Under most modern awards, a “regular casual employee” can request to convert their employment if they have worked:
for a period of 12 months or more; and
a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis, which the employee could continue to perform as a full-time employee or part-time employee (as applicable), without significant adjustment.
The casual employee must put their request to convert in writing.
STEP 1 – Provide new and existing award-covered employees with a copy of the casual conversion clause
Ensure you read the award that applies to your employees carefully. Some awards contain more onerous requirements on employers to notify casual employees of their right to request casual conversion at 6 or 12 months of ‘regular and systematic’ casual employment. This means you will need to be keeping a close eye on any casual employees that are reaching these milestones. Once you have checked your award you can notify your employees regarding the casual conversion clause. You can use our Notification of Casual Conversion Clause. Also, copy the applicable section from the Award and staple to the back of the letter.
You will need to provide the clause within 12 months of their employment commencing.
Shortly after the Notification of Casual Conversion Clause, you will send a follow-up letter that sets out the nature of a casual and that of a perm employee as well as the rates of pay for both. Also included is the Casual Conversion Election Formwhere the employees can advise if they wish to convert.
Employees have 4-weeks to consider if they would like their employment converted to permanent employment or remain as a casual.
STEP 2: Respond to any casual conversion requests
Respond to any requests to convert to permanent in writing within 21 days to accept or reject the employee’s request for conversion. You can only reject a request convert to permanent in accordance with the terms of the relevant award. Sometimes an award will include the ‘reasonable grounds’ on which you can refuse a request.
legally responding to requests for casual conversion Your business must comply with the obligations contained in any casual conversion clause in a modern award, this includes:
Providing new and existing casual employees with a copy of the casual conversion clause;
Responding to any request to convert within 21 days;
If you reject a request, complying with the requirements in the relevant award such as rejecting the request on ‘reasonable grounds’ or ‘not unreasonably refusing’ a request;
If you agree to convert a casual to permanent employment, complying with the provisions of any part-time employment clause in the relevant award and providing the employee with set days, hours, and patterns of work (and a new contract of employment).
How to legally refuse the request for casual conversion It is important to note that the new clause does not mean you have to approve all requests. It is best to double-check the relevant award but generally, the scenarios where you may refuse on reasonable grounds including but not limited to:
The conversion would require a significant adjustment to the employee’s hours of work as a full-time or part-time employee;
It is known, or reasonably foreseeable that the employee’s position will cease to exist within the next 12 months or the hours of work which the employee is required to perform will be significantly reduced in the next 12 months;
The employee’s hours of work will significantly change or be reduced within the next 12 months.
STEP 3: Review your existing workforce
Review the use of casual employment in your business, particularly where the arrangement involves long-term, regular work patterns. We recommend that you consider doing a cost analysis between that of the cost of wages for casual employees compared to that of Perm employees.
The 25% loading is designed to compensate employees for not receiving some of the benefits of perm employees as well as for the insecurity of their employment. You may well find that the bottom-line figure is more favorable to employee permanent employees compared to casual.
STEP 5: Document and save the casual conversion process
“If it isn’t written down, then it didn’t happen”.
ALWAYS protect yourself and the business by ensuring that you keep documentation about any changes to workplace relationships. Keep these documents for at least 7-years so that any retrospective claims can be defended with copies of the clear and documented process.
Recent decisions impacting on Casual employment
In WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato  FCAFC 84 the Full Federal Court determined that Mr Rossato had entitlements under the National Employment Standards (NES) in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) and the relevant Enterprise Agreement; These were – being paid annual leave, paid personal/carer’s leave, paid compassionate leave, and payment for public holidays. This came about when the court made the finding that Mr Rossato was not a casual but a permanent employee.
The essential question asked was – “ if an employee agrees to a contract that labels them a casual but their work is systematic (rostered well in advance for example) and regular (set hours and days) and longer-term (happening for years) are they still a casual?”
In the WorkPac decision, the Federal Court says NO
The decision in WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato  FCAFC 84 has confirmed the earlier decision in WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene  FCAFC 131 about casuals and this will change the landscape of casuals as we know it.
The essential question being asked is – “if an employee agrees to a contract that labels them a casual but their work is systematic (rostered well in advance for example) and regular (set hours and days) and longer term (happening for years) are they still a casual?” In the WorkPac decision, the Federal Court says NO
The way the courts have looked at this situation is that if a person is working regular and systematic hours then they are entitled to annual leave, personal leave and other payments made that have typically been understood by employers as covered in the enhanced wages that they have been paying through their award or enterprise agreement. The courts see it that even if an employee is getting the enhanced wages if they are working regularly and systematically then they are entitled to access entitlements such as annual leave despite the inflated wages for the time they work.
You can read more in our article “casuals” – What we need to know – Here
Michelle Gargar – Pamilya Accountants – Director FCPA
What you need to know when it comes to the employee’s
When selling a business, you will probably negotiate hard on things like the price, the plant and equipment being sold, and the settlement and handover period. What you may not have thought about is what will happen to the employees of the business, and what this might cost you down the track.
This can be a serious mistake, impacting not only your hip pocket but the effective transition of the business into new hands. If you are SELLING a business, it is important to consider what impact this transfer will have on current employees. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) determines the obligations and responsibilities the seller or buyer has for current employees.
#003 Paulette McCormack has more than a decade of international and national employment relations’ experience across a multitude of industries and company sizes she is well equipped for any situation.
She holds a Masters in Human Resource Management, a Masters in Employment Relations, a Diploma in Business, a Diploma in Management and is now also a student completing a Bachelor of Law (with honours) with the sole intention of specialising in employment law.
Whilst that all seems impressive we can not look past the fact that she is a well respected and highly sought after lecturer and tutor at Griffith University in the Business school, specifically in the HR/ER courses.
Questions I’m often asked are – As a leader what happens when I find the love of my life in my workplace, can I ask them out? Can I drink with my team or crew? I have an employee who has some serious issues going on personally, can I tell my crew if they ask?and many others, I wanted to know the answers from an expert in the field.
Paulette and I discuss all these questions and more, listen in and go from surviving to thriving!
This information is given as general guidelines please check with your organisation’s policies, procedures, Human Resource Department or your ‘one up’ regarding your specific circumstances.
“Casuals” – what we need to know following WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato
The essential question that is being asked here is
“ if an employee agrees to a contract that labels them a casual but their work is systematic (rostered well in advance for example) and regular (set hours and days) and longer-term (happening for years) are they still a casual?”
In the WorkPac decision, the Federal Court says NO
The way the courts have looked at this situation is that if a person is working regular and systematic hours then they are entitled to annual leave, personal leave and other payments made that have typically been understood by employers as covered in the enhanced wages that they have been paying through their award or enterprise agreement.
The courts see it that even if an employee is getting the enhanced wages if they are working regularly and systematically then they are entitled to access to entitlements such as annual leave despite the inflated wages for the time they work.
Something to be mindful of. In the Job keeper application employers have set out who are the regular and systematic casuals so essentially signing a document to say you have casuals that the courts no say you may owe then their entitlements.
Although the court recognized the practice of treating non-casuals and casual was widespread and unclear – employers are no on notice that the practice cannot continue unabated.
Topline takeaway from this case is that
A casual employee is someone whose work is inconsistent, irregular or short term, and casual employees whose work doesn’t fit that description can now make a claim that they are (and have been) a permanent employee and are therefore owed the appropriate entitlements.
Casual Employment – what it means and why do we have casual employment:
a casual employee is a person employed by a business who has no guarantee of ongoing work.
their work is inconsistent and irregular
a casual can be on a roster but where 1 – 2 weeks ahead are set down and no more – meaning there is not an ongoing expectation,
the employee themselves does not have an expectation that they will have ongoing work,
there is no pattern on the days and the hours that they workweek from week
there may be times when there is no work for them.
Casual employment was designed as a non-permanent staff member that was brought on to meet fluctuating demand in the business without incurring longer-term business costs
Employers wanted employees they can dismiss more easily and who do not incur redundancy payouts
A business that fluctuate (tourism, hospitability, etc) wanted employees permanently but ones that did not create long term business and administration burdens
Long-term casuals who work steadily and systematically. In the Fair Work Act, long-term casuals get some extra rights, such as parental leave. Reflecting on their different role, they are also allowed to claim the Job Keeper subsidy. And, like other casuals, they also get casual loading – extra money to offset their insecurity.
Since the Federal Court handed down its decision, I have been working in the background to get my head around what this means for clients who have casuals and have come up with a list of questions. I have been listening to several webinars and panel discussions on what this now all means and have complied a list of questions and the responses.
Note: This is general information and not intended to replace legal advice. Each workplace is different, and each should be considered separately. If you need the support or have further questions we strongly advise that you contact us on email@example.com. This is an evolving situation and many questions will not be answered in full until we have some further cases tested through the court system and determinations made to help guide us.
Be careful in your interpretations of a causal – for this case to apply they need to be regular and systematic. As a guide please see the characteristics of Rosseto and then look at the bottom of this document at What to do to avoid the WorkPac Trap?
It may not be over yet – the government will be talking to employers and employer groups and has not ruled out legislation that could change the casual equation. The Attorney General hinted that legislative measures may be taken to address this case especially considering the current economic climate concerning COVID-19. There has not been any indication from WorkPac if they intend to bring a High Court appeal for this case. It is therefore important that you keep up to date with what’s happening
Characteristic of Rosseto’s employment (WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato  FCAFC 84)
Drive-in drive out employee
7-days on 7-days off roster
Shift pattern for 3.5 years
Provided a roster in advance – up to 7monhts in advance
The contract did not go into the specifics on the breakdown of the hourly rate
Worked in a nine site – once there, there was no practical ability to decline shifts
Case impacts FIFO/DIDO relationship
The contract did not have an off-set clause for the annual leave
Questions and Answers to the questions received so far
What happens if the casuals have already opted out of the casual conversion and I have this all documented – does this case apply to that situation?
The way the court case says is that you cannot contract out of the National Employment Standards (‘NES’). The law is saying that just because they say they are casual does not solve the fact that they are entitled to annual Leave/ sickness. You as a business are not protected against the risk from the decision outcomes despite signing the documents.
If the employee is regular and systematic, just because they have ‘casual’ written on their forehead it does not mean they are for the issue of annual and sick leave. Just because they sign the documents make no difference.
That said you will need to determine if the casual is indeed a systematic and regular casual. Have a look at the characteristics of Rosseto’s employment as a guiding framework to start and then check back on roster and patterns.
If an employee opts out of becoming a perm full-time or perm part-time employee and wishes to remain a casual, then you need to advise then that they will be treated as a casual in the work allocations. This means that you will not guarantee systematic and regular work and they will get irregular work and no guarantee of consistent work.
Basically – An employee who turns down an offer of permanency can still be found to be a permanent employee if they are continued to be treated like one.
You can clearly articulate to the employee that if they wish to maintain their status as a casual and carry on receiving the 25% casual loading them as a business you need to ensure that you treat them like a causal and there can be no guarantee of regular or ongoing work.
The casual either need to change to a perm full-time employee which means they will collect the benefits from this and lose the casual loading. You may as a business consider a 5% increase to the employee to make up for the loss of the 25% more attractive.
You are not protected from the risk of an employee claiming for the accrued back payment. It is advised that as an employer gets ahead on this and determine who is a risk and start those conversations.
You can use the signed forms to argue in defense that they are not regular and systematic and that you were attempting to interpret the relationship, however …….
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck,
then it probably is a duck.
Can you use the Job Keeper payment against the potential leave payments due to mitigating any costly payouts?
If you have casuals who you have determined are systematic and regular casuals (as when you lodged the Job Keeper entitlement and set them out as such) then you may be able to off-set the accrued annual leave that you may owe them with the job-keepers.
We advise you to check with a legal expert but you may be able to say to them, of you do not need them to be working at the moment and they are on some sort of job keeper stand-down you are entitled to ask them to take annual leave during this stand down. You will be setting this down now as payment of accrued annual leave. This means that you are paying down any potential annual leave
We are aware of the recent decision in the Federal Court WorkPac v Rosseto and as a consequence to that, we are not clear if you have a leave entitlement however without admitting that you do we are going to putting you on annual leave instead of on stand down and the $1500 that you are receiving from me that is paid to me by the government is going to pay down the leave balance.
Note: This was suggested as an opportunity by Ed Mallett, Employsure in is #weekdaysWithEd on Thur 21st May 2020 – we advise strongly to seek advice before doing this as there is also how will this be reported through the payroll system.
How far do you need to go back to retrospectively?
Employees have 6-years from when they left the employment for annual leave claims. This also applies to public holidays or sick days for the other claims.
If a casual employee ceased working for you but was a permanent employee, then there are potential claims that exists for.
Non-payment of accrued but untaken annual leave
Non-payment of public holidays
Non-payment of sick leave (if they can prove the days)
Where you are in a situation where you had at first been engaged as a genuine casual and then over time they morphed into a permanent employee – their rosters become more fixed – you may need to make the decision when they reached this point and then from them treat them as a permanent employee. If you do not want to bring them on as permanent, then you need to revise the working relationship, so they remain ‘irregular’ casual.
Our contract says in several places that the employee is paid a casual loading that covers the entitlement to leave and sickness – will they still have the right to claim payment of these now
A casual employee is not determined by the statement or the name made in the employment contract or agreement but in the totality of their employment situation. Just because you have it in the contract that they are a casual you can not contract out of the underlying legislation. What remains a grey area is are they regular and systematic or are they true casuals.
You can write what you want in employment contracts but if they are indeed regular and systematic casuals then you can have that it is an increased rate in lieu of the provisions in the award for annual leave and personal/carers leave but it will not override legislation.
Characteristics of In Skene v WorkPac Pty Ltd Skene
Work 7 days on, 7 days off on a continuous roster
His roster was determined at the start of each year for the coming team with the same team
If the Modern Award that is applicable to our workplace and employees says that you can pay a leave loading and it has the flexibility provisions is this not enough.
Short answer is no. You cannot rely on the fact that you are paying this loading as a defence and way to mitigate the risk. If the employee is a regular and systematic employee as was the case is Rosseto then you are at risk of having to pay the employee entitlements.
What is the interpretation of predictable working times?
Working regular, set rosters with the same work team, planned a year in advance with the expectation that the employment will continue and which contemplated that he had to turn up to work with the team, meant that the parties intended his to be a permanent employee – not a causal
At what rate do you pay the annual leave backpays
You will pay the annual leave at the ordinary rate of pay without the 25% leave loading. Note however that it is important to keep accurate records and as extra protection also document the payments and get the employee to sign off receiving this.
I have casuals that work a 3-6month period for a specific job – is that a casual
Fixed-term contracts – the risk here is that it is not fixed term but ongoing – you need to ensure that this is a genuine working relationship that is that of a fixed term. Start date and an end date and not just a way to avoid the obligations of paid entitlements. It is suggested that you have clear and concise employment fixed-term contracts that clearly define what the working relationship
Are the casuals not then ‘double-dipping’ as they get 25% loading – are they then essentially getting the same money twice?
In this decision, the Federal court says no. The Fair Work Act does not provide for ‘entitlements or their cash equivalent’, it just provides for entitlements. “casual loading is in the nature of compensation for an absence of entitlement, not a payment in lieu of taking the entitlement.”
In other words, being paid casual loading does not in and of itself make someone a casual employee.
It is noted that in the case of WorkPac v Rossato – the pay was an increased amount, but it was not clear that the increased amount was for the fact he was classed as a casual. We recommend and strongly advise that in your payroll you have it clearly distinguished that there is a line for ordinary hours and another for the casual loading of 25%.
Can you offset any casual loading already paid against any potential amount owed?
No – in this case the court also found that employers were not able to offset any casual loading already paid to the employee against the amount owed.
In this case the Court refused to accept that the casual loading, included in the hourly rate, was paid by WorkPac by mistake, or as a consideration which had totally failed. The Court could not rule out that the hourly rate merely reflected the market rate for guaranteeing Mr Rossato’s service.
If the Award that applies to the casual says that it has a 25% loading does that cover it
If their work is consistent, regular or long term this decision confirms they cannot be categorized as ‘Casual’. And they are entitled to be paid leave etc– irrespective of what hourly rate the employer chooses to pay them.
The government introduced some regulations to say that employees in that circumstance should not be able to double-dip. The intention was that if an employee has been paid a separately identifiable casual loading and later found to be a permanent employee, they would not be able to double-dip on permanent entitlements (i.e. the employer should be able to offset the casual loading paid against any entitlements claimed).
In the Rossato case, the court found that the employer could not rely on the regulations (for quite technical legal reasons), but this has cast doubt on whether the regulations can be relied upon by any employer. This is one of the reasons why the case may be appealed and/or the regulations may be amended.
What can we do to protect ourselves and manage the risk of claims?
You need to look at where you are now. Look at all your casual staff and determine what the relationship is. If they are employed like a perm staff member then the likelihood.
The court, in this case, decided that the elements of a casual employee must include:
The option for employees to accept/decline shifts
No commitment required in advance
Do not just continue as you have in the past and hope no one makes a claim. Identify the casual employees (past and present) who may not have been employed as a casual and assess the potential exposure to your business of any claim
Identify the employees
Look at their length of service
Work out the pro-rata entitlement to paid annual leave
Work out the number of public holidays they did not work
Assess records of any unpaid leave
Review your contracts of employment to determine what set-off entitlements you may have. Make sure your contracts for casuals record the true relationship
be more diligent in classifying casuals, as employees who work set, inflexible hours with a degree of certainty about ongoing work are unlikely to be ‘casual’.
Continue to pay casual loading and have a liability for paid leave as well.
Identify which employees do not want to change their ‘casual status’ and consider a plan to negotiate with these employees to agree to set-off
review and monitor your casual workforce: employment arrangements may change during employment and if a casual is no longer a casual, consider converting their employment status to permanent to mitigate any potential exposure (particularly where a casual employee is covered by a modern award containing a casual conversation clause);
Determine the structure of your business and if casuals are the right choice. A long-term casual may be significantly more expensive that a perm employee.
Begin to plan a negotiation on managing for.
Claims for accrued untaken annual leave by past employees (have a deed ready)
Provide for increased annual leave/ personal leave liability on the books
If you are receiving Job Keeper – consider whether you can direct the ‘casual’ employees to use some of their accrued annual leave entitlement
Consider whether any applicable award permits cashing out annual leave but remember there must be an agreement for cashing out accrued annual leave.
What to do to avoid the WorkPac Trap?
If using casuals, the greater the variance in the hours and times they work the better chance you have of defending any claims and showing that they are true casuals
Have a greater variety of hours and times
Have a pool of casuals to allow a variance
Have irregular hours of work with no guarantee of any days or set hours
Ensure casual have no reasonable predictability that their work will continue
Roster casuals a week or at most a fortnight in advance
It is also recommended that you have a system to show if challenged that the hours were open to the employee to accept the hours or decline them. This was it does not set up an expectation of regular work. If an employee if certain of hours week in week out there is a risk, If you have a system that when you send out the work available the employee has the options to accept or decline the greater the protection.
Better late than never! If as a business you have patchy engagement documents or are concerned that you may not have consistently applied the exiting casual conversion process as set down in the Modern Awards then it is strongly recommended that you issue all staff with confirmation of employment agreements and include the casual conversion letters as appropriate. Fresh HR Insights can help in this so please contact us.
Note: Failure to undertake the Casual Conversion Process as set out in the Modern Awards is a breach under the law and can result in penalties for the business. Let us help you get this right.
We are all dealing with an overabundance of concerns about the future of work. And what the future could bring. The topic of the future workforce has been a highly debated topic for over a decade, with differing information from various experts regarding what impact automation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will have on jobs, not to mention the fluctuation in remote workforce implementation and viability. And all of this was happening before the COVID-19 pandemic.
And now we are facing unprecedented change to our workforce, but wait a minute lets put this in perspective. COVID-19 is a global pandemic, which means it is forcing unilateral innovation (disruption) across the globe; this spells a new norm. And WE, the collective, will oversee the discovery. What will emerge as the “new normal” will ultimately be our doing (or undoing)? What will the workforce look like as we emerge from COVID-19?
Should People Be Concerned
The pandemic has been associated with a “world war.” There is reason to be concerned. But do not get overly concerned. Instead, get resolute and face the situation head-on. Perhaps at this time, we need to look to learning and development (L&D) methodology – after all, is this not like one big mixing pot of L&D?
AGILITY The ability to move quickly and easily – the ability to think and understand quickly
When we look to the lens of L&D and learning agility we look at the ability to continually and rapidly learn, unlearn, and relearn. It is a mental midset and practices that take a variety of different experiences and applied past learning to change to the new norm. Afterall with COVID-19 we need to now more than ever future-proof yourself in an age of disruption. Do we need to look to practices to enhance an Agile Workforce?
If we go back and look at the association with a “world war” what’s different here is that we have the technology. Not just some technology but a massive amount of ever moving and changing technology that makes the world of remote working that much easier. Technology is the enabler that has allowed many businesses to continue operating in a different way.
Where to Turn – Problems V Solutions
Working from home, for those jobs that can and have, will continue with more robust work-from-home policies. With more employees working from home, there is increasing the potential for employers to improve the monitoring of their employees. That would mean productivity monitoring (measured and tracked), even if employees work outside of the traditional office and work environments. Many companies are already doing this.
For example, your employer could monitor your keystrokes on your computer to analyze your productivity. Of course, this brings up privacy concerns. But with some companies claiming that responsible monitoring is required to ensure productivity levels or leaders are looking to the bottom line to justify output. But you can here question trust – trust between employees and employers – should productivity and outcome be a more measurable way to check-in?
It might sound corny, but thankfulness at work – in life – really matters. Going along to get along simply will not cut it. Start thinking critically about the work you do. Question where the work is done and who benefits? Who is adversely affected, and at what cost?
As more people work from home, work-life and personal life have become interconnected. This has important implications for your mental health, happiness, and comfort. No longer can you think of your “work-life” and “personal life” as distinct aspects of your LIFE?
It isn’t all about where people work but also HOW the business or organization deals with these challenges. The bottom line may not be the best decider right now but the “what FUTURE” organization do we want and how can we grow that loyalty now.
Take note: this is a wake-up call to find meaningful work. Take time out of your day/ evening to meditate. If you do not know-how – learn. Take charge of the time you have, feel more inspired more often, and create more impactful moments.
Lacking Time? Or Unsure Of Your Legal Obligations As An Employer?
We come across many a Small Business owner on the Gold Coast and in South East Queensland that finds nothing is ever simple and situations are complex and leave them waiting for an unfair dismissal claim? Often this leave them wondering why you even bother with employees. It does not have to be this way
Inquire today about our Telephone and emailed based HR/ ER support and HR Advice Online.. We do not run a call center – you get direct access to an employment relations expert whenever you need assistance. We help you resolve HR/ ER issues & put a plan in place to avoid future problems. The hours in our ER/HR supportbundles include phone, emails, forms, correspondence letters, advice, policies, procedures and onsite meetings. We have you covered
Stand-downs, voluntary leave, redundancy and working at home are hot topics in today’s environment. Today, David interviews Paulette McCormack from Fresh HR Insights who helps us slice through the complexity. Contact us for hr support services.
This payment and requirements can potentially cause issues for all businesses.
We strongly advise that is you aren’t clear on something or want to discuss actions that you need/want to take, that you discuss it with the relevant professional. This will be helpful for small business hr compliance.
If you need Business Consulting and Bookkeeping Assistance, Belinda’s details are below
Social loafing describes the tendency of individuals to put forth less effort when they are part of a group. Because all members of the group are pooling their effort to achieve a common goal, each member of the group contributes less than they would if they were individually responsible
Ringelmann’s Rope-Pulling Experiments
A French agricultural engineer named Max Ringelmann conducted one of the earliest experiments on the Social Loafing phenomenon in 1913. In his research, he asked participants to pull on a rope both individually and in groups.
What he discovered that when people were part of a group, they made less of an effort to pull the rope than they did when working individually.
But what happens when you are no longer in the group and instead of working remotely at home with no-one to poll your efforts with?
The very real reality that we are now faced with and for employers, this also brings the BIG question on many employers’ minds as they no-longer have the visual indicator of work – “how do I know that my team is completing their hours?”
When we think about the social loafing one of the things that Psychologists have come up with as the explanation is Motivation. Employees who overall are less motivated are more likely to partake in “social loafing” – well that’s in a group setting but how does that motivation stack up when you are working from home, possibly in self-isolation with minimal interaction with others? Does it still exist – well yes it does!
What can counteract this is the fact that in a group those that are prone to social loafing no-longer have a feeling of less personal accountability – there is no longer other people’s efforts to hide behind and when we send information electronically it has our own individual footprints. Where once their lack of effort may have gone unnoticed and had little impact on the outcomes they now will be standing out on their own and highlighted. Or do they?
In an article by Forbes March 2020 – It was suggested that “Just because your team is suddenly remote and may only be so for a relatively short period, you shouldn’t ignore passive-aggressive social loafing. If left unchecked, it will destroy the morale and productivity of even the best team”
The nature of working from home is that you cannot keep an eye on everyone and the efforts that they may (or may not) be putting in. Afterall in the office, you can see who the early starters and late finishes are and who’s always got their head down – not when you are limited to virtual catch-ups. Social Loafing can quietly fall into the virtual background of not called out. You will also get to know about workplace policies and procedures.
When we look at what Psychologists set out for prevention of Social Loafing, they advise the following;
establish individual accountability;
develop standards and rules;
define tasks clearly;
evaluate personal progress, and
highlight the achievements of individual members.
Now lets for a moment look at the working from home effectiveness suggested guides. (we wrote a blog about this in March – read it here) as employers you can easily set these in place with open communication as the first one is – Know the ground rules – here are some areas to set out first and foremost
Does your employer require a nine-to-five schedule, or is there flexibility?
Which tech tools might you need, such as Zoom for video conferencing, Slack or Microsoft Teams for group chats, or Trello for project management?
It’s really important as an employer that you set out the ground rules and ensure you have the appropriate equipment for the teams, such as a laptop, as well as network access available for the employee – so they can get into their work – and you will also need to ensure that you have given them the heads up on the Workplace Health and Safety as employers STILL have that obligation when employees are working from home.
Not all employees will have a dedicated space, but you do need to have clearly established policies and procedures for working from home, flexibility, and ergonomics. Get them to fill in a Working from the Home checklist and send it back, signed with a photo of the space they will be working in. You need to ensure that loafing about on the sofa in front of the TV is not happening and clearly not an acceptable working environment and may cause more harm than good. You can grab our fact sheet and info HERE for working from home during COVOD-19.
Be sure to do trial runs and work out any problems that might impede workflow – obviously at the speed of adaption in the current COVID-19 situation it has not always been easy to do trial runs but you just need to be adaptable and patient.
You will also need to up the ante on the social interactions with the teams as being at home and be very isolating especially when you are used to being in the hustle and bustle of an office environment. Some employees love the thought of working in solitude, but even the most introverted among us can start feeling a little claustrophobic after a few weeks at home, alone, staring at the same project for long hours. It can get lonely. Be ready for that and try to schedule some connect-with-the-outside-world time. What about a staff “virtual’ lunch date, a video conference setting out new developments at work and a social Friday afternoon “virtual drinks”? You can even have some fun with this as what about a fancy dress – who said that being remote means being boring after all.
With so much happening and so quickly as we navigate the world of COVID-19, we can become overwhelmed. Add to this mixing pot of uncertainty an employee who is sitting in fear and the unknown which is never a good combination for irrational thought patterns. Protect yourself from an opportunist attempt at unfair dismissal claims or worse by seeking advice and avoiding acting in haste.
So today is the 1st April 2020 and this morning people are playing pranks on each other and finding humor in amongst the posts on FaceBook of “cleared my office today” “I don’t know when I will be back in” “I miss everyone and the fun” and “what now?”
I can almost say with certainty that we will never face another 1st April like the one that we have today. In our wildest dreams, we could have never imagined that what played out on the movie screens would play out in real life. Central Park in New York City, the place that’s on my bucket list to a carriage ride through is now set up as a makeshift hospital to help with the ever-increasing numbers of Coronavirus cases. Where once you may have said “I would die to go to Central Park” now the reality is that people may die “in” central park.
As an employment relations consultant, my phone and emails have been running hot with business owners and managers asking, “what do I do now?”. The reality is other than going back with what is coming out with Fair Work, ensuring that any stand-downs, redundancies, reduction in hours, etc to minimize the business impact are done as per the Act and as per the Awards so we don’t have a nasty backlash at the other end – it’s not business as usual anymore and what was once certain is now very uncertain.
I remember going to a Tony Robbins event and he got up and said that “Certainty is Boredom” – gee I wish I was bored right now as this uncertainty is to a whole new level.
Like many parents, I have my kids at home, and they are looking to me for guidance and support in what for them is challenging. They can’t understand why suddenly, they are unable to go to school, unable to see their friends and unable to go out whenever they want to. There are also the financial constraints – how do you explain that the food we have in the cupboard needs to go further than it has ever gone before as we really don’t know if we can fill it up again. We will help you to find the HR outsourcing services.
We are lucky (so so lucky actually) that my partner still has worked (for now) and so do I till May at least but no-one really knows how long we will all be in this place, these 4 walls, behind the rendered brick wall that we have been told to stay at unless it is an essential trip. (in mental well-being and sanity an essential trip?)
I have been positive till today then – SMACK it hit me in the face – I have no control over the outside world and no control over what will happen next. Sure, I have control over my thoughts and my mindset and coaches will tell you to focus on you and what you need but what is that?
The rules of the game have changed and shifted. I have my own business as well as teaching but looking at the invoices out to invoices this morning it’s a stark difference and you can guess which one is the less, no actually, t non-existent, I have no invoices to go out. Like many many others it’s going to hurt. I have been busy but I have been giving advice FREELY as this I believe is the right thing to do in all the pain – I don’t see its fair to be charging people when they also have no idea where their next payment will come from but at least I have a few weeks more to deal with that.
I was honored to get a text last night saying “I was ringing to take you up on that offer for a friendly ear” I had missed the call but rang straight back. The person is a client but also becoming a friend and they had to tell their whole company today that they will all be stood down as there was no more work as the industry they relied on had all but been decimated. She asked me how I deal with this kind of thing as she was struggling with having to tell all these people, you won’t be getting paid. Depersonalise it – was the only answer – as this was not them nor was this a conversation anyone else would naturally and normally want nor to have to say BUT we are not in normal times.
“Your first few days and weeks in a crisis are crucial, and you should make ample room to allow for a mental adjustment. It is perfectly normal and appropriate to feel bad and lost during this initial transition. Consider it a good thing that you are not in denial, and that you are allowing yourself to work through the anxiety. No sane person feels good during a global disaster, so be grateful for the discomfort of your sanity. At this stage, I would focus on food, family, friends, and maybe fitness. (You will not become an Olympic athlete in the next two weeks, so don’t put ridiculous expectations on your body.)”
I will leave my post at that as I need to consider the above for my own self – today, 1st April 2020 is no matter to be laughed at, joked at, or put down to “just a bad day” – today is the first of what is the new reality and new pathway for many.
Stay safe my friends, my clients, and everyone that reads this – we will rebuild somehow, we will be stronger, and we will be OK. XX
If you need anything then please reach out to us at Fresh HR Insights HERE
To be productive, you need an office environment that allows you to comfortably work and stay focused while Working from Home during (COVID-19)
designate an area of your home, specifically for getting work done. This could be an empty or spare bedroom that you convert to a home office. If you are pressed for space, you can set up a desk for your computer and office supplies
Be sure your workspace is quiet so you can focus on the task at hand.
Invest in quality Technology
A high-performance router will save you from many technology hassles. Since working from home often requires more than chat messages, you need a router that will keep up.
Even if you have a brand-new laptop or a new smartphone, you will want to invest in a quality pair of headphones with a mic. Noise-canceling features can really help improve the clarity of your phone calls. With modern business VoIP service, you will appreciate the higher fidelity of your calls.
Make sure you have comfortable office furniture
Depending on the amount of space available, consider purchasing a large desk, bookshelves, and a comfortable office chair – it is important to ensure comfort as you don’t know how long you will be Working from Home during (COVID-19)
Schedule your day
A structured routine helps effectively manage tasks and stay on target for deadlines.
Even if you don’t have to be up as early to leave for the office, you should still set an alarm to commit to waking up at the same time
A short planning session in the morning to map out your day can be very effective.
Enforce a hard limit at the end of the day. Distance yourself from work, so you don’t work nonstop.
If you are most productive in the morning, then you may want to set your work hours from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. or if you are a night owl then 1pm – 9pm (or later)
Avoid work creep – setting work hours and not letting them creep into your personal time
When you make your task list, stick to it
Track your time
Be aware of how much time is spent not working. What are you spending that time doing and how much does it detract from your work goals?
Get into the habit of using a calendar or planner.
Although taking breaks might seem counterproductive, research has shown that taking short breaks can actually increase productivity and creativity levels. If you don’t have a work-life balance, then you won’t last too long working at home.
Dress as you mean to work
If you enjoy working in your PJs, then you are killing your productivity. “Dress for success” isn’t just a corporate catchphrase; it really matters when you work from home.
You’ll be prepared to get work done, and you will be mentally and physically prepared for the day while Working from Home during (COVID-19)
Avoid checking personal email, working in the lounge or social networking sites during work hours
A serious distraction that can go by unnoticed – and cost you your day.
Avoid watching TV while working; it sucks up your focus from the purpose of working at home. Instead, stream music that complements your work style.
It’s easy to lose contact. Check in with your immediate colleagues and team regularly throughout the day.
Don’t forget family and friends. Set aside time or use your breaks to call or email close contacts and stay in the loop.
Take regular breaks and remember to exercise
Respite from your desk is important, especially when you’re confined to your home. Schedule regular breaks.
Staying active can be a challenge when you’re in a confined space, especially cardio. Exercise is a known aid in helping with the symptoms of isolation so if you are well, be sure to stay active. Incorporate stretching, yoga, dips, lunges and natural resistance exercises to stay active.
Exercises to stay positive during these challenging times
Life is neither pink or grey: it is multi-coloured. It’s our eye that lingers on the beautiful or the ugly. The positive or the negative
Here is a great tool to learn how to stop negative thoughts. When you feel an unpleasant emotion (sadness, anger, fear, jealousy, etc) identify the thought the accompanies it (= automatic thought). Then imagine another interpretation equally convincing to explain the same situation, but positive this time (= alternative thought)
My clients are not calling me anymore
They don’t think I am good enough or I made a mistake
I have given them detailed information and right now they are good with what they have
With practice, you will learn to replace your automatic negative thoughts with positive alternative ones, the fly without delay.
Let’s avoid dwelling on our worries!
What moments or situations tend to make you worry?
Moments when I worry
Situations when I worry
What can you do to change these circumstances and avoid dwelling on your worries?
My tips for not worrying are:
Do something rather than worrying
There’s nothing like absorbing activities for avoiding worry. Think about activities that are so absorbing and interesting that you put all your mental energy into that and away from worry. These activities will
Block out all distractions and preoccupations
My anti-worry activities are:
If you need any more support or help during these difficult and challenging times, then please reach out to our team.
Clerks Award flexibility during outbreak of coronavirus
The determination inserted a temporary new Schedule, which applies from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 28 March until 30 June 2020. Schedule I adds award flexibility to the Clerks Award flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak for:
employees’ classifications and duties
minimum engagement/pay for part-time and casual employees
span of hours changes while working at home
full-time and part-time employees’ hours of work
directions to take annual leave.
The Commission may extend when Schedule I operates until, if necessary. We’ll update our information if that happens.
The following changes apply under Schedule I, for employers and employees covered by the Clerks Award.
Annual leave and close down of business – Clerks Award flexibility
Employers can direct an employee to take annual leave under Schedule I by giving their employees at least 1 week’s notice (or any shorter period of notice that is agreed).
If the annual leave is because the business is closing down for a period due to coronavirus and an employee doesn’t have enough paid annual leave to cover the whole period, the employer can direct them to take unpaid leave. The period of unpaid leave counts as service for entitlements under the:
National Employment Standards.
If the business isn’t closing, the employer can only direct an employee to take annual leave if the:
employee still has at least 2 weeks of leave left after the direction
employer considers the employee’s personal situation.
Employees can take up to twice as much annual leave at a proportionally reduced rate if their employer agrees.
Employees and employers can still agree to take annual leave at any time.
You can find more information on Coronavirus and Australian Workplace Laws HERE
WOW what can one say at the moment – the situation we are under is one that we have never seen before and it will change the landscape of the world we live in.
I hope that you and your business are doing OK so far or at least able to come out of this once we all have clarity when that will be.
It was positive to hear our Prime Minister this morning (29 March 2020) setting out that – More help will be given to millions of Australians battling the devastating impacts of coronavirus with a $1.1 billion package which boosts mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief.
I have been writing updated articles almost daily and trying to keep businesses abreast of any changes whilst also protecting them from a Fair Work fallout by acting in haste during this time. What we don’t need is a spike in FW claims for unfair dismissal, adverse actions, unlawful dismissal or general protections claims as we all start to recover – and recover we will. I would love it if you could share this with your networks – I also have increased my FREE general consultations – all the info is on my website https://www.freshhrinsights.com.au/ on the front page and also the articles are under the articles section HERE
What now and what next for your workplace – Coronavirus COVID-19 2020 – A question on everyone’s mind right now. We have seen over the last few days more and more businesses in the retail sector closing up shop and standing down their employees. It is certainly a difficult time as business owners navigate the current situation and COVID-19.
When we think about a stand-down there are things that you must be cautious of as it is not as simple as advising your team “sorry but I have no choice I need to stand you down from work”
s524 of the Fair Work Act (‘Act’) allows for a stand-down BUT CAUTION stand-down provisions as set out in s524 of the Act does not give all employers an overall right to stand down under the COVOD-19 situation. The circumstances, as set out in the Act are when;
employees can no longer be ‘usefully employed’,
of a ‘stoppage of work’ (this term has a specific meaning).
We all know that businesses are deeply impacted and there has been a dramatic slowdown BUT as published in the material by the Fair Work Ombudsman a stand-down does not apply because ‘business is slow’ or if there is ‘not enough work’
Whilst government directives may meet the requirement for a ‘stoppage of work’, not all current COVID19 scenarios do. The risks of getting it wrong are high, and include employees later seeking back paid wages for the whole period of the stand down, and or bringing claims including:
constructive dismissal claims leading to dismissal related claims (such as unfair dismissal or general protections claims);
employees notifying the Fair Work Commission (Commission) of a stand-down dispute;
employees alleging the stand down amounted to unreasonable management action causing them a psychological injury in relation to which they bring a workers’ compensation claim,
amongst other things.
Importantly, even if workers do not dispute the stand down when it happens, they are entitled to pursue action well into the future (up to 6 years), potentially compromising a business’ ability to recover from the economic downturn.
Before making any decisions in what you are going to do ask yourself these questions
Can I keep the employees on in some way shape or form?
As we all navigate the current situation and COVID-19 devastates businesses large and small business owners are under increasing pressure to make decisions. No one wanted us to be in this situation but the reality is that we are and we just need to do what we can to get by. A concern that I have as an HR professional is that in the haste to cut wages, close down expenditure that is not needed and when standing down staff the decision could be made in haste and end up with a Fair Work fallout once we return to normality (whatever that looks like now we will find out)
There are many workplaces that are standing down their teams right now as it is seen as the easier option BUT there are risks if you do not follow all the correct procedures and adhere to the circumstances that warrant a stand down. You can not just stand down the employee because the work is drying up and profits are down – if there is still useful work for them to do then this may not be the option for you and your business. I have written a recent blog on useful work employee’s can do-read it HERE
If paid or unpaid leave is not an option within your workplace then you may look at reduced working hours but be cautious about trying to get these changes through in haste. Every employee HAS to agree to these cuts in hours – you cannot threaten redundancy if they don’t agree but you can paint the bigger picture –
Example – “We are regretful of having to suggest this option however as a business we are trying to stay afloat and keep you all in work right now and look to how we can remain for the future – in some form or other – we are hopeful that we can come to an agreement with each and every one of you as we would prefer to have you getting some income in these incredibly tough times. We are limited by the options and are trying desperately to avoid having to consider redundancy”
I know we are all in crisis at the moment and we are all struggling to find what to do – with so much uncertainty it is challenging to say the least. What I must stress is that you need to be extremely careful as you will need every single employee’s agreement before you vary any term of employment or contractual hours. We would hope all employees see the bigger situation here (even though we acknowledge they are scared too) and agree to support business owners and agree where they can.
This time will certainly test out the loyal employees we have and those that are with us or against us (although that’s not a statement to open opportunities to weed out employees as we re-build)
Before making any decisions in what you are going to do ask yourself these questions
Can I keep the employees on in some way shape or form?