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General protections: ignorance of the law won’t serve you or your pocket well

April 14, 2016

head-in-the-sand

Have you ever used the excuse “But I didn’t know it was wrong…” and hoped to get away with something? Think again if you’re planning on taking advantage of your employees.

The Federal Circuit Court has sent a harsh warning to employers breaching industrial relations laws and instruments after ordering a Mahjong Club to pay more than $415,000 in compensation for breaching employment laws and engaging in adverse action, when they transferred their full time employee to a part time status following the employee being on a period of workers compensation.

Judge Manousaridis also imposed a further $50,000 in penalties on Tin Loy and Co after their “tea attendant” argued that he had no other choice but to resign after his employer cut his hours and changed his employment status as a result of lodging a workers compensation claim after seriously injuring his leg at work. The former employee suffered significant financial loss and struggled in securing alternate employment.

The Federal Circuit Judge said that the harsh financial penalty imposed on the company should be taken as a strong warning to other employers that the “unilateral and disadvantageous alteration” of an employee’s contract or position in the circumstances when an employee is seen to be exercising a “workplace right” will not be tolerated by the Courts.

Regardless of your ignorance of the law, you will be punished for any breach of industrial relations laws applying to your employees.

  • Have you had ever had employee make a claim of workers compensation?
  • Have you reduced their hours as a way of “easing” them back into the workplace?
  • Have you terminated an employee following a period of workers compensation as a result of them not being able to fulfil the inherent requirements of their role?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you are at high risk of a general protections claim, and you are in the Fair Work Commission and Court’s sights.

Not only did the employer in the above mentioned case receive harsh penalties for their adverse action, they were also penalised $4000 for their breach of the Fair Work Act. The employer failed to issue regular pay slips as well as breaching provisions of the National Employment Standards.

  • Do you issue pay slips in accordance with the Fair Work Act?
  • Do you know what your obligations are in relation to record keeping provisions of the Act?
  • If not, you too could be liable for non-compliance.

These are easy things to get right, and non-compliance is easily identified with a compliance audit.

For more information on general protections or compliance audits, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.