Employment Law & Industrial Relations

Employment law governs the relationship between employers and employees and addresses a range of workplace matters. The many laws and regulations applicable to the workplace are frequently changing. Employers should understand their obligations when hiring and managing staff and know when to seek legal advice to minimise the potential for disputes and issues.

Employees confronting a workplace issue such as termination or disciplinary action, or who believe that their workplace rights have been breached will likely benefit from legal advice.

Employment contracts

Whether hiring a retail worker or managing director, a written agreement is fundamental in setting out the terms of service, remuneration and entitlements, and providing clarity regarding the rights and responsibilities of each party.

Employment terms and working conditions must comply with legislation, the National Employment Standards and any relevant awards. Employment contracts cover a range of matters such as:

  • commencement date, duration (if for a fixed term), days and hours of work;
  • duties and accountabilities including reporting lines;
  • remuneration and overtime arrangements;
  • leave entitlements and superannuation;
  • probation periods and disciplinary procedures;
  • termination and notice requirements;
  • performance appraisals and wage reviews;
  • reimbursement for travel and other expenses;
  • ongoing training and professional development;
  • codes of conduct, complaints and dispute resolution procedures (which may be further detailed in relevant policies);
  • restraint of trade and confidentiality provisions to protect against misuse of valuable assets such as client contacts and intellectual property;
  • confirmation of the legislation governing the employment relationship.

Policies

Employers should consider the benefits of implementing policies and codes of conduct to manage workplace relations, disciplinary matters, deal with conflict and minimise disputes.

Policies can address a range of practical matters such as uniforms, leave requests and payment of wages, and deal with potential workplace issues such as discrimination, bullying, drugs and alcohol use, email and internet usage. Policies that address work health and safety issues such as bullying and harassment may be invaluable to demonstrate that an employer has attempted to instil the required conduct by employees within a workplace.

To be effective, policies must be brought to the attention of all employees. Employers should take the time to explain key points of a workplace policy to their employees and obtain a signed acknowledgement from each that the policy has been received and understood.

Regular review of workplace policies should ensure they are up to date and address changes in legislation and contemporary work issues.

Workplace relations

Workplace discrimination, harassment, bullying, unfair dismissal and adverse action claims continue to receive significant media focus. Employers should understand the types of conduct (whether intentional or otherwise) that may leave them open to a claim with the Fair Work Commission.

Taking proactive steps to prevent and manage these issues by implementing policies and procedures is essential to reduce the risk of disputes and legal proceedings and to help everybody in the workplace understand their rights and obligations.

If your organisation is proposing a restructure that will impact upon the workplace and employees, it is important to obtain advice regarding potential issues that could arise such as transfer of employees, termination and redundancy entitlements.

Workplace Health and safety

Workplace health and safety incidents can have a devastating impact on an organisation. Employers must abide by their statutory duty of care under relevant laws and regulations. To reduce risk, businesses should implement systems to maintain high occupational health and safety standards, to prevent injury and loss and to set out processes for identifying, reporting and eliminating potential workplace hazards.

Employees

An employee may take action against an employer for unfair dismissal, discrimination or certain unlawful activities (adverse action) under the general protection provisions of the Fair Work Act.

Employees confronting a workplace issue may feel vulnerable and confused – obtaining legal advice is important to ensure their legal rights are protected.

The relationship between an organisation and its employees drives its performance, its profit and reputation. Employers must manage a range of real and potential workplace issues to identify risks and minimise disputes. Employment laws change frequently, and our team is progressive and innovative, having assisted many employers and employees to proactively manage their workplace, their employment contracts and to minimise and resolve disputes.

If you need any assistance contact one of our lawyers at general@thurlowfisher.com.au or call (02) 9708 2222 for a no-obligation discussion and for expert legal advice.​