How HR should start 2018: A legal guide

Aaron Goonrey
Emily Burgess

By and

written on January 9, 2018

Here’s a checklist of legal tips to help HR begin the new year.

The Christmas tree has been taken down, the last leftovers have been polished off, and it’s time to kick start into work for another year.

As you make New Year commitments to get into shape and learn an instrument, why not take the opportunity to make a few HR resolutions for your business? Reader warning: while these may not be glamorous, a little time spent on them now can save your business a whole lot of hassle (and money!) in the future.

1. Check employment agreements are up to date and fit for purpose

So you’ve watched your top client manager climb from the mailroom to the corner office over the past ten years. Perhaps it’s worth pausing and wondering if there’s anything stopping her from walking out the door with all the company’s clients in tow.

The New Year is a perfect time to take stock and ensure your personnel agreements are in tip-top shape. Checking that appropriate confidentiality and post-employment restraints are in the agreements of key employees should be a top priority. If your employees have worked their way into positions with considerable access to confidential or client information within the business, it’s time to revisit this issue.

Here’s something else worth considering when conducting your review. Let’s say you have an employee engaged under a series of maximum term employment agreements, and their employment finishes at the date specified in the current agreement. You might have thought that the employee would not be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim because they technically haven’t been “dismissed” by their employer. Until recently you would have been correct. However, the Fair Work Commission recently released a decision casting some doubt on this position.

Essentially, the Commission said that the correct approach for determining whether the expiry of a maximum term agreement is a “dismissal” should be by reference to the nature of the employment relationship. For example, the Commission may consider whether the maximum term agreements are used only for administrative convenience, rather than to reflect the genuine time-limited nature of the employment relationship. For your business, this means you should look closely at any maximum term agreements you have in place, and consider why it makes sense to maintain them.

2. Tackle last year’s performance issues head on

You wouldn’t be the first person to say that difficult conversations can be tough, even if it’s part of your job description. But when we see the New Year beginning, and the same old patterns forming, most of us will wish we had addressed those performance issues when there was a little more Christmas cheer in the air.

Why not use the New Year to stop hoping an employee problem resolves itself and use it as a chance to start a conversation. Good performance management doesn’t have to be a structured one-hour meeting (although down the track this might be the case); it could simply start by taking the employee aside and giving confidential feedback on a particular task. It all plays a role in forming good performance management habits.

(If you’re still on the fence about whether a conversation actually needs to happen, you might want to revisit our previous article on the subject: 3 times you need to talk about employee performance.)

3. Revisit your record keeping

You might recall that one of the big introductions in workplace relations law in 2017 was the Federal Government’s reforms to protect vulnerable workers. Zoom in on the laws a little and you’ll notice that while your statutory obligation to keep employee time and wage records for a period of 7 years hasn’t changed, the consequences of breaching those obligations are greater than ever.

In fact, the penalties have doubled! With this in mind, the start of the New Year could be a reminder to review your business’s record keeping habits and ensure you have robust record retention systems in place.

4. Train, train, train

So you have an up to date code of conduct, bullying and harassment and social media policies in place (just to name a few) but do staff actually know what to do with them? Do they know how to comply with them? In fact, do staff even know they exist, or do they sit out in the ‘outer limits’ otherwise known as the intranet? The beginning of the New Year is the perfect time to conduct your annual training or refresher course to make sure staff are on the same page about all the do’s and don’ts in the workplace.

Ultimately, a good New Year’s resolution is likely only to succeed if its maker is committed to making it happen. So along with resolving to be a happier, healthier, more well-rounded individual in every way, why not also commit to one or two of the above and resolve to start your business in fit and thriving shape for 2018.  

Plan your training for 2018 with AHRI’s professional development directory.

Aaron Goonrey is a Partner and Emily Burgess is a Lawyer in Lander & Rogers’ Workplace Relations & Safety practice.

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2 thoughts on “How HR should start 2018: A legal guide

  1. A timely and clear reminder that the apparently simple/mundane issues need to be constantly revisited and reviewed. Regrettably,in many instances, they are not.

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