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Articles from EDUCATION / TRAINING (185 Articles)

Jewellers unsure of employment standards

Retailers are unclear about the distinction between part-time and casual workers under the new employment Acts, it emerged at a Sydney trade fair seminar.
EMA Consultants principal Rod Reid, who presented the seminar on the new Modern Award and National Employment Standard, said that if casual staff come to work at the same time every week and work a predetermined number of hours, they could be classed as part-time employees under the new rules.

Questions following the seminar made clear how confused some retailers were about the distinction, stressing the need for further clarification. Reid warned retailers, “A casual now has to be a true casual – if not, you may be subject to an underpayment claim,” adding, “If you have an employee who works predictable hours for at least six months, you may have a part-time employee instead of a casual.”

During the seminar, Reid found that jewellers’ main concern was what the best scenario was for them when it came to employing part-timers and casuals. He suggested that jewellers could get around the new ruling by signing an individual “flexibility arrangement” or by paying employees over the Modern Award rate to offset the overtime penalties.

Reid said that under the new employment law, the onus is now on the employer to ensure their employees do not work excessive amounts of overtime. Employees can now refuse to work overtime if the requirement is deemed unreasonable. Reid admitted “unreasonable” was a subjective term but would usually mean in cases when “regularly rostered hours” amounted to overtime.

There has been a significant change to rules on public holidays as well.

“You cannot refuse an employee a public holiday unless you have sound operational reasons to do so,” explained Reid. “[In the past] you could always require an employee to work overtime, on a weekend or on a public holiday, but not anymore.”

The consultant warned jewellers that employees could now request a change in their working arrangements if they have a child under six or an under-18 dependant with a disability. In a legally binding obligation, jewellers could face discrimination charges for dismissing these requests without sound operational reasoning.

Parents can now request an additional 12 months unpaid parental leave on top of the mandatory 12 months they are entitled to. However, the second set of 12 months is only by request and while employers have to give it serious consideration, they can also refuse under reasonable grounds.

Reid also discussed how new employees could accrue their leave as they went along instead of waiting a year and pointed out carers’ leave was now tied to sick leave.

Due to interest the new rulings and standards have created, especially concerning casual workers, Reid has been asked to undergo a series of talks in every capital city. Nothing has been finalised however.

The Modern Award came into effect on January 1, 2010.

Mark McAskill Jewellery

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