There are three key areas you can address to help protect your business from liabilities, losses and penalties — contracts of employment, awards and enterprise agreements, and policies and training.

Contracts of Employment

Adopting a comprehensive contract ensures that the parties are aware, from the outset, what their rights and obligations are during the term of the employment relationship. While some rights and obligations are regulated by the Fair Work Act 2009, you should still address the duties and obligations of employees, their remuneration (including how any commission or bonuses accrue and are paid), how and when the contract can be terminated, and the employee’s post-employment obligations.
If these matters are not addressed in the contract of employment, or no contract exists, there is a risk that a dispute will arise between the parties about the terms of the employment. This can lead to claims for non-payment of remuneration, unfair and unlawful termination claims, claims for reasonable notice where no notice period is specified in the contract (which in some cases before the courts has been held to be as high as nine to 12 months), and the loss of trade secrets, valuable clients and valuable staff to a departing employee.

Awards and Enterprise Agreements (EA)

Where applicable, you should ensure that you comply with the correct award or EA provisions. While not every breach will result in a penalty being imposed on employers, those who knowingly or recklessly breach their obligations can be exposed to substantial penalties.
In a recent prosecution the owner of a number of hair salons was found liable for penalties in excess of $160,000 for failing to comply with award obligations. There is also an increasing number of cases where officers and senior managers are being implicated in such breaches and personally fined.

Policies and Training

Having clearly articulated policies will ensure that your employees are aware of their obligations to the employer, fellow employees and other workplace participants.
Training employees regularly can reduce liability to damages and penalties, including in relation to discrimination, harassment and bullying claims. One of the most important policies you should implement is a staff code of conduct and child protection policies (where staff are working with children or young persons).
Addressing just these few areas can help protect your business from loss, liabilities and penalties. A regular health check of your business’ employment law practices can have a profound benefit to your business’ bottom line.

Family Law

Separation and the breakdown of a relationship can be a very difficult time. When children are involved this can be amplified and therefore careful planning and cooperation need to be exhibited for the benefit of the children. Parents will be faced with many difficult decisions relating to the children during this time including who the children will live with and how often they will spend with the other parent.
When contemplating these decisions the best interests of the children should be the paramount consideration. This is met by ensuring that the children have the benefit of both parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives and that children are protected from physical and psychological harm.
Every family is different when it comes to the day to day workings of the household including caring for the children. Post-separation parenting plans need to be tailored to suit each family’s differing circumstances and the individual needs of the children and parents. There is no right or wrong way to implement a post-separation parenting regime so long as the best interests of the children are met.
Attempting to come to agreement over the issue of whom the children will live with after separation may seem like a daunting task; however, it is always better if parents can come to an agreement rather than going to court and having a decision imposed upon them that may not be suitable to either parent.
In the event resolution of the parenting issues cannot be informally achieved then mediation or family dispute resolution should be attempted with an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner. An agreement can be formalised by way of parenting plan or Court Order without the need for protracted litigation, which will of course save both parties time and money, and provide peace of mind going forward. ☐