Best Work Practice - Get the basics right
This article appears in the Mar/Apr 2016 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
The retail franchise sector is a significant contributor to the Australian economy and continues to grow – a 2014 report showed that growth in retail franchises in Australia has surpassed other franchise sectors and retail accounts for the highest proportion of new franchise business entrants. If you are considering purchasing a retail franchise, or are already in the business of operating one, you may be looking at hiring your first employee or taking on additional employees. This is an opportune time to brush up on your knowledge of workplace laws and establish employment practices that will stand you and your business, in good stead.
The good news is there is a wide range of support available to help you. Here are the Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO) top four tips to creating and maintaining a best practice workplace:
1 Know where to get help Firstly, it’s important to know where to get accurate and reliable advice. Your franchisor is a great starting point. Your franchisor knows your business and will have a good understanding of your employment needs. Importantly, they might already have a number of established employment policies in place, such as an induction policy,
to help you and your employees navigate the employment relationship. If your franchisor hasn’t already provided you with this information, it is a good idea to ask if they have any policies or other employment relations support available. You should also consider joining an employer association in the retail sector. Employer associations are member organisations that offer assistance and advice on a range of topics, often including employment relations. As these organisations are generally industry-specific, they are able to offer advice tailored to your industry making them a valuable source of information.
Lawyers, accountants and HR advisers are other third-party advisers that can offer you expert knowledge on a range of topics relevant to your business operations. Finally, remember that help is always at hand at the FWO. We offer a wide range of free services and educative resources to help you develop the skills needed to confidently manage your employment relationships. For instance, our Small Business Best Practice Guide provides an overview of the workplace relations system, relevant to small business operations. It explains minimum employment conditions, record keeping, pay slips, unfair dismissal laws and other responsibilities of employers. We also have a dedicated Small Business Helpline you can call on 13 13 94 (choose option 3).
2 Get the basics right Now that you know where to get help, it’s time to determine what your employees are entitled to. Minimum wages and conditions for most employees are set out
in modern awards. Modern awards apply to employees depending on the industry they work in, or the job they do. The General Retail Industry Award 2010 covers employers and their employees in the general retail industry. This refers to the sale or hire of goods or services to final consumers for personal, household or business consumption. If you are not sure whether this award would apply to the employees in your business, you can find the award at www.fairwork.gov.au/awards and read the coverage clause and job classifications to
work out if your employees are covered. Once you’ve checked award coverage, you need to know what to pay your employees. The FWO’s pay and conditions tool, PACT, lets you calculate rates of pay, penalty rates and leave entitlements under the retail award. It is accessible ‘on the go’ via mobile devices making it simpler and faster for you to get wage information for your employees. PACT can also give you a reference number and lets you save your results so that they can easily be retrieved at a later date. Find the PACT at www.fairwork.gov.au.
To find out what you need to know about minimum employment conditions and your obligations as an employer, take the FWO’s Workplace Basics quiz. Workplace Basics is our online, interactive quiz with multiplechoice questions on topics including pay and awards, leave, and record keeping and termination. At the end of each topic, a customised list of links to relevant resources and information is provided which you can email to yourself so you can easily find these later. Workplace Basics will allow you to identify any gaps in your workplace relations knowledge and provide resources and information to develop in these areas. Visit www.fairwork.gov.au/basicsquiz to assess your workplace relations knowledge. By signing up for FWO’s My account service you will be able to store and receive personalised workplace information, such as pay guides for the retail award. Through My account you can save results from PACT and our Pay, Shift, Leave, Notice and Redundancy calculators. You can also submit queries and receive responses that can also be saved in My account. You can register for My account on the www.fairwork.gov.au homepage.
3 Establish good employment practices - Once you understand the basics, it’s a good idea to establish employment practices and systems that will help your business run smoothly. At the FWO, we have a variety of tools and resources to help you do this. For instance, when hiring a new employee there are a number of important decisions to be made. Taking some time to think about aspects of the role, and preparing the right questions to ask potential candidates can dramatically affect the outcome of the recruitment process. One of the important things to consider when hiring a new employee is the type of employment status. Should the new employee be engaged on a full-time, part-time or casual basis? Each
employment type is different with different pay and conditions. It’s important to be aware of those differences when hiring a new employee. Our online learning centre provides a free interactive course on hiring employees, which includes a tool that can help you determine which employment type is best suited for the role you need to fill. With some simple planning you can ensure that you are prepared for the hiring process, including being aware of what the minimum pay and conditions are for each employment type.
Online learning courses are also available on managing performance and having difficult conversations in the workplace. These courses take you through activities and interactive scenarios to provide hands-on, skills-based training that fosters good workplace practices. By taking an online learning course, you can acquire the information and skills that will assist in the management of your employees. Additional online courses on diversity and discrimination, workplace flexibility, managing people and record-keeping and pay slips will be released this year. Visit www.fairwork.gov.au/learning. In addition to helping you develop the skills and know-how to manage your employment relationships, we also have a number of guides and templates to assist you. Our downloadable templates can take the stress out of the record keeping that’s involved with hiring employees, pay slips and other
common workplace issues. Visit www. fairwork.gov.au/templates.
4 Stay on the front foot and resolve issues early Finally, it is important to be proactive and stay on the front foot when it comes to the management of employment relationships in your business. You can do this in a number of ways. Firstly, take steps to ensure that you are kept up to date and informed of any changes that impact the retail industry and, as a result, your business. By subscribing to our email updates or our employer newsletter at www.fairwork.gov.au you are ensuring you will be amongst the first to know if “It is important to be proactive and stay on the front foot when it comes to the management of employment relationships in your business.” any changes or updates have been made to the wages or conditions that apply at your workplace.
Be proactive in resolving any disputes that arise in your workplace. Where a dispute occurs, and it will at some point, it’s important to know how to approach it. The best thing to do is to address it early, and to try and resolve it at the workplace level. Doing so will not only alleviate the need for intervention from a third party, such as the FWO, but it is also likely to save both your time and money. We know that having a difficult conversation with an employee can be a daunting task. Dealing with these issues before they escalate is not only best practice as an employer, but can also prevent further disputes arising later down the track. Our ‘Difficult conversations in the workplace’ online learning course was developed to help you feel confident in discussing and resolving issues that arise in your workplace before they escalate. As you now know, there’s plenty of support available to help you navigate the workplace relations system. Not knowing is not an excuse for failing to comply with your obligations as an employer. Failing to comply can expose you and your business to significant penalties. For example, the owner-operators of a franchise in Melbourne were fined a total of $110,500 after underpaying employees a total of $83,566 in a nearly two year period.
Be proactive in getting the help you need, get the basics right, take the time to establish good management of employment relations in your business, and stay up to date. It will
save you time and money down the track, and will help you build a workforce that performs well and supports your business goals.
Lynda McAlary-Smith is the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Executive Director of Proactive Compliance and Education. Lynda’s branch is responsible for proactively assisting Australian workplaces and educating them about their workplace rights and obligations. The Fair Work Ombudsman is an independent statutory office responsible for ensuring compliance with Australia’s workplace laws and promoting
harmonious, productive and cooperative workplace relations.
T: 13 13 94