The year 2020 is one that will not be soon forgotten, particularly for businesses that employ people. The JobKeeper Scheme may be a once in a lifetime experience and that experience carries mixed emotions for many employers. From an employment law perspective, we have seen employers battle through the trials and tribulations of the pre-JobKeeper period, where employers were scrambling to understand their rights around redundancy terminations, stand down obligations and negotiating pay and hours decreases with their workforces. After that came the fogginess of the JobKeeper Scheme and helping people to understand what employers could and could not do under that Scheme.
In the next 90 days, we face an incremental return to the ‘new normal’. Many of our clients have based their planning around what happens at the end of September when JobKeeper ends. It is a reality of the recent period of economic turmoil, that employers have had to reconsider what their business looks like when JobKeeper is no longer available. Many businesses have seen revenues and market demand shrink, and numerous businesses have seized the opportunity to become more efficient and have streamlined their labour costs. In both cases, a likely outcome is that those businesses may have to reduce their workforce before the end of September, as it will not be sustainable to hold onto all existing employees post-JobKeeper.
If your business fits this description, then do not make the common mistake of rushing into a termination for redundancy reasons. There is a strict process that must be followed to affect a redundancy, and that process is one that involves:
- preparation of a business case justifying why the position is no longer required;
- a two-step consultation process with the employee whose position is to be affected;
- consideration as to whether redeployment is possible.
All this must take place before final decisions on a redundancy termination are made. Without a business case that supports the decision, and without having followed a proper process, employers run the risk of unfair dismissal and general protections applications, both of which can have significant financial implications for businesses.
Our biggest tip for employers over the next 90 days, is to plan ahead, understand what the end of September looks like for your business, and seek some specialist legal advice if redundancies or other changes to employment arrangements look likely.
Interestingly, we have also seen many businesses take the opportunity to revise business documentation and policies, and that is certainly another tip for employers during this time. For an employer, the Employment Contract you have with your employees and your Policy documents are your opportunity to protect your business. They are great building block for any business, particularly when it comes to managing employment relationships. Further, with significant decisions being handed down recently regarding the nature of casual employment relationships in Australia, it is especially important for employers to ensure they are reviewing their casual employment arrangements, and that the documentation being used for true casual employees is appropriate.
We always say to our clients, that a 20-minute telephone call before making a decision can save you significant costs associated with making the wrong decision. This has never been so important with the complexities involved in employing people in today’s climate, and the propensity for claims to be made during a time when so many people are significant financial stress.
About Aitken Legal
Aitken Legal is a specialist Employment Law Firm that only practices employment law and works only with Employers. They help Employers meet their workplace obligations and minimise their risk when managing employees.
For assistance with your workforce, please contact employment law specialists, Aitken Legal on 07 5413 4000 or visit www.aitkenlegal.com.au
Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.
Written by Hamish Procter, Senior Associate, Aitken Legal