Kick start your workplace relations routine

Lynda McAlary-Smith | Executive Director of Proactive Compliance and Education | Fair Work Ombudsman

It is easy to put off starting a new health kick despite good intentions. We all know that following through with our goals can be tough, particularly if you don’t know where to start.

At the Fair Work Ombudsman we see the same - many small business owners and franchise operators have the best of intentions. They want to understand and comply with Commonwealth workplace laws, but sometimes find the process overwhelming. However, we know that the consequences of not applying a healthy regulatory regime can be disastrous. It can also have serious implications for your brand.

As a franchisee the reputation of your brand is one of your most valuable commodities. You should do everything you can to ensure that your brands positive image is maintained.

Why is this important?

In our information and digital-driven world, consumers are more powerful now than ever. Social media has enhanced our capacity to inform ourselves about our choices, of which there is no shortage.

Unfortunately not all publicity is good publicity. Negative media coverage can result in consumers making a conscious decision to take their business elsewhere, impacting your bottom line.

It is important to protect the reputation of your brand, and to position your business as an employer of choice. This will help you to ensure that this doesn’t occur.

What steps can you take?

The last thing you want to see is your brand in the media for the wrong reasons.

One way to protect yourself from this is to put in the time and effort to ensure that compliance with workplace obligations is the norm in your franchise business and not the exception.

As a member of the franchisee community it is important that you take a best practice approach in regards to your workplace relations obligations. Doing so will allow you to set an example that can be followed by others in your franchisee network and will help you to position yourself as an employer of choice.

Further, both you and your franchisor can play a major role within the industry in setting the competitive and lawful employment conditions for employers at the smaller end of the industry structure. This is particularly important as these smaller businesses often do not have access to  a head office for support and guidance.

To ensure that you are compliant you first need to know what your workplace obligations are. You need to:

• Know the correct rates of pay for your staff and if penalty rates and overtime are payable;

• Be aware of what employment records need to be kept and make sure that they are up to date and accurate;

• Understand what leave and breaks your employees are entitled to and ensure that they receive them; and

• Know how to end an employment relationship and what, if anything, your employees might be entitled to if you do.

Once you have this information, you should openly discuss with your staff what this means for them. Creating a well-informed workforce can help to increase employee engagement and reduce the likelihood of workplace disputes. This is because your employees will feel comfortable discussing their entitlements directly with you.

By putting time and energy into your workplace relations obligations, you are not only investing in good relationships with your staff, but also giving your business the best chance for success. If you are aware that others within your franchisee network aren’t complying then you should let your franchisor know.

Reputational harm damages all the players in your franchise space including your franchisor, so at the Fair Work Ombudsman we expect them to take an active role in ensuring compliance across their franchisees and the industry.

How can the Fair Work Ombudsman help you?

At the Fair Work Ombudsman, we know that there is a lot you need to understand and consider when operating a franchise business. However, we also know that making sure your business is compliant with workplace laws may not always appear to be a high priority. However, by not factoring in the correct entitlements into your business model you run the risk of facing unexpected wages costs that can sometimes be staggering for small business. To put this into context, between July 2010 and April 2015, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered over $2.2 million for 1700 workers within the Hair and Beauty industry.

To assist you with starting your new routine and to make compliance easier, we have developed a number of tools and resources designed to assist you and the significant number of employees employed within franchise businesses.

Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT ) PACT, our pay and conditions tool is designed to give you access to reliable advice on wages and entitlements on-the-go.  It can help you to locate the correct Modern Award for an employee’s position and quickly determine what wages apply, including overtime, penalty rates and allowances. The tool can also be used to assist with the calculation of apprentice and trainee rates of pay.

In addition to wages, the PACT can also help you with calculating an employee’s entitlement to annual and sick leave as well as notice and redundancy.

You can access PACT from the Fair Work Ombudsman website at:

My account

My account allows you to create your own personalised account within the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website. By registering for My account you can get priority support from the Fair Work Ombudsman. You can also save results from PACT, bookmark your favourite pages, ask questions and save our replies.

When you register, you will be asked to provide information about yourself including your industry. This information allows us to tailor information for you. To create a My account, go to

Online training

One of our most popular resources is our online learning centre, which contains free and interactive courses for employers, employees, supervisors and managers. These courses have been designed to provide you with practical advice and assistance on core workplace topics including managing difficult conversations, hiring employees and managing performance. We have also developed an online course called ‘Starting a new job’ that will help your young employees understand their rights and obligations in the workplace.

To access our online training, go to

Workplace Basics

Our Workplace Basics quiz contains seven modules designed to test your knowledge about everyday workplace issues including pay and awards, leave, record keeping and termination. At the end of each module, you’ll be provided with a customised list of links to relevant resources and information. The Workplace Basics quiz can be accessed at Why not take the test and see if you are achieving your goals of being a proactive, fully compliant franchise operator.

Where can you get further assistance?

If you do need further assistance understanding your rights and obligations under the Fair Work Act, you can contact us via or during business hours on 13 13 94. You should also speak to your franchisor to discuss the type of support that they can offer to ensure that you are well prepared to meet the demands of your business and your obligations to your workers.

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