Christmas is always a special time for small businesses across Australia. While it’s a fantastic opportunity for a bumper trade, there are also increased risks. Paying staff correctly in Australia has never been more difficult. Read on for our quick tips to stay compliant this Christmas.
1. Stay compliant with regular Christmas pay issues
Public Holiday rates
Pay rates on public holidays are higher than standard days. If you’re employing casuals and part-time staff over Christmas, remember that they get access to this higher rate. The rates vary by Award. If you’re using Tanda, the rates will apply automatically to your staff. If you’re calculating the rates manually, be sure to visit Fair Work’s website to check for the latest rates.
Every Award rate is updated mid-year to reflect the latest economic conditions. You need to make sure you have rolled onto the most recent rates. If you’re using Tanda, this process is automatic. It varies with other software and you should contact your provider if you’re concerned.
Importantly, if you’re looking up rates for a manual system, make sure you get them from Tanda or from the Fair Work Commission itself. Sometimes rates will appear in search that contain outdated documents from previous years.
If you run a standalone restaurant, you’ll be covered under the Restaurant Industry Award. If your restaurant is connected to a hotel, you’ll be covered under the Hospitality Award. Distinctions like these sound simple, but are very important to get right, because your entire staff can be paid incorrectly. The best way to confirm if you’re using the right Award is to use Fair Work’s Award finder.
Finally, making sure workers are on the right classification under the Award is also important. Award classifications can be difficult to interpret and can be confusing. Make sure you read the exact description in the classification.
2. Comply with changes made to the Fair Work Act in 2023
The Federal Government made a series of changes to Australian Workplace Law this year that affects how every Australian business operates. There is a long list of changes, however, the most important reforms you need to comply with are listed below:
Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave
Prior to 2023, all Family and Domestic Violence Leave was unpaid. The Federal Government legislated changes to make this leave paid in 2023. The idea is to remove financial penalties for taking the leave.
This means that employees have access to 10 days of paid leave, instead of 5 days of unpaid leave. The 10 days are available upfront – an employee doesn’t need to accrue this leave. The leave does not accumulate and simply resets each year.
Importantly, an employer must not include information on an employee’s pay slip that indicates they have taken paid family and domestic violence leave – protecting their privacy is key.
Limits to fixed contracts
In response to concern that some long-term contractors were being exploited by their employers, the Federal Government moved to limit fixed-term contracts to two years. In practice, this means that any renewal or contract extension cannot mean the total term is longer than two years. Fixed-term contracts also can’t be renewed more than once.
Changes to flexible working arrangements
Employees now have a right to request flexible working arrangements from their employer. While this doesn’t mean an employer must grant the request, businesses must now follow a number of rules when dealing with the issue, including:
- Meeting with the employee to discuss the request
- If the employer refuses the request, the employer must specify the reasonable business grounds for the refusal.
Sunsetting of zombie agreements
Zombie Agreements, or Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) signed before 2010, are in the process of sunsetting by the Fair Work Commission. The agreements automatically terminated on 7 December 2023. Businesses must either roll back onto the Award or negotiate a new agreement. You can read more about zombie agreements here.
Various changes to awards