Industrial Relations Update

Posted On: Thursday, August 21, 2014

National Wage Increase

Effective from the first full pay period commencing on or after 1 July 2014, the national minimum wage in Australia will increase by 3%.

The new national minimum wage will now be $640.90 per week or $16.87 per hour.

This increase only applies to employees that are covered by the terms and conditions of a modern award, the national minimum wage or an applicable workplace agreement

Workplace Bullying Decision

Since 1 January 2014 the Fair Work Commission is able to hear and determine claims made by applicants with allegations of workplace bullying one recent decision.

To date the FWC has dealt with in excess of 150 claims with 8 cases being determined through a decision of the tribunal with the remainder being either withdrawn or settled between the parties.

The Supreme Court of Queensland recently awarded and employee a total amount of $237,000 to be paid by her employer as a result of acceptance of her claim that she suffered psychiatric injuries as a result of a breach of duty and failure to comply with its own bullying and harassment policy.

In another recent case a manager had the damages awarded to her by the Federal Court increased from $18,000 to $130,000 based on “prevailing community standards”.

This case again demonstrates the risks faced by employers vicariously (actions of employees while at work) through their employees.

These decisions are not isolated cases and they reinforce the need to ensure that employers have adequate policies and procedures in place and appropriate training for all employees and supervisors is carried out and reviewed at least annually.

Contractors or Employees

A Victorian company has recently been found by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to have conducted sham contracting and other related breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 relating to the use of the engagement of a number of construction workers working on a site in Melbourne.

The Court found that there were 139 potential breaches of the Act and fined the company $313,500 a total of 50 percent of the possible penalty amount that could have been imposed.

These decisions reinforce the need for good policies, procedures and contracts in the workforce and the requirement to ensure that employees are correctly employed or engaged as employees or contractors.

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