Legal Updates

Performance Management in the Times of Coronavirus
September 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in the way we work. With many employees continuing to work from home for at least the short to medium term in light of the continuing risks of COVID-19 and government restrictions in various parts of Australia, employers need to remain vigilant in respect to their continuing obligations to workers notwithstanding that they are working from home, and must consider the new and unique workplace challenges that arise as a consequence of employees spending many months away from the physical office.
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Casual to Permanent Conversion: Important Upcoming Changes Relating to Casual Employment
August 2021
Earlier this year, the Federal Government passed the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Act 2021 (Cth), which introduced significant changes relating to casual employment that have implications for employers. In this legal update, we explain the enhanced casual conversion rights and the circumstances in which employers would be required to offer eligible casual employees an opportunity to convert to full-time or part-time employment.
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Additional Legislative Changes Introduced to Tackle Workplace Sexual Harassment
August 2021
On 24 June 2021, the Australian Federal Government introduced the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021. The purpose of the Bill is to improve and streamline the legislative frameworks that protect workers from sex discrimination and harassment. The Bill is currently before the Senate and is expected to pass later this year.
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Landmark Decision on Casual Employment
August 2021
In a recent decision that can be characterised as a win for businesses across Australia, the High Court has overturned a decision that could have set in motion the opportunity for long-term casuals to receive leave entitlements. In the much-anticipated case of WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato & Ors [2021] HCA 23, the High Court has clarified what it means to be a casual employee in Australia.
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Fair Work Commission Rules on Casual Terms in Modern Awards
July 2021
A Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission, Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal, has been tasked with conducting a review of casual terms in Modern Awards to ensure they are consistent with major industrial relations legislation introduced by the Australian Federal Government earlier this year. As part of its review, the Full Bench is to consider, amongst other things, whether existing “engaged as a casual” and “paid by the hour” type definitions in Modern Awards are consistent with the new statutory definition for casual employees.
Please click here to view the client alert.

New State Safety Laws Targeting Food Delivery Platforms
July 2021

Five food delivery riders died on Australian roads in three months during 2020, and there were more than 70 “serious notifiable injuries” to Uber Eats riders recorded during that year. A Joint Taskforce was established to explore the recent deaths and to identify safety improvements for the industry. On 5 June 2021, the Government announced that it had accepted all ten recommendations of the Joint Taskforce and would introduce new laws to improve safety outcomes in the food delivery industry, set to be the toughest safety laws in the country.
Please click here to read the client alert. 

Gig Economy Update
June 2021
Menulog, Australia’s second-largest food ordering and delivery platform, has recently issued a press release announcing that it will “make a shift toward an employment model for Menulog food couriers in Australia, in order to enhance the life standards of couriers”. Under the employment model, gig economy workers who are classified as employees will be entitled to a range of protections that are not available to independent contractors. This decision is likely to put pressure on Menulog’s gig economy rivals to move away from the controversial independent contractor model. This is likely to be contentious. As this article went to press, on 18 May 2021, the Fair Work Commission handed down a decision (Diego Franco v Deliveroo Australia Pty Ltd) that found a rider for Deliveroo (another food delivery provider) was an employee and not a contractor (Deliveroo has indicated it intends to appeal).
Please click here to read the client alert. 

Changes to Paid Parental Leave Mean Much More Flexibility for Parents
May 2021

The Federal Government has amended its Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme so as to provide wider and more flexible options to families seeking access to PPL. The changes aim to introduce key aspects of the Government’s Women’s Economic Security Package (as announced in the 2018-19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook), which includes measures to support women’s economic independence by allowing parents and carers to access PPL more flexibly.
Please click here to read the client alert.

Refusing a Flu Vaccination Found to be a Valid Reason for Dismissal
April 2021

With the cooler months approaching, employers are left to consider what are the best measures to adopt to prevent their workers from becoming sick. One such measure is for employees to receive a flu vaccination. Flu vaccinations in the workplace can result in increased productivity and reduced absenteeism among workers. However, vaccinations are a physically invasive procedure and some employees may refuse a vaccination for personal reasons.
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Form over Substance? Implications for Employers arising from the New Definition of Casual Employment in the Fair Work Act
April 2021
In the wake of the extensive WorkPac litigation* dealing with the meaning of casual employment, the Federal Government has recently passed legislation amending the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) and introduced a new definition of casual employment.
Please click here to read the client alert.

Employers Take Note – Sexual Harassment is Undeniably a Work Health and Safety Matter
April 2021
In the last few months, there have been a number of developments at the Commonwealth and State levels regarding sexual harassment and work health and safety. These developments make it clear that employers need to consider sexual harassment as a work health and safety issue, and ensure that steps are taken to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace.
Please click here to read the client alert.

Can Failure to Self-Report a High-Temperature Reading Amount to Serious Misconduct?
March 2021
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces have implemented new procedures and policies to prevent and minimise the spread of COVID-19. A recent Fair Work Commission (“FWC”) decision has found that an employer’s temperature check procedure formed part of its important safety requirements and was designed to ensure the safety of staff and customers through minimising and potentially containing the spread of COVID-19.
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Missing Employment Contract Cruels Realtor’s Restraint Case
March 2021
The New South Wales Court of Appeal has recently issued a forceful reminder that employers should take care in both drafting and maintaining copies of their employees’ contracts of employment, particularly when seeking to enforce restraints of trade and confidentiality obligations.
Please click here to read the client alert.

Can COVID-19 Vaccinations be Mandated in Australian Workplaces?
February 2021
Given the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, one question on the mind of many Australian employers is whether they can or should require their employees to receive the vaccine. At this stage, the federal government has not made it compulsory for Australians to receive the vaccine. Nor has the federal government passed any law allowing employers to require their employees to be vaccinated.
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Can you Dismiss an Employee for Refusing to Vaccinate?
February 2021
With the Australian government’s recent announcement regarding an anticipated COVID-19 vaccine roll-out by March 2021, urgent questions have arisen for employers regarding whether they can or should mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees once a vaccine is available to them.
Please click here to read the client alert.

Major WHS Reform in Western Australia
December 2020
After almost a decade of discussion, the Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 (“WHS Bill”) was recently passed by the Western Australian (“WA”) Parliament on 3 November 2020, and given royal assent. With the passing of the WHS Bill, this will leave Victoria as the only Australian state not to have adopted the national model harmonised Work Health and Safety (“WHS”) legislation.
Please click here to read the client alert.

Managing Exposures During the Festive Season
December 2020
Work Christmas functions are a great opportunity to celebrate and have fun with your colleagues, and to reconnect after a difficult year of isolation, but, as is still too often the case, work Christmas functions can become a source of considerable distress when inappropriate employee conduct at these functions puts employers at risk of claims of sexual harassment, bullying, adverse action and unfair dismissal.
Please click here to read the client alert.

 

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