Hiring New Employees: What's the Law?

Greg Jennings, Director-Education Resources Team, Fair Work Ombudsman

Hiring is an important decision for your business. The right approach can benefit your workplace and save you time and money.

If you are thinking about hiring a new employee for your business there are steps you can take to help you find the right person for the job.

Know the law

Before hiring, it is important that you understand your workplace obligations. The Fair Work Act 2009 applies to all employees in the national system, and covers things like wages, record-keeping, pay slips and discrimination.

You should make sure that you are familiar with the National Employment Standards (NES). There are 10 NES in total and they apply to all employees. The NES covers things like maximum weekly hours, annual leave, personal/carer’s leave (also known as sick leave), parental leave and public holidays. For more information about the NES visit www.fairwork.gov.au/nes.

It is also important to know which modern award/s or enterprise agreements apply to your workplace.

A modern award is a document that sets out the minimum wages and conditions for an industry or occupation. They apply on top of the NES and cover things like pay, hours, rosters, breaks, allowances, penalty rates and overtime. To search for a modern award, you can visit www.fairwork.gov.au/awards.

An enterprise agreement is a document that sets out the minimum wages and conditions for a workplace. When an agreement is in place, it will usually apply instead of the modern award. You can search for enterprise agreements and find out more about the agreement making process on the Fair Work Commission’s website www.fwc.gov.au.

As an employer you also need to take tax for your employees pay. Further information about your taxation and superannuation obligations can be obtained from the Australian Taxation Office – www.ato.gov.au/business/employers.

Think about hiring

The next step in the hiring process is to consider whether hiring is the best option, or whether there is already someone on staff who can be trained for the role. To make this decision, you will need to assess your business’ current and future needs and define the role that needs to be filled.

If you decide that you do need to hire, think about what you need from the role and develop a job description to match. As part of this, consideration should be given to the type of employee you need (casual, parttime, full-time or fixed term). You should also consider the skills and qualifications required.

For a template job description visit www.fairwork.gov.au/templates.

Attract the right people

Once you have developed the job description for the role you would like to fill, the next step is to advertise the job and attract the right candidates. You will want to make sure that suitable applicants hear about the opportunity and can match it with their skills, qualifications and expectations.

When preparing your job advertisement, you should list the skills and experience you are looking for. You should also remember to let applicants know what is in it for them by including information about the location, salary and benefits of the job.

The best way to advertise will depend on the position you would like to fill. Consider advertising in newspapers or industry publications, using online job sites and social media, or by placing a poster in the shop window.

Choose the right person

The next step is to create a shortlist of candidates you would like to interview from the applications received. A shortlist is particularly useful if you received a lot of applications for the position. This is because it will help you to identify the applicants whose skills and experiences best match the role.

Once you have prepared a shortlist you will be able to prepare to interview the best candidates. Interviews can be formal or informal. The focus should be on asking the right questions so that applicant’s skills and experience can be matched with the job that needs to be filled.

Avoid asking questions that are personal, intrusive or irrelevant to the role as they may be seen as inappropriate or discriminatory.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Online Learning Centre has a course titled Hiring new employees. As part of this course you can test your interviewing skills through an interactive video scenario. The Online Learning Centre can be accessed at www.fairwork.gov.au/learning.

Offer of employment

Once you have selected the best candidate, you will need to offer them the job. This can be done over the phone, but it’s a good idea to follow up in writing with a letter of offer. There are template letters of offer available at www.fairwork.gov.au/templates.

You should also provide them with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement. This Statement must be given to each new employee when they start work. You can download a copy at www.fairwork.gov.au/fwis.

At this stage, you may also wish to provide the person with copies of any relevant company policies such as the code of conduct, uniform or social media policies. You should also think about providing them with any forms that need to be completed, including a tax file declaration or superannuation choice form.

Start on the right foot

To ensure you get the most from your new employee, you should invest time in a thorough induction. A well thought-out induction helps employees feel well-informed and equipped to do their job.

The induction can include things like a tour of the workplace and introductions to their colleagues, an overview of the business, an explanation of the employee’s role and responsibilities, a discussion about relevant policies and procedures and a run-down of workplace health and safety procedures. For assistance with planning your induction, download our Induction Checklist at www.fairwork.gov.au/templates.

Be a productive workplace

During the first few weeks of employment, it’s a good idea to meet with the new employee to set goals and expectations. At this stage, you should also try to identify any training that might be required. You may wish to create a performance agreement to ensure that these needs are met. You can access a template performance agreement at www.fairwork.gov.au/templates.

Regular meetings are a good way to give new staff member’s feedback about their performance and monitor their suitability for the role.

Remember, if a problem does arise you should address it with your new employee promptly. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Online Learning Centre has a course for managers and business owners titled Managing performance. This course contains practical tips for promoting good performance and addressing underperformance when it occurs. It can be accessed at www.fairwork.gov.au/learning.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s guide to hiring new employees is available at www.fairwork.gov.au/hiring. This guide contains further information about each of the steps in the above hiring process and provides straight-forward advice about hiring new staff. The guide was created to provide employers advice in plain-English about the best way to employ new workers and to outline their workplace obligations in simple terms.

For further information and advice you can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website where you will find a range of resources including fact sheets, best practice guides, checklists and template documents.

Greg Jennings is the Director of the Education Resources Team at the Fair Work Ombudsman, Australia’s national workplace relations regulator. The Fair Work Ombudsman helps employers and employees understand and comply with workplace laws and improve their workplace practices.

For more information:
P: 13 13 94
W: www.fairwork.gov.au