The most common penalty rate mistake employers make

If you’re one of the thousands of employers that pay over award wages, you probably think you’ve got Easter payroll covered. Not so fast; you may need to check your employment contracts.

Penalty rates are a hot topic in the lead up to Easter, with Good Friday and Easter Monday attracting the higher than usual rates for many employees rostered on to work those days.

Surprisingly, employers who pay over the award wages as a matter of course are amongst those most likely to attract the attention of the Fair Work Ombudsman for underpaying staff on public holidays.

“Employers often think that because they pay over an award in terms of the base hourly rates, they don’t have to pay in accordance with the award during public holidays,” says Joe Murphy, Director, Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors. “This can be a mistake because often the hourly rates won’t be as much as time and a half, double time, or double time and a half.”

Whether you need to pay more in relation to penalty rates may depend on the wording of your employment contract and the total amount you pay the employee for the relevant pay period, adds Murphy.

“If the contract specifically says ‘we are paying you over-award, and that is paid to set off against paying penalty rates’, it can safeguard the business against the award,” he says. “However, if you work out what an employee will make when working full-time, then calculate what they would get under the award including the additional money they would have received at the public holiday rate, and it turns out they are being paid less than the award, then the company is breaching compliant practice.”

Murphy warns against making amendments to employment contracts, without first seeking your employee’s agreement. Not only won’t the contract be binding, but it won’t be seen to be fair to everyone.

“Where you do implement new contracts, it is important that you do so in a way that ensures that not only is the contract is binding but that doesn’t sour the relationship you have with your employees,” he says.


Late again! 5 steps for managing chronically late employees


Can’t help but notice that some of your staff are always late? Same old excuses? Here’s how to handle it.

As an employer, chronic lateness can be intensely frustrating when it interferes with the running of your business. While no one wants to look like a tyrant or pedantic clock-watcher, condoning persistent tardiness in one worker can give the impression to others that a late-to-work culture is acceptable. Plus, you can feel like your own good nature is being taken advantage of.

So how should you handle it? Does lateness warrant a formal warning? Or should you issue a verbal warning? Is lateness a part of performance evaluation?

Here are five ways to help you comfortably manage a potentially uncomfortable conversation:

  • Wait until it happens 5 times. “Pick your battles” is good advice here. Before you go in all guns blazing, wait until you’ve established that it is indeed a pattern and not just them having a bad week.
  • Get to the bottom of why they’re late. Take them aside and gently ask if anything is wrong and what can you do anything to help. They might be going through something horrendous that you know nothing about.
  • Explain that it’s no victimless crime. Let them know in clear, unemotional, non-judgmental language that lateness has a detrimental effect on the business and sets a negative example for junior staff. Clarify cause and effect, explaining exactly how their lateness has a direct impact and make sure they understand where you’re coming from.
  • Ask for a heads-up in future. Wrap up the conversation by asking the employee to please let you know if they are going to run late in future to help you manage expectations and any knock-on effects.
  • Wait three more times. If they keep doing it again and again and again without a word, it’s formal warning time. Issue one knowing you’ve followed correct procedure and don’t you dare feel guilty.

Do you know if your workplace relations practices are compliant and above board? The Fair Work Ombudsman have been hitting the pavement and door knocking small businesses to audit workplace practices including timesheets, payslips, workplace agreements and contracts are legally compliant.


Unpaid overtime hours cost Australian workers $71.2bn


Australian full-time workers are putting in on average 4.25 unpaid hours per week amounting to $71.2 billion in unpaid work per year, according to employer research by HR specialist Randstad.

On average, part-time workers are working an hour each week above their contract hours, adding an additional $3.2 billion worth of hours worked that go unpaid.

The fact that many Australian’s are working longer hours than required may be seen by employers as a positive indictor of job performance and engagement, said CEO of Randstad Australia Frank Ribout, but the reality is that it negatively influences work-life balance and job satisfaction.

“Allowing and even encouraging staff to consistently work additional hours for ‘free’ during what should be leisure time, with no real acknowledgement of the extra time investment, will have a big impact on a company’s employer brand, particularly in regards to employee attraction and retention.”

Retaining employees and work-life balance

The research showed that a third of Australian employees intend to change employers in the next 6-12 months specifying work-life balance as the primary reason for the decision.

Almost half of all people surveyed ranked work-life balance as one of the five most important factors when evaluating a potential employer and one of the top three factors considered before accepting a job.

A strong workforce is determined by the way employers engage, motivate and retain top talent and ultimately leads to higher revenues, profit margins and overall returns on investments said Ribout.

“So establishing good work-life balance is key. If your people feel they are working in a culture where work and personal time is respected, you will have satisfied, productive and more engaged employees. But if they are regularly working overtime, something which might have become ‘the norm’, it’s time to review why that is, and find solutions to change,” says Ribuot.

Businesses should identify what work-life balance means for their workforce, and then implement changes which integrate it into their daily management.

“Consider conducting meetings with a range of team members or create an anonymous corporate culture survey to ask people what the business can do to improve their work-life balance,” suggested Ribout.

Ribout recommends asking questions such as: “Are certain people or teams overloaded with work? Would greater flexibility, such as the opportunity to work from home at times, help? Could any new technologies improve efficiencies in the business?”

It’s important to keep in mind that a number of strategies may be needed if you employee a multi-generational workforce.

“Baby boomers approaching retirement age may want the right mix of flexible working conditions. Generation X, many of whom are parents, may consider working less hours during school holidays, key to improving their work-life balance. Younger generations may be willing to work longer hours in the lead up to taking extended leave or a sabbatical,” Ribuot explained.