. It was decided that it was clearly a situation of forced resignation due to the conduct of the employer, and therefore instead amounted to a dismissal by the employer.

A situation where constructive dismissal was found not to exist was in the case of Bruce v Fingal Glen Pty Ltd (in liq). This concerned an employee who resigned after the employer repeatedly paid wages late, and failed to make any superannuation contributions. The payment of wages were usually 1 to 2 days late, but on occasion were paid even later. The Commission found that while the employer’s conduct was improper, the employee was not in a situation where they were left with no other option that to resign. Therefore, the employee could not argue constructive dismissal.

A leading Australian case on constructive dismissal is that of Mohazab v Dick Smith Electronics. Mohazab was an employee of Dick Smith Electronics. During questioning about the disappearance of stock in the store the employee was told that he was to either resign or face a police investigation. A letter of resignation was prepared by the employer and given to Mohazab to sign. After this occurred, Mohazab brought an unlawful termination claim, and Dick Smith argued that Mohazab had voluntarily resigned because of his concerns regarding the police. The court decided that the decision to resign or face police investigation amounted to termination at the initiative of the employer. This was because Mohazab had no effective or real choice but to resign, and it was only because of his employer’s action that termination had occurred.

In a case published by the Australian Government’s Comcare agency, an employee developed a psychiatric condition following persistent bullying as a result of her being promoted to a management position in a restructuring move by her employer. The worker did not receive any management training prior to her appointment as team leader, and there was widespread bitterness in the team about the removal of the previous team leader. Several team members reportedly engaged in increasingly hostile behaviour towards the new team leader, including spreading rumours, disobeying requests, making offensive comments, being rude, and failing to help to the team leader when she was very busy and clearly required assistance. The team members then convened a meeting (too which the bullied employee was not invited), where a document listing complaints about the new team leader was drafted and given to the team leader’s manager. The manager accepted the document, and refused to intervene in any meaningful way when requested to do so by the bullied employee. The bullied employee sought assistance from other managers, who did not intervene, until finally she was forced to leave her position due to the development of a psychiatric condition. The bullied employee took legal action, where a judge found that the employer was negligent in its duties to create a safe working environment. It was found that the managers involved had the capacity to take action that would have prevented the damage caused to the bullied employee, but failed to do so.

The bullied worker received compensation of $339,722 at the expense of her employer as a result of psychological injury acquired in the workplace. This case demonstrates the clear need for employers to be responsive to bullying complaints so that these sorts of cases do not occur. Bullying is an issue that gets worse the longer it is left unaddressed.

All constructive dismissal cases make it clear that employers need to carefully consider their actions and their legal obligations when they decide they wish to be rid of an employee. There is rarely a low-risk shortcut that can substitute proper redundancy discussions or performance management.





Employment Contracts – what to put in and what to leave out

Employee Working Contract| HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

The importance of having effective, well-drafted, and compliant employment contracts in place cannot be understated. If you don’t scrutinise your contracts to make sure they’re legally correct, or if you have not given much thought to this important business document, you may be very disappointed about the degree to which you can protect your commercial interests or defend your position in the case of a workplace dispute.

An employment contract is an agreement between an employer and an employee that sets out the rights and obligations of each party.  As with any contract, the law requires certain conditions to be met before it will recognise an employment contract.  Employment relationships can take on several different forms and each form will create certain rights and obligations on the parties involved. The terms of employment contracts will also vary depending on the nature of the relationship between the parties and what rights and responsibilities are sought to be created.

Let’s start off with things that shouldn’t be included in an employment contract – basically anything policy related, and, anything you may want to the flexibility to alter in the future as your operational needs change. For example the inclusion of access to a motor vehicle in the employment contract makes it a contractual inclusion to which both parties are now bound too. If the job role no longer requires access to the vehicle, or if vehicle usage & allocation needs to be reviewed for financial reasons, negotiation with the employee is required and there would be very few employees who would be happy to give a contractual benefit up without being compensated in some other way. Similarly, commitment to training or recognition & reward programmes, these are best left to policies where the contents can be modified, or made obsolete as operational needs and budgetary requirements dictate.

The inclusion of policies is risky. Incorporating policies within a contract should be avoided as it may give rise to mutually enforceable duties and potentially create a breach if the employer fails to abide by its own policies. Instead, policies should be separate and acknowledged under the employment contract as a clause containing reference to the organisational policies and the employees’ obligations.

Let’s look at a hypothetical employment contract where the employer has stated the content of their Drug & Alcohol Policy within the terms and conditions of the employment contract. The policy states that it is a 3 strikes and you’re out policy, but, the employer has just obtained a major contract which a large percent of existing employees will be mobilised to. The client has a zero tolerance policy and the employer now faces a disconnect with their contractual obligations to it’s employees, and their constraints of having sufficient ongoing work for their employees should they test positive whilst on their main clients site. Well written policies will always contain a clause that if at anytime the legislative, policy or business operational requirements is so altered that the policy is no longer appropriate in its current form, the policy shall be reviewed immediately and amended accordingly, on the other hand renegotiating contracts with employees, particularly to conditions that the employee considers unfavourable, is messy and unpleasant.

So what should an employment contract contain?;

  • The position they are being appointed to, it goes without saying that this should be consistent with the position they applied for, unless consultation and discussion has taken place.
  • Employment status ie: Full Time, Part Time, Fixed Term or Casual. If the position is being offered on a fixed term basis for the duration of a prescribed project or coverage on a long term absence such as Parental Leave, the factor to determine the termination of the term must be explicit ie: when the project ceases or by XX date. ** Failure to monitor cessation terms on Fixed Term Contracts can result in a permanent and ongoing employment relationship with said employee, for this reason you should always ensure you have stringent processes in place.
  • The position they will report to (not the person currently holding that position).
  • Remuneration expressed either as a salary or hourly rate.
  • Hours of duty
  • Date of commencement
  • Location of workplace
  • Is the offer of employment is subject to any conditions? ie: Police Clearance
  • The industrial instrument they are being paid under ie: the applicable Award or Collective Agreement

The Terms and Conditions of Employment should contain information that relates to the probationary period, notice periods to terminate employment, how and the frequency of pays, superannuation, leave entitlements, the requirement to comply with the organisations policies & procedures, confidentiality, restraint of trade, other employment  a dispute resolution process – PHEW!

So the key take away’s are; 

  • An employment contract is a legally binding document, that when put together with little legal or strategic consideration can have significant detrimental impact to business.
  • By understanding the reasons for certain clauses in employment contracts, employers can help ensure that their employment contracts accurately reflect the terms and conditions of the employment relationship and sufficiently protect their interests.
  • Employment contracts should be reviewed and amended whenever there are material changes to an employee’s role, particularly when an employee is moved into a new position.
  • If in doubt as to the effectiveness of a clause, or how a particular clause works, an employer should obtain proper advice, and should certainly do so before making amendments.




Roll on 2019

The People & Culture Office 2019

Who’s in holiday mode already? 🙋🏻‍♀️ We don’t tend to make a fuss over Christmas in terms of gifts and over consumption (except for when it comes to my Mum’s cheesecake) but I always look forward to actually having a legitimate excuse for nanna naps, eating leftover BBQ for 3 days & moving from the lounge to the pool & back again.

Anyway I’m sending a big peace out to 2018 ✌🏻 and I hope to see you all in 2019, remember one of the best ways to start the new year off is to consolidate your strategic goals, review your values and whether they are reflecting in your workplace culture, and most importantly, engage The People & Culture Office as your strategic partner to assist with HR solutions to implement cultural change and strengthen your workplace relations framework.

Work is hectic – getting help doesn’t have to be

I can still be contacted via email for appointments in the new year & urgent matters.



Changes to flexible work arrangements commence 1 December 2018

Employee Working | HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office
The People & Culture Office – your first choice for HR solutions

As of tomorrow the new changes to requesting flexible work arrangements come into effect for all businesses under the national workplace relations system. If you are a Sole Trader eg: Jane Smith T/as Janes Cafe, an unincorporated partnership eg: Jane & Bob Smith T/as Janes Cafe or an unincorporated trust eg: Jane and Bob Smith as trustee for Janes Cafe you fall under the WA Industrial Relations Commission, so these changes do not effect you. The majority of employees in Australia fall under the Federal system which covers all constitutional corporations or in layman’s terms it is any business with “Ltd” or “Pty Ltd” after its name. All other states in Australia have referred their industrial relations powers to the Federal system but Western Australia being Western Australia has chosen to keep the State based system.

So what are the changes and how do they effect your business.

Come December 1 2018 there will be a right for certain employees to request flexible working arrangements from their employer. An employer can only refuse such a request on “reasonable business grounds”.

More specifically, the requests may be made by:

  • permanent employees who have completed 12 months of service
  • casual employees who have been employed on a regular & systematic basis for a sequence of periods of employment of at least 12 months, and have a reasonable expectation of the arrangement to continue

Eligible employees are entitled to request a change in their working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • have a disability
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

Examples of changes in working arrangements may include:

  • hours of work (eg. changes to start and finish times)
  • patterns of work (eg. split shifts or job sharing)
  • locations of work (eg. working from home).

Employers must give employees a written response to the request within 21 days, stating whether they grant or refuse the request and may refuse the request only on reasonable business grounds. If the employer refuses the request, the written response must include the reasons for the refusal.

Further, it is unlawful under:

  1. The Fair Work Act to take adverse action against employees including termination of employment
  2. State & Federal legislation to discriminate against employees either directly or indirectly through their employment because of their family or carers responsibilities

Employers must accommodate their employees’ family and carer responsibilities where it is reasonable to do so. Whether a refusal to accommodate such requests is unreasonable will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular situation. A defence is available to employers on the basis that an adjustment is not reasonable if it would cause an unjustifiable hardship on the employer taking all circumstances into account, including consideration of:

  • the requested arrangements are too costly
  • other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
  • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

Reasonable grounds for refusal for a small employer may differ vastly to those that are reasonable for a large, well resourced employer.

For example if the employee is in a customer facing role or manning a busy switchboard, and you are a small – medium employer with a minimal number of similar employees to provide coverage for the absence, and recruiting may be impractical given the hours of engagement, then you may be able to justify that you have reasonable business grounds. The same situation with a large employer with 20 + admin staff would struggle to provide such a justification.

Similarly a non customer facing role who can complete the bulk of their tasks online, and with minimal interaction, such as an accountant or engineer would have quite a good case to suggest their absence from the office to work from home would create minimal disruptions to the operations.

The future is now

The reality is flexible working arrangements will soon become the new normal, and not just for the legislated requirements we have now. In a recent white paper released by Employment Hero on what Australian employees want from their workplace, flexible work arrangements rated in the top 3 wants with 45% of respondents indicating it was important to them when choosing a prospective employer. The same group, when asked what benefits they would like their existing employer to introduce, overwhelmingly stated flexible work arrangements with 59% of respondents giving it priority over other benefits such as career development, financial incentives and “feel good” benefits such free massages.

The next generation crave flexibility. The Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey reveals that “flexible working continues to be a feature of most millennials’ working lives and is linked to improved organisational performance, personal benefit, and loyalty”. Overall, 84% of millennials reported that some degree of flexible working ranging from flexible start and finish times, flexible roles and flexible locations including work from home were highly desirable.

These arrangements are not identified as “simply a nice to have” but as being strongly linked to improved performance, employee retention and loyalty. Further, the report notes that organisations that have adopted flexible work indicated any earlier misgivings that opportunities would be abused appeared to be unfounded with 78% of respondents feeling trusted by their line managers. If you would like to read more about the changing millennial workforce Click Here. I also shared my thoughts on whether the changing face of the workplace was a contributing factor to the skills shortage in residential mining and trades positions here.

The inclusion of flexible work policies into your HR framework isn’t just about millennials or working mums, as we hurtle towards a large ageing population it provides the flexibility for the ageing workforce to continue working well beyond 65, something that will become more and more a necessity with superannuation unlikely to accommodate most retirees needs into their 80’s & 90’s.

Flexibility as a workplace norm builds diverse and inclusive workplaces, it allows those who would otherwise be somewhat excluded or restricted within the workplace to be able to contribute to the organisations success, it allows organisations the ability to attract & retain talent as we see a societal shift in personal priorities. Creating a flexible and agile workplace goes beyond creating “an accommodation for working parents”, rather it’s a strategy that enables a competitive business edge in the ever changing world of work.

At The People & Culture Office you only pay for the work we undertake for you;  no annual or monthly fees; no contracts; just quality, local, service. Click here to learn more