AHRI’s HR business partner answers some recent questions submitted by members, including how many benefits you should offer and investigating claims made during an exit interview.
They say there’s never a dull day in HR and that’s certainly true. We’re often having to field curly questions from the executive teams and employees alike. Questions can range from queries about policies, legislation and best-practice policies to advice on managing difficult employees.
Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming and you might not know how to respond or just want to sense-check with a like-minded HR professional. AHRI is here to help.
Below are some of the recent questions submitted to us by AHRI members via AHRI:ASSIST.
Question: Should I offer my employees more leave benefits than the amount dictated by the National Employment Standards (NES) or my award?
The NES and relevant legislation dictate what leave benefits, at a minimum, employers need to offer to be compliant. There is no need to go beyond these minimums.
However, to remain competitive, you may want to add to your benefits package to support the wellbeing and lifestyle of your employees.
With this in mind, many companies are going beyond what is compliant and revamping their offering. Some of the popular areas of focus are:
- Wellbeing and mental health days
- Additional or front-loaded personal leave
- Specific health or parental leave (see case study here).
- Additional or annual leave (see case study here).
When determining what extras you want to offer, consider the specifics of your business. Factors such as the type of industry, operational needs, your organisation’s size and the demographic make-up of your employees are important to ensure you develop something that fits your organisation’s needs.
It’s also advisable to resist the urge to do everything all at once. Take the time to plan and consult with your employees and make sure that what you implement is financially viable on an ongoing basis.
Once decided, make sure there is a clear policy in place, so the details and benefits are clear to current and new team members.
Offering additional benefits can make you a more desirable employer, increase employee engagement and improve the wellbeing of your team.
Question: An employee with COVID-19 insists on continuing to work from home. They are unwell and I think they should take some leave to rest and recover. What should I do?
In the first instance, check how they are feeling and ensure they have strong medical, emotional and practical support.
Establish why they are hesitant to take time off. They may have financial concerns, feel there’s a stigma around taking personal leave, or are worried about looming deadlines at work.
Talk through their priorities and consider whether these can be redistributed. Assess if they have paid personal leave available to them. If not, they may be able to access accrued annual leave or long service leave instead.
Other types of unpaid leave may be available in their award, agreement or employment contract. Consider offering additional paid or unpaid leave, over and above minimum entitlements.
If your employee chooses to keep working, maintain realistic expectations and continue to show care for their wellbeing.
As a leader, role modelling expected behaviours is a powerful way to shape workplace culture. Next time you take personal leave, think about how to communicate this to your team, and what examples you can set for them.
Question: My staff receive a salary above the award rate and a yearly increase. Am I compliant?
Not necessarily. Annual salaries can’t be less than the minimum an employee is entitled to under the applicable award or NES.
It’s tempting to consider a base rate of pay specified by your award, make some calculations, and then determine that the annualised salary is more generous, but Modern Awards are much more complex than that. Common issues to look out for include:
- Hours worked. Your team may work different hours or days than their roster specifies. Weekend or late night penalty rates add up.
- Public holidays worked, which attracts penalty rates.
- Overtime. What is a reasonable number of additional hours? Even if not directed by you, if your employees are working, you are obligated to pay them.
- Allowances. Does your annualised salary capture all the applicable allowances and their calculations over the course of a year?
Regular auditing is the best way to ensure you are compliant and gives you the best opportunity to remedy any issues as they arise.
Question: An employee came forward with bullying allegations during their exit interview. Should we investigate their claims?
Bullying allegations should be responded to sensitively by applying procedural fairness and offering support. Check on their wellbeing, and offer support such as EAP, if required. Consider whether you need to follow up in future, and agree on how this might be done.
During the exit interview, gather specific information: what and when did this occur, who was involved, and was it reported at the time?
Based on this information, assess if the allegations could constitute bullying. Even if they don’t, there may still be cultural issues to address.
If the allegations do constitute bullying, determine an appropriate investigation. This will vary depending on the context. Do you have a bullying policy? Is the alleged bully still employed? Were there witnesses? Can the issue be investigated internally, or do you need an independent investigator?
Exit interviews can help to understand the reasons for turnover, and identify areas for improvement in your organisation.
Much of our AHRI:Assist content is inspired by our member’s questions. Check out AHRI’s extensive range of information sheets, guidelines and checklists in the member portal for further information.
Kendel VanWorkum is the HR Partner at AHRI Assist and General Manager of Make Data Useful.
Got an HR question? AHRI members can access AHRI:ASSIST to receive a bespoke response to their burning question.