Employment law is a large body of law which mandates processes and regulations for hiring, managing and firing staff. It is a complicated field which requires detailed study to understand, so businesses hire lawyers to ensure they are meeting their obligations. There are regulations that cover everything in the employment lifecycle, from vetting job applicants, to creating a contract, setting wages and hours, paying salaries and entitlements, handling PAYG tax payments, keeping records and terminating employees.
What standards are set in employment law to protect employees?
All employers should read and understand the fair work act, which provides ten employment standards in the following areas:
- Hours of work
- Request for flexible working arrangements
- Annual leave
- Personal/carer's leave
- Compassionate leave
- Community service leave
- Public holidays
- Unpaid parental leave
- Paid parental leave
- Notice of termination and redundancy pay
Employers must also provide Fair Work Information Statements to employees when requested.
What other responsibilities are placed on employers?
A wide range of matters arise during the employment relationship that require careful management in order to ensure that a positive ongoing relationship is maintained, and that there is compliance with relevant legal obligations. It is important for employers to know the following:
- Benefits and entitlements may be regulated by a collective agreement made by a union, and if not then they are covered by the National Employment Standards.
- Wages can be paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly, and employers must issue pay slips to employees within one day of making payment.
- Superannuation must be paid to all employees, except casual employees. The current minimum rate is 9.5% of the employee's salary.
- Long service leave is available after between 7 and 15 years of continuous employment with the same or a related employer, depending which state or territory the business is in.
- Taxation must be deducted in income tax instalments (PAYG instalments) from employees' wages and sent to the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
- Varying terms and conditions of employment can only be made bilaterally by an agreement of the employer and the employee.
- Occupational health and safety requires employers to ensure, the health, safety and welfare of their employees in the workplace (as far as is reasonably possible, at least). These standards are defined by state and federal law.
- Records must be kept about employees wages, tax, superannuation and hours for 7 years.
- Firing an employee can be done by exercising a contractual or statutory right to terminate, by agreement or by operation of law.
- Notice requirements for termination change depending on the length of service. At the lowest end, new employees are entitled to one week’s notice. After 5 years of continuous employment they are entitled to four weeks notice. Written notice on the day of termination must be given.
- Redundancy pay must be given if an employee is terminated because the role is no longer required or the business is insolvent.
- Summary termination is available for serious misconduct and requires no period of notice.
- Protection from unfair dismissal is usually available after 6 months of service. A person is unfairly dismissed if their dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable. Reinstatement or compensation are the typical requirements of an employer if found guilty of unfair dismissal.
- Termination payments must often be paid to the employee. This includes accrued but untaken annual leave, accrued wages for work performed and payment in lieu of notice
- General protections are also offered under the Fair Work Act. Employers are prohibited from taking 'adverse action' against an employee because the employee has exercised a 'workplace right'.
- Discrimination in employment is prohibited in all states and territories of Australia.