The start of the new year is a great time to think about improving your employment processes and procedures.  To get you started, these are our favourite “Employment Law New Year’s Resolutions”. 

Resolution 1: Review employment contracts 

Business owners often use a standard employment contract that is altered slightly from employee to employee This works if the contract was properly drafted in the first place.  However, where it falls over is when you need something more comprehensive or that reflects specific industry quirks.  Your employment contract needs to be relevant to your workplace, the laws that apply to it and any Awards that your employees are entitled to. 

standard employment contract is also only useful if it is kept uptodate.  The law in this area changes frequently, so it is important to review your contracts to make sure they comply with current law and practices.  If it is more than 5 years old, the odds are that it is not up to scratch We recommend having your contracts reviewed by a lawyer to capture any changes.  

Resolution 2: Update job descriptions 

The job description you started with when you first hired someone is unlikely to stay the same as their role progresses.  Yet few business owners take the time to sit down with their employees and review their job descriptions on at least an annual basis.  Failure to update a job description may be fine if things are going well, but not if you are trying to performance manage a troublesome employee. 

The start of a new year is a great time to sit down with each of your employees and update their job descriptions with current duties and expectations. This helps to eliminate any tension between your expectations of the employee and their understanding of the role. If you are not on the same page, it gives you an opportunity to correct things before mistakes are made or resentment sets in. 

Resolution 3: Tune up workplace policies 

In our view, policies are the hardestworking documents in a workplace. They enable you to communicate your expectations of your employees’ behaviour, performance and attitude. Better yet, they provide flexibility because they can be updated or amended as needed, unlike an employment contract. We categorise policies into two main types: compliance and cultural. 

Compliance policies are those that cover off on duties that are imposed by law. This includes bullying and harassment, work health and safety, and privacy obligations. These policies should be reviewed regularly to ensure they reflect any changes in law or industry standards. 

Cultural policies are those that record procedures or patterns of behaviour that set your business apart. To prepare a cultural policy, you need to ask yourself ‘What makes us better than our competitors at doing X?”. ‘X’ might be almost anything – responding to customers, producing work product, hosting events, etc. You then need to put pen to paper to record how you do that task so well. Look to identify the behaviours that make that task successful, and then compile those behaviours into a system of undertaking that task. The system then becomes the policy, to ensure that those successful behaviours are adopted by the whole team, all the time. 

Resolution 4: Consider Individual Flexibility Agreements 

The Award that an employee is hired under is the minimum employment standards your employee is entitled to, but those standards can be complicated and confusing. An Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) is a way to introduce flexibility into your employment agreement. It will override the default terms of the Award that applies to your employee’s employment term and make alternative arrangements that suit you and your employee  

Any changes to the Award made through your IFA must result in your employee being ‘better off overall’. Your employee’s Award entitlements cannot be reduced or removedEach Award lists what provisions can be overridden by an IFA. The IFA should then detail how the Award has been changed and how that results in your employee being better off overall. 

Often, we see that employers use IFAs to introduce a flat rate of pay that suits the needs of the business, rather than having to calculate overtime, penalty rates and hourly rates. It can also be used to rearrange working hours. An IFA can help attract and keep good employees, as well as document the incentives that you provide to your employees. 

Getting started on your resolutions 

Setting clear expectations for your employees is necessary to maintain a strong business and a consistent brand. The new year is the perfect time to make sure the human resources aspect of your business is in tip-top shape. Call JFM Law on (02) 9199 8597 to get started on your new year’s resolutions today.