Articles Archives - MDC Legal

The Right to Disconnect – How Will It Impact Small Businesses?

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By Andrea McNamara, Senior Associate

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No 2) Act 2024 introduces changes that will affect small businesses regarding an employee’s “right to disconnect”.

What is the impact of these changes on small business, and how can you comply with an employee’s right to disconnect while still ensuring that the operational requirements of your business are met?

This article outlines what you need to know about:
i) the right to disconnect for your small business; and
ii) how to prepare for the changes to ensure compliance.

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New financial year = opportunity for a new approach to your business’ workplace relations

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By Nikita, Barsby, Special Counsel

With the new financial year upon us, what is your business planning to do differently this year to more effectively and efficiently manage one of the most important aspects of managing any business – its workplace relations? With a myriad of changes coming into play in the workplace relations landscape, it’s crucial to take the time to reflect on and refresh workplace relations practices. Here are our suggestions to set your business up for workplace relations success, and minimise risk, this new financial year.

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Fair Work Commission rejects argument that an unwritten employment agreement existed concurrently with a written director agreement

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by Lucy Wardle, Lawyer

The Fair Work Commission has dismissed a general protections application on the basis the applicant was solely a director – and not an employee. Consequently, the applicant could not have been “dismissed” as that term is defined within the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and his general protections claim failed.

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Australian Human Rights Commission New Powers

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By Andrea McNamara, Senior Associate

As of December 2023 the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has new powers to enforce compliance with the positive duty of employers to prevent sex discrimination and harassment. The AHRC has new enforcement powers to initiate inquiries, make recommendations, issue compliance notices, refer matters to the federal court and enter into legally binding agreements with employers regarding required action.

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Sick & carer's leave

Pretty Please – Employers must request employees to work on public holidays

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On 28 March 2023 the Full Federal Court handed down a decision with major effects across various industries, regarding rostering employees on public holidays. The Court found that the employer Respondent, OS MCAP Pty Ltd, had contravened the Fair Work Act in rostering its employees to work on two public holidays, without providing reasonable requests beforehand.

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Restraint of Trade and Non-Compete Restraint Clauses

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Employment contracts, like terms and conditions, are often unread and can contain unexpected surprises if not reviewed carefully before signing. Employment contracts for senior employees or those with a position of influence over clients or client information usually contain ‘restraint of trade’ or ‘non-compete restraint’ clauses which can catch employees off guard when they leave their employment.

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An audit today keeps the Fair Work Ombudsman away: a practical guide for how businesses can avoid being caught out for underpayment

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By Nicholas Morrison, Law Clerk.

What do you need to be aware of?

An all-too-common pitfall for Australian employers is the risk associated with underpayment or falling behind on employee entitlements. In Australia, the pay and work entitlements of employees are primarily governed by the National Employment Standards and any applicable Modern Award; however, employers should also be aware of other entitlements that may arise from Enterprise Agreements, legislation, or employee contracts.

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The Importance Of Understanding Award Coverage and Application

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By Clare Tunney, Associate.

Whether you’re an employee or an employer, it’s important to know whether you/your employee’s position is award covered and, if so, by which award.
Award coverage is relevant to determining monetary and non-monetary entitlements, as well as availability of/exposure to unfair dismissal claims on termination of employment and breach of award claims.

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COVID-19 Changes to Modern Awards and strategies to manage workforce terms and conditions

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By Samantha Lyon, Senior Associate 

COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the way we live and work. Businesses all around Australia and the world are having to adapt quickly to remote and flexible working arrangements. In addition to managing the complexities that come with these matters, employers will need to keep abreast of and comply with statutory obligations that are being introduced by authorities and are changing daily.

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Overtime and Reasonable Additional Hours

Changes to modern award annualised salary clauses

Posted by | Articles, employment contracts, modern award, modern awards, polices and procedures | No Comments

By Mark Cox, Director and Renae Harg, Senior Associate 

New annualised salary clauses for a number of modern awards come into effect as of 1 March 2020. The annualised salary clauses increase the obligations on employers in relation to modern award annualised salaries, including notifications to employees, increased record keeping obligations and reconciliation of the amounts paid.

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Apprentice unfairly dismissed for refusing to work overtime

Posted by | additional hours, Articles, HR Advice & Support, Terminations, Unfair Dismissals & Adverse Action, unfair dismissal | No Comments

By Renae Harg, Senior Associate and Madeleine Brown, Associate

The Fair Work Commission has ordered an employer to pay eight weeks’ wages to an apprentice after it found that an employee was unfairly dismissed for refusing to work additional hours on a Sunday. This decision is a reminder for employers to carefully consider whether requests to work additional hours are reasonable.

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MDC Legal Workplace Update – Spring 2019

Posted by | Articles, complaince, confidentiality, Contracts, disciplinary action, HR Advice & Support, polices and procedures, Policies and Procedures, sexual harassment | No Comments

Its Spring! Although it’s still brisk and blustery out there – in the weather and many of our clients’ businesses – with some ongoing workplace issues this year being ensuring the correct classification of workers as either employees or independent contractors, permanent or casual engagement, and new developments in domestic violence leave entitlements and casual conversion rights.

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filing a cross claim

Employee claimants can face cross claims

Posted by | Articles, Contracts, misconduct, Performance Management & Misconduct Investigations | No Comments

By Mark Cox, Director and Lauren Wright, Lawyer

Employers successfully making cross claims against former employees

In a recent trend, employers are successfully filing cross claims against employees after the employee has commenced claims against the employer. Two recent Federal cases highlight that employers need to issue cross claims in a timely manner, and that employees need to be aware of the significant financial risks that they could be exposed to if their employer pursues a cross claim against them. Read More

whistleblower protection

Whistleblower Protection Changes – Update Your Policy Now

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By Renae Harg, Senior Associate

Australia amends whistleblower protection laws

New laws providing greater protection for whistleblowers were passed through federal parliament and take effect on 1 July 2019. The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 (Cth) (Whistleblower Act) was introduced to provide for a single, strengthened whistleblower regime to cover the corporate, financial and credit sectors. Read More

employee confidentiality agreement

Breach of Confidentiality: What You Need to Know

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By Renae Harg, Senior Associate and Lauren Wright, Lawyer

Employment Law: Breach of Confidentiality – what you need to know ­

Increases in technology have made it easier for employees to transmit their employer’s confidential information. Confidential information such as client lists, supplier information, pricing and financial arrangements, employee arrangements and business strategies can be invaluable to a business. Read More

Indemnity clause

Careful Case Preparation May Help Avoid Indemnity Costs

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By Renae Harg, Senior Associate and Madeleine Brown, Associate

Indemnity costs awarded for rejection of offer

Two teachers have been ordered to pay their former employer’s costs on an indemnity basis after they unreasonably refused a $10,000 settlement offer. Mr Carr and Mr Pathik commenced proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court alleging that their former employer, ILSC (Brisbane) Pty Ltd, had underpaid them, breached the modern award that covered their employment and breached their general protections by reducing their weekly hours after they made a complaint in relation to their employment.

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Vulnerable Workers Act

Fair Work Breaches Prompt Changes for Holding Companies

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By Renae Harg, Senior Associate and Gemma Little, Associate

Exploitation of vulnerable workers by your franchisee or subsidiary could see you liable

As any entrepreneur knows, there are legal requirements and responsibilities that are part of running your own business. But did you know that as a franchisor or holding company you have additional responsibilities for ensuring compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), and that you could be liable for your subsidiaries’ or franchisees’ breaches of the FW Act? Read More

Class action settlements 101 for employers

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By Mark Cox, Director and Miette Xamon, Law Clerk

Class action lawsuit. It’s a term you’ve heard enough on the news and one that you never want to be at the receiving end of as an employer. An employee class action lawsuit, sometimes called a class action settlement, is a legal proceeding allowing the claims of many individuals against the same defendant or defendants (generally an employer), arising out of the same, similar or related circumstances, to be conducted by a single representative or representatives.

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accessorial liability

Accessorial Liability – Your Responsibilities Under Fair Work Act

Posted by | Articles, complaince, Doing Business in Australia | No Comments

By Mark Cox, Director and Renae Harg, Senior Associate 

Accessorial liability: if you are aware, you can be held liable

Company directors, human resource managers or other managers and accountants can be held accountable for contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act). You need to be aware of the requirements under the Act and not turn a blind eye to breaches of the Act. According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, ‘Accessorial liability provisions allow us to hold anyone involved in a contravention accountable, even if the business has gone into liquidation.’ Read More

When to Deal with Misconduct During the Festive Season

Posted by | Articles, HR Advice & Support, misconduct | No Comments

By Mark Cox, Director & Miette Xamon, Law Clerk 

Misconduct in the workplace can be a tricky matter for employers to deal with, which is often made more difficult due to Christmas shut downs and staff annual leave. There are 5 steps that an employer should consider when investigating misconduct and deciding to take disciplinary action to mitigate the risk that an employee (either the person alleged to have engaged in misconduct, or the person on the receiving end of that conduct) will mount legal claims.

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Party Planning What to do before the Christmas Party

Posted by | Articles, HR Advice & Support, Performance Management & Misconduct Investigations, sexual harassment, Terminations, Unfair Dismissals & Adverse Action, Work Christmas party | No Comments

By Joanna Knoth, Senior Associate and Lauren Wright, Lawyer

As we rapidly approach the end of the year, the office Christmas party can be cause for concern for many employers. There are two key issues that employers should turn their mind to when planning the party.

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Employer unfairly dismissed employee due to wrong view on student visa

Posted by | Articles, Terminations, Unfair Dismissals & Adverse Action, unfair dismissal | No Comments

By Mark Cox, Director and Madeleine Brown, Associate 

An employee who was suspended indefinitely without pay after her employer decided that she had breached the conditions of her visa was unfairly dismissed, according to the Fair Work Commission in Devi v Doutta Galla Aged Services Limited [2018] FWC 4142.

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Say what? Navigating Unlawful Interview Questions

Posted by | Articles, Discrimination & Bullying, HR Advice & Support | No Comments

By Nikita Barsby, Special Counsel and Lauren Wright, Lawyer

An interview provides an employer with an opportunity to get to know prospective employees and assess their suitability for employment. Often, there are many questions an employer wants to ask a prospective employee – however care should be taken to avoid questions which can later be relied on by the interviewee to mount legal claims.

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Smoking at work FAQs

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By Madeleine Brown, Associate 

With the sharp increase in restrictions around the sale, promotion and public consumption of cigarettes over the last 15 years, it’s no wonder there’s confusion around smoking in the workplace.

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Travel extends the mind but not limitation periods: Wragg v Queensland Scaffolding Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 4986

Posted by | Articles, Terminations, Unfair Dismissals & Adverse Action, unfair dismissal | No Comments

By Nikita Barsby, Special Counsel and Madeleine Brown, Associate

The Fair Work Commission has refused an application for an extension of time to file an unfair dismissal application, following a detailed examination of a travelling employee’s social media activities and text messages which demonstrated that he was not incapacitated by depression and grief following his dismissal.

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