Christmas Breakfast Seminar Roundup

Thank you to everyone who attended our Christmas Breakfast Seminar on Thursday, 29 November 2018. We trust everyone enjoyed the breakfast and opportunity to mingle and network with other clients.

Jane Murray’s presentation ‘Is UR Workplace OK?’ considered the impacts of mental health in the workplace in light of the recently announced Productivity Commission Inquiry (the Inquiry) into mental health. The Inquiry, announced on 7 October 2018, will examine how mental health affects productivity in the workplace and how employers may be worsening the impact on the economy by creating or exacerbating existing mental health conditions of employees.

Jane discussed the role that employers are increasingly expected to undertake in supporting and accommodating employees experiencing mental health issues and addressed why it is in a company’s economic and legal interest to have adequate policies and procedures upholding this. Jane referred to research that showed that 1 in 5 Australians have taken time off work within a period of 12 months to manage mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. She also cited a 2014 report indicating that investing in workplace mental health strategies on average reaps a 230% return of investment (beyondblue; PwC Report 2014). Jane offered case examples that demonstrate the need to approach the issue in a holistic and sensitive manner that is not tokenistic, which serves to improve mental wellness within a workplace and that mitigate the risk of successful claims.

As an update since the Breakfast Seminar, the Federal Government have already announced $3.6 million of funding to support the mental health of small business owners.

Angharad Owens-Strauss delivered a timely presentation, ‘Unpacking Workpac: Casually Confused’ which explored the recent WorkPac v Skene [2018] FCAFC 131 decision on the classification of casual workers. Angharad examined the facts of the case detailing the Applicant’s employment arrangements and unpacked the judgement to explain what potential precedent the decision has set for interpreting the definition of a “casual employee” in the context of entitlements, in particular, annual leave. Angharad explored the contesting views on the source of the definition of “casual employment” ; concluding that a “casual employee” is defined by common law, and is not simply defined by an employer’s classification of the employee or the fact that the casual employee is paid a casual loading under the award or enterprise agreement covering the employee. The common law makes clear that one key determinative factor of a casual relationship is “the absence of a firm advance commitment as to the direction of the employer’s employment or the days (or hours) the employee will work”.

When drafting employment agreements, Angharad suggested that employers specify the exact component of the hourly rate being paid to the employee as a casual loading and that the loading is in compensation for annual and personal carer’s leave.

As an update since the Breakfast Seminar, the Federal Government introduced regulation, which came into effect on 18 December 2018, to ensure that, in certain circumstances, employers who pay an employee a casual loading can claim for such payments to be offset against certain entitlements under the National Employment Standards, including annual leave. The regulation will apply only to employment periods that occurred before, or that occurred on or after, 18 December 2018.

If you have any questions arising out of the Breakfast Seminar, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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