Earlier this year, the ‘right to disconnect’ gained significant attention (a lot of it negative) after it was passed as part of the Closing Loopholes Act (No 2) 2024. 

The right to disconnect will become a reality for many Australian employers and employees when it’s incorporated into Modern Awards in August this year. However, it won’t apply to small businesses and their employees until August 2025.   

Some of the more sensationalist media outlets claimed that enshrining the right to disconnect into our laws was unfair to business and would reward employees who weren’t committed to their jobs. In fact, one outlet went so far as to say that the right to disconnect was a symbol of Australia’s national decline.

But is the right to disconnect really that bad for business? And how will it restrict what you can do as an employer or manager? 

We explore the realities of the right to disconnect.

What are the right-to-disconnect laws, and what do they really say?

The right to disconnect is a concept that says employees’ work shouldn’t unreasonably encroach on their leisure time through unnecessary out-of-hours employer communications and requests. 

The idea has gained traction throughout Europe and other parts of the world, with jurisdictions including France, Italy, Ontario, and Argentina already having passed laws upholding the right to disconnect.

In Australia’s case, the government has enshrined the right to disconnect into law by introducing two separate employee rights in the Fair Work Act 2009. These are:

‘Reasonableness’ the key factor 

As the wording of these provisions makes clear, an employee can only refuse to interact with their employer or customers/clients outside of work hours when it’s reasonable to do so. 

Fortunately, the new laws then go on to mention what needs to be taken into account when determining whether contact is reasonable or unreasonable. In particular, they say that the following needs to be considered:

The new laws say that disputes over the right to disconnect should first be resolved at the workplace.

If that fails, either party can apply to the FWC for the matter to be resolved. The FWC has the authority to make orders it considers appropriate, including stopping an employer from making contact or compelling an employee to respond. It can also make orders for mediation or conciliation.

What the right to disconnect means in practice

The right to disconnect doesn’t prevent all employers from contacting all employees outside of working hours. Employees can only refuse to monitor communications—such as their phone or email—when it’s reasonable to do so.

More importantly, whether or not an employee can refuse depends on what they and their employer do. For instance, it’s probably not unreasonable for an employer to contact an executive or professional with considerable responsibility or technical knowledge outside of working hours when they’re genuinely needed. It may be more unreasonable to contact someone low-level or generalist whose skills aren’t quite as necessary.

It’s also likely that it more be more reasonable to contact someone outside of working hours where their role requires a high level of customer service and interaction. 

Want more?

The right to disconnect laws won’t mean all employees can refuse to answer email and phone when it’s time-sensitive and critical to business operations. However, they are likely to prevent employers from continually contacting staff for trivial or non-urgent work outside of work hours. 

At the very least, employers should consider how these new laws might apply and, where doubt exists, seek advice. 

If you’d like to learn more about how the laws specifically apply to your workforce, get in touch

Gen Z employees now make up a significant part of most workplaces. In fact, in some sectors and businesses, they’re now the dominant workforce.

But, as many employers and managers from different generations will tell you, Gen Z isn’t always like the generations that have gone before them.  Gen Z’ers often have different values, bring different perspectives and want very different things from their careers.

So, if you’re struggling to understand or get the most out of your Gen Z employees, here’s our advice for helping motivate them.

The factors affecting Gen Z and their careers

Born in the period between 1995 and 2010, Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse, more tolerant and more educated than any generation that has gone before it.

They’re also the first generation to be true ‘digital natives’. Many weren’t born into – and most wouldn’t remember – a world without social media and smartphones. 

The backdrop to their lives has been different from previous generations too. Issues like climate change, growing income disparities and the ‘Me Too’ movement have defined the political and practical landscape. Economically, they’ve grown up in an environment where even their parents no longer have jobs for life.

Many would have also entered the workforce during COVID – a time of uncertainty, but also a time when new trends such as remote working and flexibility, digitisation and autonomation became ubiquitous. 

In short, Gen Z has experienced a journey into their working lives that has looked very different from those who have gone before them.

What Gen Z workers want from their careers

The factors we’ve mentioned have often shaped Gen Z’s relationship with employment. 

Studies have found that, unlike older people, many don’t see their work as a central part of their identities. They tend to work to live and don’t live to work.

As a result, work/life balance is a serious priority for many Gen Zers. Yet, the potential to take time away from the office is hampered by the fact that salaries for entry-level jobs have not been going up at the same rate as they have for those at the top.

Gen Zers also often value autonomy and flexibility and want to know they’re making a difference. They’re also much more inclined to take a role that’s in line with their values rather than being motivated purely by financial considerations. 

Employers should keep these factors in mind when managing Gen Z employees. 

And here’s how we believe your workplace should be doing just that

1. Give them purpose

Gen Zers need to know that their work matters, so you should always explain how their role fits into the organisation and what value they’re bringing. Let them into the bigger picture and show them how their contribution helps the business achieve its goals.

HBR suggests you could even really make Gen Zers feel their work matters by asking them to share their “unique skills, capabilities and growth areas” with the team. Then, get each employee for their view on how they could best contribute and develop.

HBR also recommends “creating a dialogue about how each person contributes to the team and its overall impact”. That way, they’ll get a clearer picture of how and why they matter.

2. Give them clarity

HBR reported that Gen Zers like to know what ‘good’ looks like in a role and what they can do to overdeliver. 

“If your company has a matrixed organization, for example, explain how relationship-building, influencing, and team collaboration impact overall performance, as success is not just results but also how the work is done and the impact on others,” it noted.

HBR also observed that transparency around pay is more important to Gen Zers than to previous generations, and they’re likely to share information about pay with each other. 

So control the narrative. Get in before them, and do this yourself where you can by being open about pay and rewards.

3. Give them space

Autonomy, flexibility, the chance to experiment and the opportunity to be creative matter more to Gen Zers than to previous generations. Micromanaging and strict oversight can be counterproductive. 

Instead, provide clear guidelines and expectations but allow Gen Zers the freedom to achieve these in their own way. This approach not only boosts their engagement but also taps into their propensity for innovation. 

The pandemic was the defining feature of the start of many Gen Zer’s careers. While this obviously brought stress, it also meant many Gen Zers experienced remote working right from the get-go. 

As a result, many are accustomed to being able to work when they feel most productive, whether that’s early in the morning or late at night. Offering flexible schedules or work options can go a long way in keeping them motivated.

You could also consider providing opportunities for them to lead projects or initiatives. This not only gives Gen Zer workers a sense of empowerment but demonstrates trust in their capabilities – something that’s crucial for job satisfaction and retention.

4. Give them feedback

Finally, you need to give Gen Z constructive feedback. But, for this generation more than any other, there’s a right and wrong way of doing it. 

As The Washington Post recently noted, Gen Z can take criticism so long as it’s “timely, collaborative, empathetic and balanced”.

More than, anything, though, feedback for Gen Z has to be given in real time. You shouldn’t wait until a performance appraisal. Instead, give feedback as it arises. 

“[I]f f you wait weeks or months to address an issue, fix their mistakes without a conversation or focus only on what went wrong, they just might leave to find a workplace that connects with them better,” it noted.

The Washington Post argues that this is because, as the generation that grew up with the Internet, Google, YouTube and social media, Gen Zers are used to instant answers. 

Just be sure to provide context and explain things in a compassionate and non-patronising way. Few things are likely to turn off Gen Z more than being unfairly (or what they perceive as unfairly) admonished in the workplace. 

In short…

Getting the most out of Gen Z employees may mean adjusting the way you manage, but, get it right, and you’ll be in a good position to capitalise on the skills, ingenuity and creativity of this unique generation.

Want more?

If you’d like to learn more about how to get the most out of your Gen Z employees, get in touch

When it comes to hiring new staff, today’s employers want more than the transactional. They want to partner with someone who understands their business and actively finds talent with the right cultural fit, not just the best skills. These were the key findings of the Catalina Consultants Talent & Recruitment Survey 2024. 

We asked clients to complete this survey as part of the launch of our new offering, Catalina Talent Advisory. And, the good news for recruiters is that almost all employers reported positive experiences with recruiters, especially when it came to saving time. 

Many, however, also believed there was a compelling role for a Talent Advisory that went beyond simply filling roles. They are looking for an offering that provided an ongoing, holistic partnership, that provocatively searched for talent and kept a pipeline of candidates ready even before a vacancy arose.

With that in mind, here are some of the survey’s key findings.


Attracting quality candidates remains an issue

Our survey found that one of employers’ main concerns was attracting talent when the economy was generally strong and unemployment was low. Many felt that, while not quite as bad as a year or two ago, current labour market conditions remained strongly in favour of employees. As a result, it was difficult to compete for quality candidates.

One employer noted that the “time taken for posting job ads and scrolling through resumes for appropriate talent,” was onerous, and that the “[local] talent pool… was limited for quality candidates.” 

“It is rare we locate staff with prior [industry] experience,” they observed.

Because of this imbalance between employers and candidates, many of the respondents were actively relying on recruiters to attract candidates rather than running recruitment from inhouse.  


There are both advantages and disadvantages of the traditional recruiter model

Most of those using recruiters were able to highlight benefits they brought to their organisation. . 

Some wrote that the recruiters they worked with understood their business and were therefore in a position to send quality candidates. 

“We have a good working relationship with three recruiters who have a good understanding of our business and the type of candidate we seek,” one employer said.

Many also argued that using a recruiter saved time, especially when in-house resources were limited. This was especially true when it came to the initial stages of recruiting.

“It just saves us significant time in the recruitment process,” one employer noted.

Most employers, however, did not view everything about their relationship with recruiters favourably. Many argued that the cost of engaging a recruiter could outweigh any perceived benefit. Several also took the view that recruiters were not delivering better candidates than they could find themselves. 

“Sometimes they throw us a curve ball and provide over-qualified, very expensive candidates,” one respondent observed. 

Another complained that: “The process [was] expensive and the candidates in some instances [were] not true to their label.”

Some employers also argued that, even when recruiters presented quality candidates, signing them on could prove a challenge.

“Good candidates coming through a recruiter generally have more than one job offer and a lot of the time it becomes a bidding war,” said one employer.


Culture the real key

Several employers argued that the real key to using an external recruiter was engaging one that not only understood the requirements of the role, but also the culture of their organisation. 

It really is understanding the team that the individuals would be joining, it’s all about culture and the right team fit for us,” one employer submitted. [It’s] that old saying, ‘technical can be taught – fit and personality cannot’.”

Another employer argued that the business’s “core values and culture” should be embedded in the recruitment process. 


There is a strong case for a talent advisory

When employers were asked what they would like to see as part of a talent advisory, several commented that they wanted a genuine partnership that transcended the traditional employer/recruiter partnership. 

This would be ‘less transactional’ and more holistic, according to some, with an emphasis on proactively scouting and cultivating talent they knew would be a great fit for their organisation.

“A search for talent, rather than just filling a hole,” is how one respondent put it. Another said they would prefer someone who was: “[b]eing proactive, [working to] understand what we need and continually looking for it.”

“When a great candidate comes up we would like to interview them because you can always find openings,” they said.

Others liked the idea of having someone who looked beyond simply candidates, to identify strategic partnerships more generally. “It would be good to know potential businesses that are looking to sell, or partner with [us],” one explained.

More than one employer hoped that a talent advisory could provide overarching rigour to their recruitment processes, hoping they would offer: “[p]rofile testing, salary benchmarking and candidate suitability on a more technical and scientific basis”. 

Others thought it would be useful to have another set of eyes to review and vet candidates before the interview stage, even if recruiters were still involved in the recruitment process.

“Once we have [quality candidates] in the door, we can often get them across the line,” one noted.


In short…

Most employers agreed that recruiters could bring many benefits to the business, especially when it came to saving time. However, they also considered that there were several shortcomings, especially when it came to providing candidates who were a good cultural fit.

By launching our Talent Advisory, Catalina Consultants aims to bridge this gap, bringing a holistic and forward-looking approach to attracting staff that aims to give effect to an organisation’s business goals.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how our Talent Advisory can help your business, get in touch.

Savvy organisations are increasingly using talent advisory as a complement to traditional recruitment. We look at what it involves, how businesses benefit, and why Catalina Consultants recently launched its own talent advisory service. 

What is talent advisory?

Talent advisory is a service that goes beyond traditional recruitment, offering a more comprehensive and integrated approach to identifying, hiring and training staff. 

It focuses on aligning an organisation’s talent strategies with its business objectives. In doing so, talent advisory takes into account market trends, competitor analysis and workforce planning to build out human resource capabilities in a holistic and focused way.  

Talent advisory services can include such things as leadership development, succession planning, employee engagement strategies and more. In this sense, they move beyond transactional hirings to offer a more strategic and long-term approach to acquiring and developing talent.

Why talent advisory is needed now

Talent advisory services can help organisations achieve their business objectives regardless of the market cycle. However, we’ve noticed an increased need for them over the past few years. 

As most employers will tell you, since the COVID pandemic, the dynamics in Australia’s labour market has been tilted in favour of employees. For many businesses, finding new employees has become a real issue. Trying to attract them for a realistic salary has become more difficult still. 

A talent advisory service can help employers proactively identify and target potential talent that will propel their business forward.

In fact, some organisations take the view that, if the employee is right for their organisation, they’re willing to find a role for them to fulfil, just to make sure they can attract them. One employer put it to us that: “When a great candidate comes up we would like to interview them because you can always find openings.”

Filling a gap between recruitment and business goals

A talent advisory service also constantly scans the environment, looking for intelligence on what’s happening in the marketplace and keeping the business across the employment trends that are happening. It also should know which employees are where, what work they perform and how they’re regarded by their clients or customers and peers.

This is important by the time employers need to fill a role, it usually needs to be done quickly and cost-effectively so that the business doesn’t skip a beat. Often that means having a seamless handover period with a departing employee, or at least making sure that any hole in capacity doesn’t last too long.

Employers often complain that a lot of time can be wasted on interviewing and vetting incompatible candidates, or candidates who are being put forward to multiple employers, including direct competitors. 

One of the major differences between talent advisory and recruitment, is that a pipeline of talent is constantly being built and replenished. Candidates are sourced and cultivated on an ongoing basis, so they’re often ready to come onboard – without being ‘shopped’ to several businesses. 

Why Catalina Consultants established a talent advisory

For more than a decade, we’ve been helping some of Australia’s best businesses deliver more when it comes to human resources. We listen intently to what our clients want, and always look for ways to refine and improve our services to help their businesses.

Increasingly, many are finding it difficult to fill roles. Many are worried about the cost and inefficiencies associated with traditional recruitment. Some also feel they can do much better when it comes to getting the right people.

We wanted to be able to offer a service that offered talent advice in much the same way that we offer human resources advice already. We certainly don’t see ourselves as directly replacing an existing recruitment relationship, but we did want to make the recruitment process more cost-effective and strategic. The idea is that, where recruiters are needed, they will come in at a stage where they can use their skills to really add value.

In short…

The talent advisory service offering is an exciting new chapter for our business, and one that we know will generate great results for our clients.

If you’d like to know more about how it can help your organisation, get in touch. 

Employees have gained the ‘right to disconnect’ and casual and gig workers look to have won new protections, under changes that will be introduced by the Closing Loopholes Bill (No 2).

The Bill, which passed through the Senate on 8 February, also provides a new legislative definition for ‘employee’, and gives unions the right to enter a workplace within 24 hours where they reasonably believe a worker is being underpaid.

While the Bill will return to the House of Representatives for approval, it seems likely to become law given Labor’s majority.

With that in mind, we look at some of the key changes Closing Loopholes 2 will bring to your workplace.

1. The right to disconnect

Perhaps the most headline-worthy reform the Bill will introduce is the ‘right to disconnect’, which will be enshrined in the Fair Work Act’s General Protections provisions. This new rule allows employees to refuse to respond to – or even monitor their email and phone calls – outside of working hours, unless it’s unreasonable to do so. They can also ignore attempts from a client or customer to get in touch.

Whether or not an employer’s attempts to contact an employee outside of hours is reasonable or unreasonable will depend on several factors, including:

While the Bill says that any breach should first be dealt with at the workplace level, the right to disconnect’s status as a General Protection means that an employee could potentially bring an adverse action claim in the Fair Work Commission. They can also bring a claim asking for a ‘stop’ order against an employer contravening this right.

2. New definition of ‘employee’

One of the biggest issues in employment law over the past decade has been determining a worker’s true status – including whether someone is truly an employee or contractor. The Closing Loopholes Bill No 2 looks to overcome this by introducing new definitions of employee and employer into the Fair Work Act.

The definitions say that the “real substance, practical reality and true nature of the relationship” must now be considered – putting to rest recent High Court decisions that gave primacy to the employment contract.

That said, contractors who earn over a ‘high income’ threshold ($167,500) can opt out of the test. Conversely, contractors who earn under the same threshold will be able to bring an unfair contracts claim in the FWC, something that currently must be done formally in court.

3. Casual workers

A new definition of ‘casual worker’ will also be included, under which an employee will only be deemed casual if they’re entitled to a casual loading and the employer makes no ‘firm advance commitment’ to continuing, indefinite work.

Again, the Bill says that whether or not an employer makes a ‘firm advance commitment’ can only be answered by examining the practical reality, real substance and true nature of the relationship.

The Bill also introduces new ‘casual conversion’ provisions, which will place the onus on employees to request becoming a permanent member of staff. Once the employee has hit certain milestones, including working for six (or sometimes 12) months, an employer can refuse only in particular circumstances, including on ‘fair and reasonable operational grounds’.

4. Intractable bargaining

In 2022, the government introduced changes that gave the FWC the authority to make an ‘intractable bargaining declaration’. This effectively gave unions a mechanism for winning pay rises without having to reach an agreement with an employer.

The Bill effectively changes these provisions so that any arbitrated outcome can’t be less favourable to an employee or union covered by an existing workplace agreement.

5. Underpaying workers

Another area the Bill covers is worker underpayment – something that was already centre stage in the original Closing Loopholes Bill, which introduced a new crime for wage theft.

Under Closing Loopholes 2, the penalties for wage theft will be increased to a maximum of 10 years prison and a $7.825 million fine.

The Bill will also allow unions to apply to the FWC for exemption from the usual 24 hours’ notice to enter a workplace, if they reasonably suspect a member of their organisation is being underpaid.

6. Gig workers

Finally, the Bill introduces new minimum entitlements around pay and conditions for workers in Australia’s expanding gig economy. Perhaps the most interesting of these is the right for workers on a digital platform to apply to the FWC where they have been ‘deactivated’ or removed from an app.

These changes are being introduced to protect what the government believes are some of the most vulnerable workers in today’s economy.


In short…

While the Closing Loopholes Bill No 1 introduced sweeping new protections for Australia’s employees, Bill No 2 goes further still. Employers should make sure they’re across any changes and they don’t inadvertently fall foul of them.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how the changing trends in HR impact your business, get in touch.

Unconscious bias is a genuine and pervasive issue throughout our workplaces and one that can impact anyone, regardless of their age or gender or the type of work they do. But how much of an issue is it in your workplace? And what can you do about it?

What is unconscious bias?

Before we get too far into discussing how to eliminate unconscious bias, it’s worth exploring what it actually is. 

Unconscious bias refers to the stereotypes or attitudes that impact our decision-making without us even knowing it. 

That said, not all unconscious bias is the same. Generally speaking, it falls into three categories.

 1. Affinity Bias: The comfort of familiar faces

In life, we tend to gravitate towards people who share our interests, background, or even sense of humour. This is affinity bias. 

When it comes to workplaces, affinity bias takes the form of rewarding those who are just like us – whether that’s by promoting them above others or giving them the job in the first place. 

2. Confirmation Bias: The ‘cherry-picking’ trap

Many of us tend to like taking in information that aligns with our worldviews. For instance, we tend to read and watch news that’s consistent with our beliefs rather than that which challenges them. That’s confirmation bias. 

In a business setting, confirmation bias can mean overlooking critical feedback or data simply because it doesn’t fit our narrative because we want to believe something is true.

3. The halo and horn effects: Seeing the world in good and evil

Say someone aces their first project and makes us look good. Suddenly, they can do no wrong in our eyes. Their halo shines brightly, often blinding us to their potential flaws. Conversely, the ‘horn effect’ happens when someone makes one mistake, and suddenly, they’re forever marked. 

These biases are like lenses that distort our view, and in the workplace, they can lead to unfair appraisals or decisions. 

How much of a problem is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is a massive issue in many workplaces. If you need convincing, consider this – a striking 89% of recruiters and hiring managers admit to making judgments about applicants within the first 15 minutes of an interview, often influenced by their unconscious biases.

In fact, one US study found that unconscious bias takes effect even before the recruitment process. It revealed that CVs with ‘white-sounding’ names had a higher callback rate of 9.65%, compared to 6.45% for those with ‘black-sounding’ names, indicating some level of unconscious bias towards race.

Another study found that women, particularly in STEM fields, were 45% more likely to be excluded due to bias during the hiring process.

But unconscious bias doesn’t just impact recruitment. It also impacts the likelihood of promotion and bonuses, with research showing that those who share similar backgrounds or characteristics with their supervisors are often more likely to receive promotions and higher bonuses. 

Another study also found there was a ‘motherhood bias’ whereby women with responsibility for children were seen as less competent than their male counterparts who were otherwise undifferentiated. 

Why is unconscious bias an issue?

Unconscious bias can impact everything within an organisation, from talent acquisition to workplace culture. 

Research and expert insights reveal that these biases can lead to overlooking a wide range of talents and perspectives, as decisions are often influenced more by personal comfort and familiarity than by objective assessment of skills and capabilities.

For instance, a Deloitte survey discovered that 39% of employees experience unconscious bias at least once a month in their workplace and that 68% of these biases were reported to have a negative impact on productivity. This shows how deeply ingrained biases can hinder effective decision-making and collaboration, ultimately affecting the company’s bottom line.

The correlation between diversity and financial performance is also well-established. The most gender-diverse companies were found to be 20% more likely than the least diverse to have above-average financial performance. 

So, when biases in hiring, assessing, or promoting employees are left unchecked, they can significantly limit an organisation’s potential 

In addition to these practical impacts, employees who feel subject to bias may experience feelings of exclusion or undervaluation. This can lead to decreased employee satisfaction and engagement, creating a ‘revolving door’ of talent and a stifling of new voices and ideas.

How to avoid unconscious bias in your workplace

Overall, unconscious bias is not just a moral issue but a business necessity that requires active engagement and strategies for mitigation. Here are our six tips for achieving just that. 

1. Awareness and education

Start with training. Educate your team about what unconscious looks like and how it manifests in the workplace. Explain the impact it can have on team and business performance, as well as how to overcome it. 

2. Implement fairer processes

Use structured interviews and standardised performance evaluations to minimise subjective judgments. You could even consider implementing ‘blind’ recruitment processes to focus on candidates’ skills and qualifications without being influenced by their names or backgrounds.

Increasingly, we’re seeing AI being used to attempt to eliminate unconscious bias. For instance, a lot of larger corporations are using apps such as Sapia to take bias out of the hiring process. 

3. Promote diversity and inclusion

By adding diversity to your hiring panels, you can bring different perspectives to recruitment decisions. You could also encourage mentoring programs that focus on pairing employees from different backgrounds and levels rather than on putting together like-minded people. 

4. Encouraging open dialogue

Create channels for regular feedback where employees can discuss their experiences openly. Also, try to make sure all voices are heard in meetings and discussions, not just the loudest voice in the room. 

5. Monitoring and accountability

Conduct regular audits of your HR processes to identify and address any biases in hiring, promotions, or evaluations, and act on what you find. This could include setting up accountability measures where decision-makers are required to justify their choices based on objective criteria.

6. Get leadership buy-in

Make sure the commitment to addressing unconscious bias comes from the top by having leaders actively participate in training and discussions. Also, review your company policies to ensure they support diversity and inclusion and implement changes where necessary.

Want more?

Unconscious bias doesn’t just hold back people; it also holds back organisations. 

If you’d like to know more about identifying and eliminating unconscious biases in your workplace, get in touch.

Deakin University recently worked with other universities and the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) to survey the State of the Human Resources Profession. It found the HR sector has changed in many ways. We explore seven of the most interesting ones.

1. From a male- to female-dominated industry

The survey noted that over the past five decades, the gender composition of the HR sector has changed out of sight. In 1976, less than 10% of HR practitioners were women. By 1997,  the number of women in the profession had grown to 50%. By 2022, when the survey was taken, the original figure had almost entirely reversed. Today, an incredible 84% of people working in HR roles are women. 

2. High turnover in HR positions

The survey found that, recently, there’s been a significant turnover in HR positions, with almost half of people surveyed saying they had been in their current role for less than two years. 

The survey found this trend may have been influenced by the pressures experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, HR professionals’ roles expanded significantly to include understanding and communicating government regulations and restrictions, managing transitions to remote work, and assuming roles as wellbeing and risk managers.

3. Transition to an advisory role

The survey noted that the HR profession is increasingly moving towards an advisory or consulting role, with line managers now responsible for many traditional HR responsibilities. In other words, HR professionals are carrying out fewer administrative and operational functions and are becoming strategic partners and advisors.

Today, only a small percentage of HR teams assume full responsibility for HR management, with the majority reporting a devolution of these responsibilities to line managers. 

The survey found this shift indicates a broader trend in HR functionality, and has increased the need for HR professionals to develop and refine skills in areas like consultancy, strategic thinking, and influence. 

As HR takes on an advisory role, it could lead to a stronger influence on shaping organisational culture and development initiatives. However, it also posed challenges, especially when it comes to ensuring line managers are equipped with the necessary HR skills and knowledge. 

4. Growth in HR teams

Over half of the survey respondents reported growth in their HR teams over the past five years. The complexity and breadth of what HR does have expanded, particularly due to the pandemic. And this has necessitated a larger and more skilled workforce. 

For instance, HR departments were at the forefront of navigating the challenges brought by the pandemic, including remote work transitions, health and safety protocols, and employee wellbeing.

As this happens, more HR practitioners require specialised skills in areas such as digital transformation, data analytics, employee experience design, and mental health expertise.

5. Shift to ‘people’ based team names

A significant trend observed in the survey was the renaming of HR teams with a focus on ‘people’, such as ‘People and Culture’. This was more than just a change in semantics; it reflected a shift in the HR focus to people-related supports such as employee wellbeing.

The new nomenclature also suggests that HR is increasingly seen as a key player in driving business strategy, particularly through talent management, organisational development, and fostering a positive work environment.

6. New priorities in recruitment, retention, and turnover

The survey noted that, since COVID, a top priority within HR has become addressing the skills crisis and also the challenge in attracting and retaining workers. The lack of available workers, particularly due to reduced overseas workforce entry during the pandemic, has been a significant concern for sectors including hospitality, retail and tourism.

With remote work becoming more normalised, the survey noted that companies are now competing in a global talent market. This opened up opportunities but also challenges in attracting and retaining top talent. 

There was also a new focus on retention, with many employers focusing on improving their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) by offering competitive salaries, flexible working conditions, career development opportunities, and a positive workplace culture.

7. A focus on mental health and employee wellbeing 

Finally, the survey found that, in recent years, the importance of mental health and employee wellbeing has been amplified. Organisations are now looking to attract and retain employees by actively prioritising their health and wellbeing. 

As this happens, HR has been at the forefront of implementing wellbeing programs, while also advising companies on how to facilitate open conversations. HR has also taken the lead on flexible working arrangements – a serious priority for many workers in the post-pandemic world.

In short…

The survey found that Australia’s HR profession has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with the pandemic particularly shaping both organisational and HR priorities. 

Recruitment, retention, and turnover have become more challenging and the growing focus on mental health and employee wellbeing reflects a broader societal recognition of the importance of these factors in the workplace.

These changes point to a future where HR is not just about managing personnel but about shaping organisational culture and strategy, underlining the critical role of HR in both business success and employee satisfaction.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how the changing trends in HR impact your business, get in touch

As 2023 draws to a close, we look at the six trends that have defined the year from an HR perspective.

1. The Big Return

If the period between 2020 and 2022 was all about remote working, 2023 was all about the return to the office. As lockdowns and restrictions became a thing of the past, more organisations decided that it was time for their employees to come back to the workplace. 

But, with most employees now favouring remote work – at least some of the time – many, if not most, organisations favoured moving to a hybrid model whereby employees worked from home some of the time and were in the workplace for some of the time, too.

As we wrote earlier this year, generally speaking, there were three approaches businesses took: the fixed model involved employees working from home only on set days; the flexible model allowed them to work from home when it suited; and the ‘office first’ model required employees to be in the office most of the time.

Which model your business takes should depend on the type of work you do, the employees you have, and the kind of workplace culture you want to build.

2. The rise and rise of AI

With ChatGPT launching late last year, perhaps nothing has commanded more headlines in the media throughout 2023 than artificial intelligence (AI). AI is beginning to make a big mark on HR, with applications such as Jemini taking care of payroll processing and even long-term staples such as Xero incorporating AI.

We expect that the rise of AI will be a trend that continues through 2024 and beyond, with AI becoming more accessible and rolling into more core HR practices, potentially including recruitment, performance management and more. 

How this shapes the role of HR practitioners will be one of the big issues in our sector over the next few years.

3. Reining in costs

With interest rates rising and cost of living pressures beginning to bite, 2023 was a year where many businesses also decided it was time to rein in their spending around HR. We noticed this tended to take two main forms.

First, a lot of employers who faced labour shortages in 2021 found that they had to pay unprecedented salaries to attract new staff. This year, with clients and customers spending less, some were left wondering how to reduce their wages bill. Some put a freeze on new hires; others were left wondering whether they could even cut pay.

Second, more businesses chose to streamline their HR processes, often looking to adopt new software (including HR applications) or outsource some of their HR functions. Over the next year, we believe more businesses will be analysing their HR operations, working out what they do best, and outsourcing the remaining tasks.

4. Closing the Loophole

One of the most significant and most talked about reforms of 2023 was the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023. Introduced by the Albanese government in September, the Closing Loopholes legislation aims to change any technicalities in the federal law that currently could allow employees to undermine pay and working conditions. 

While the Bill hasn’t yet passed through the Senate (it will debated in the Upper House in February), it’s likely to make some genuine changes to Australia’s employment laws. These include defining the contractor/principal vs employee/employer relationship, as well as changing the law around casual employees.

5. Fair Work Act Changes

The Closing Loopholes legislation wasn’t the only legislative talking point over 2023. At the end of last year, parliament passed the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs Better Pay) Act 2022, which also introduced some important changes to our employment laws.

These included provisions prohibiting pay secrecy (these are contract terms that prohibit employees from discussing their remuneration), enshrining domestic violence leave, preventing sexual harassment and strengthening discrimination provisions. 

Coming into effect in four stages between December 2022 and December 2023, they generally introduced new employee protections into the law.

6.The Four-Day Work Week

During Covid, a lot of employers and employees agreed to reduce working hours. A lot of workers found this gave them a new balance between work and life outside work. And so, the four-day work week began to take off.

Over 2023, a global campaign to institute a four-day work week really began to gather momentum, with several major companies announcing they were trialling it  – and for good reason. Studies show that a four-day work week could make employees more productive. And, in an age of reining in expenses, it could also be a more cost-effective way to attract and retain great staff. 

With that in mind, this is yet another trend we see that is not going away any time soon. We expect many more organisations will move to a day work week over 2024.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about the HR trends impacting Australian workplaces right now, get in touch.


Over the past few years, the rights of casual employees have been hotly contested in our courts, tribunals and parliaments. 

A recent Fair Work Commission decision has added to the debate after ruling that a long-term regular casual was not unfairly dismissed when he was taken off the roster. However, it also suggested that the employer should, in fairness, pay him anyway.

The circumstances behind the case

Laurent Friederich v LCDF Trading Pty Ltd t/as La Casa del Formaggio [2023] FWC 2963 involved an unfair dismissal claim that was brought by a machine operator against a South Australian cheese manufacturer.

The worker had been a casual employee since 2009 (although he had a stint away from the employer between 2012 and 2015). From then on, he worked a regular 37.5-hour week that involved five overnight shifts starting on Sunday evening and finishing on Friday morning.

When the worker began, almost all employees were casuals. However, in 2020, the employer set about converting most staff to permanents. The worker was offered the opportunity to become permanent, but turned it down because he would lose his 25% casual loading, as well any flexibility about taking leave.  

In 2022, the employer decided to relocate from Glynde in inner Adelaide to Edinburgh in Adelaide’s far north – a journey of over half an hour. The new factory didn’t require as many staff to work shifts, and the employer made around 10 workers redundant. The employer did not roster the worker at the new plant. When work at the Glynde factory dried up, they told him there was no longer any steady work available and took him off the roster, which wouldn’t be updated for six weeks.

Believing he was entitled to long service leave, the worker resigned. However, because he was a casual, he was not offered any form of compensation in the form of redundancy or termination pay. 

Was the worker unfairly dismissed?

The worker brought an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission. He argued that he had a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment on the same basis he always had. He also submitted that he was forced to resign because he would otherwise face at least six weeks without work.   

The worker submitted that he had effectively been made redundant, but the employer had failed to consult him or apply the provisions of his Award. 

Meanwhile, the employer argued that it had still not determined the extent of shifts required at the new site and that, as a casual, the worker had no entitlement to ongoing work. Nor was he entitled to redundancy or termination pay.

What the Commission found 

The Commission noted that the inherent nature of casual employment was that working hours could not be guaranteed. It also observed that, while the worker had been given long-term hours that mimicked full-time employment, he was still casual. In fact, he had made a rational decision to forego the security of full-time employment to access the higher income available from casual loading.

This meant the employer had no legal obligation to guarantee his hours, so it had not repudiated the employment contract by leaving him off the roster. 

The Commission said that, while this action may have had a profound effect on the worker’s earnings, it was not illegal.

That said, the Commission noted that the employer’s treatment of the worker was ‘opportunistic’, ‘thoughtless’ and ‘disrespectful’, especially given his length of service. While it concluded that it had no jurisdiction to hear the claim, it encouraged the employer to make an ex-gratia payment to the worker and to make it the equivalent of what he would have received if he were permanently employed and made redundant.

“This, I consider, would conclude this litigation and what had been a mutually beneficial relationship for eight years on a respectful and respectable basis,” the Commission said.  

What the case means for employers

The case is relevant for so many employers working in sectors that rely on casual staff, from hospitality to manufacturing and from mining to retail. 

It highlights that the Commission is prepared to take the stated relationship into account rather than weighing up factors such as length of service and working hours. In doing so, it will rule in favour of a casual rather than permanent employment relationship, even where an employee has prolonged and regular work patterns.

But it also shows that there can be a juxtaposition between the law and what’s considered ‘reasonable’ or ‘right’. On this occasion, it essentially found that, even though the employer was technically correct, it hadn’t really “done the right thing”.

Want more?

If you need clarity around your obligations when it comes to casual employees, get in touch.

Many businesses are allowing employees to work remotely, at least sometimes. But how often should you be making your employees come into the office – if at all? 

The reality is that the perfect answer will vary sector by sector and business-by-business. With that in mind, this guide looks at how to work out how often you should let employees work remotely and how often you should make sure they come into the workplace.


Be guided by your own needs

The starting point for working out how often people should come into the office should always be why you need them in the office in the first place. 

Sometimes, that will be dictated by the nature of the work itself. Obviously, frontline retail or hospitality workers need to be physically present. But for other sectors, it can be a bit more nuanced. 

That said, there will often be collaborative tasks that are best performed in person. Being together can also be great, even necessary, for team bonding. Then, of course, there are client meetings or inter-company meetings, where face-to-face contact gives people a better feel for reading the room through body language and other nuances.

In fact, MIT’s Human Dynamic Labs invested heavily in exploring this very topic. It found that the most valuable communication was unequivocally done in-person. It also found that up to 35% of variation in team performance came down to how often team members spoke face to face. 

That’s something you should keep in mind when working out how often to bring employees into the workplace.


Employee satisfaction is important too

On the other hand, all of the research shows that happy employees are also productive employees. So, weighing against MIT’s findings is the fact that most employees enjoy working at least some of the time from home. 

McKinsey research showed 65% of employees would choose to always work from home if it were possible. It also found that employees offered the opportunity to work flexibly almost always took up the opportunity. Those who didn’t tended to be older or on lower incomes. 

But even many of those who wanted to work from home full-time often reported there were obstacles in the way of becoming fully productive. 


Choose the model that suits you 

With that in mind, hybrid work – where an employee is at home sometimes and in the office others – seems to be the logical solution for many workplaces. And last month, we wrote about the three types of hybrid working: the fixed model, flexible model and the office-first model. These differ in the following ways:

To some extent, the model you choose will also dictate how many days a week you insist your employees come into the office.


How your business can answer the question 

As this shows, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how often employees should be in the office. The ideal balance varies based on the type of work you do and the type of office you run. 

A good starting point is always to spend some time working out which critical tasks require in-person collaboration and which can be carried out just as effectively from outside the workplace. Then, factor in the creativity and value that come from face-to-face interactions.

For instance, if you find that 40% of your workplace tasks are best performed face to face, you may find that three days a week lets you get these done but also allows for some informal interaction. Alternatively, if you want a less rigid structure, you could decide to ask employees to be in the office for two set days and then decide whether they want to come in at other times. 

Given how rapidly workplaces are transforming, more than anything, it’s adaptability that’s key. So, embrace change, listen to your employees, and stay open to finding the balance that fosters both productivity and job satisfaction. 

After all, in the end, it’s not just about how often your employees are in the office—it’s about creating an environment where they can thrive, no matter where they work.


Want more?

If you’d like to know more about implementing an office-first approach in your workplace, get in touch

Can an employer legally ask an employee to take a pay cut? It’s a question I get asked by employers all the time. That’s not usually because they want to be mean or claw back money from their staff; it’s often down to a matter of survival. In many sectors, business currently isn’t what it was a year ago, and some companies simply can’t continue to pay out the same wage levels they have been.

With that in mind, this article looks at the legalities of whether or not you can ask an employee to work for less pay. 


The baseline: An employer can’t cut pay without an employee’s consent

At a basic level, it’s illegal for employers in Australia to unilaterally cut an employee’s pay without their consent. In other words, you can ask, but they don’t have to accept – and there’s not much you can do about it.  

Generally, you’ll always need the employee to agree. And you’ll need them to do this in writing. Otherwise, you’ll be breaking your contract with the employee and face the prospect of an unfair dismissal or redundancy claim – something that could prove far costlier than keeping the employee on at their current pay rate.

With that in mind, here’s how you should go about it, if need to cut your wages bill. 


Don’t cut below the minimum rates

You always need to be mindful of an employee’s minimum pay. As a starting point every Australian employee is entitled to the National Minimum Wage (currently $23.23 an hour – the highest rate in the world). Beyond that, however, you also need to make sure you’re complying with the minimum conditions of any Award or agreement applying to your staff. 

Go below these rates and you’re likely to face serious legal issues, including the prospect of heavy fines. 


What about bonuses?

Bonuses are often a different matter. That’s because they usually come down to meeting key performance indicators. It’s always sensible to draft bonus agreements so that an element of it, is tied to the performance of the business or business unit, as well as the individual. That way, if times are genuinely tight and you haven’t met your business objectives, you’re not liable to pay out. 


Reduce hours rather than pay

One way that could keep everyone happy is to reduce hours rather than pay. For instance, when the COVID pandemic first struck, it was quite common for employers to ask employees to work a three or four day week. Some employees actually preferred this arrangement, and remain on the same conditions today.

But, again, as with pay cuts, reducing the working hours of permanent employees, wouldn’t usually have been possible without their consent. If an employee had said, no – there was little an employer could do except dismiss them for operational reasons (and potentially face the cost of redundancy pay).

Many employees, however, decided to accept a four day working week, or reduced hours, rather than be without a job. 


Can you cut a casual worker’s pay? 

Casual workers have their minimum wages set in exactly the same way as permanent staff – i.e. through the National Minimum Standards, as well as Awards and Agreements. They also enjoy the same protections around pay rates. That said, the nature of their employment means they’re paid by the hour, rather than via a salary.

A genuine casual employee has no reasonable expectation of ongoing, regular work. That means you can usually vary their hours without their consent – something many employers will do when times are tough. The exception, however, is long-term casual employees. That’s someone who has been working the same pattern of hours over the past year or more. 


Be upfront with employees

Whatever action you want to take, it’s always important that you communicate your situation to your staff to get your employees’ consent. In fact, many Awards and Agreements have formal consultation provisions that you’ll need to follow whenever you’re attempting to change an employees working conditions – sometimes even if it’s as much as changing their roster of hours. 

Our experience is that most employees want what’s best in the long-term. If your business is suffering and you legitimately can’t keep paying the same rates, many employees will agree to having their employment conditions modified. The key, however, is to be upfront. Explain what is happening and why you need to take action. And work with the employees themselves to come up with a solution. You may be surprised by what you can achieve.


Want more?

If you’d like to know more about implementing an office-first approach in your workplace, get in touch.

AI is starting to carry out many HR tasks traditionally performed by humans – and it’s likely to add many more to the list over the next few years. 

We explore whether your organisation should take the ‘human’ out of human resources and opt for AI instead.

How can you use AI in Human Resources?

There are many obvious areas where AI can make a real difference to human resources – and, in many cases, already is. This is especially true of those parts of the HR process that require continual repetitive tasks and processes.

For instance, Clara offers to be a virtual assistant, handling all your scheduling. Applications like Jemini promise to take care of payroll processing. Even accounting software such as Xero uses AI to time track, roster and interpret Awards and Agreements, making sure employees receive their entitlements and employers meet all their obligations. 

In these functions, AI can help take the pain out of work, recognising patterns and performing functions that automate what are generally mundane tasks. In turn, this frees HR professionals to focus on more strategic, human-centric aspects of their roles.

But there are some not-so-obvious ways AI could potentially begin to help in the human resources space, too.

So, do we need humans in HR at all?

With AI now capable – or likely to soon be capable – of so much, it’s tempting to ask whether we need humans in human resources anymore at all. But, for the moment, here are a few areas where I think people can still outperform the robots.


Humans v AI: not an all-or-nothing choice

While the discussion around AI in HR often falls into a binary narrative, it’s not necessarily an ‘either/or’ choice. Instead, it’s more likely that the future of HR for most organisations involves a mixture of humans and machines. 

AI is likely to be used to handle data-driven and repetitive tasks, freeing humans up to focus on the more strategic, interpersonal and complex side of HR. Rather than substituting humans altogether, it can provide valuable and often hidden insights that allow a human resources professional to interpret them in light of the organisation’s broader goals and ambitions. It can also handle most of the run-of-the-mill and low-level inquiries that take up a large part of many HR professional’s days.   

As the role of AI changes, so will the role of HR. Those organisations that carefully assess and invest in AI to complement human-based services are the ones most likely to succeed. 


Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how AI can complement and support your HR function, get in touch

We’re living longer than ever before. In fact, the number of Australians over the age of 85 has more than doubled in the past 20 years.  But could our long lives have real implications for the future of work? 

We explore what Australia’s growing longevity could mean for the future of work.


How much longer are we living?

When Australia first introduced a national age pension in 1908, it paid a living allowance to many (but not all) people after they’d reached the age of 65 and stopped working.* It was, of course, means-tested, but to be eligible, you also had to meet race requirements and be ‘of good character’. 

At the time the pension was introduced, the life expectancy for Australian women was short of 56, and for men, it was less than 51. In other words, most people didn’t even come close to living to pension age.

Fast forward to today, and although the pension age has been lifted to 67, most of us make it well beyond this.  Today in Australia, life expectancy is over 81 for men and over 85 for women – close to 30 years longer than when retirement age became enshrined in Australian law. 

The number of people who make it way beyond this is growing faster still. Between 2000 and 2020, the number of Australians over 85 grew by 110%.  And this is going to become more extreme very quickly: a baby girl born today has a 40% chance of reaching 100. 

Let that sink in for a minute…


Should we be working longer just because we’re living longer?

As life expectancy increases dramatically, many argue we should be working longer too. 

One main reason for this is economic: how can we expect to fund longer retirements without making the working-age population pay? Many also point to the many benefits that working brings when it comes to both mental and physical health. The mental stimulation, social engagement and sense of purpose that come from paid and meaningful employment have all been proven to contribute to both happiness and healthiness and that, in turn, contribute to, well, an even longer life still.

On the flip side, those who argue we shouldn’t be working longer often tend to say that, in the coming years, increased automation and the rise of AI will mean less human labour will be required to produce the same output. 

There’s also a reasonable argument that a long retirement and fewer working hours could mean people begin to enjoy a better quality of life.


Let’s assume, for the moment, we may be working longer…

Despite the pension age being 67 (and the preservation age for super being 60), we’re still retiring at an average of around 55 for women and 59 for men. If we assume a symmetrical distribution for that average, that means for every man who retires at 65, there’s one who retires at 53. And for every woman who retires at 65, there’s one who retires at 45.

But, if this changes, and we need to accommodate a growing number of older workers, what kind of changes are we likely to have to make? 


The future is flexible: gig, remote and part-time work

As more people begin to work past traditional retirement age, we’re likely to see non-traditional work models surge.  

For instance, flexible working may have already taken off during the pandemic, but if we’re to accommodate an ageing workforce, we’ll probably have to become more flexible still. 

More and more workers are likely to want to carry out at least some of their work remotely. Others will want to work reduced hours, dropping from the traditional five-day week to four or three.

We’re also likely to see the gig economy become important for older workers, with project-based work and short-term engagements – particularly in the most skilled occupations – becoming the norm.

As this happens, we could well see a real rise in productivity as we move more towards project or results-based rather than time-based work. The increased autonomy associated with flexible working could also mean people stay happier and therefore more productive until much later in life.  


Workplace redesign: making space for every age

Not all work will be carried out from home, however. And there are genuine advantages to having people in the office – at least some of the time.

However, a multigenerational workforce will mean a multigenerational workplace. And achieving this won’t just be limited to installing better lighting and ergonomic chairs.

Instead, expect flex spaces to become the norm. Having the freedom to switch between various work settings has been proven to reduce physical and mental fatigue. This is especially beneficial for older workers who may find the traditional nine-to-five desk setup draining. Quiet rooms can serve as temporary relief spaces for those who might need a break from the standard office hustle.

Older employees are also more likely to have specific health requirements. This could lead to a new emphasis on creating a healthy workplace, with features such as standing desks and high-quality air filters becoming more common. Larger organisations could well begin to offer in-office health services. (Some already do.)


Lifelong learning to become the new norm

We’re already past the days of learning a trade or profession and sticking with it for life. But if the workforce gets older, ongoing education is likely to take on even greater importance. In fact, older workers are likely to have to upskill and reskill and learn new skills continually as technology changes.

Much of this is likely to take place online, and we could see a real uplift in the digital workplace educational sector.  Ongoing education could take on greater importance in the employment contract, potentially becoming a condition of work for many of us across the board.

On the flip side, having older workers in the workplace will also mean more potential mentors and role models in the workplace. So younger workers are likely to be learning just as much too.


Automation and AI

Technology such as automation and AI are also likely to play a vital role in helping us work longer and more productively. In physical sectors, such as manufacturing, it could take some of the strain, allowing us to stay employed for longer. It could also help make the working day more efficient, suggesting ways to cut down on unnecessary movement (for instance, in the context of a warehouse or delivery vehicle), thereby helping reduce fatigue.

In a more white-collar setting, AI and automation can potentially reduce the need for repetitive work, allowing older workers to focus their efforts on where they bring the most value – to the high-value brain work.


Workplace policies

Finally, an older workplace is also likely to mean a new emphasis on anti-agism policies, both at a legislative and organisational level.

This may include age-sensitivity training sessions aimed at combatting age-related stereotypes to encourage a more inclusive environment. We’re also likely to see greater emphasis on work/life balance – something crucial for older workers. This could mean fewer working days or curtailed hours for everyone, not just older workers.


Want more?

The fact we’re living longer is likely to mean many of us will choose to work longer too. And that’s likely to shake up the workplace in some interesting ways. 

If you’d like to know more about the impact this is likely to have on your workplace, get in touch


* In 1910, the pension age for women was reduced to 60 on the grounds that, despite living longer than men, they tended to be “incapacitated for regular work at an earlier age”. 

Hybrid work isn’t just a trend—it’s becoming the new norm. But offices still matter, especially when it comes to collaboration. 

One European study, the Okta Hybrid Work Report 2023, found that despite going hybrid, many companies aren’t cutting back on their office space. Instead, they’re redesigning it to make it capitalise on the benefits that can come from being together.

In an age where people expect productivity to matter more than presenteeism, they’re also adopting an ‘office first’ approach to hybrid working that gives employees some degree of flexibility but also captures the many benefits that can come from working with colleagues face-to-face  

With that in mind, we look at whether ‘office first’ should become the new normal for Australia’s workplaces, including yours.  


Three types of hybrid work models

The Okra report found that hybrid working now generally broke down into three models.


Fixed Model

In this model, remote working follows predictable patterns. Employees have set days where they work from the office and also days where they work from home. For instance, many employees work every Monday and Tuesday at the office desk and remotely the rest of the week. This schedule doesn’t change; it’s fixed. 

This model is great for planning but can also be a bit restrictive for those employees who favour variety and flexibility. It’s a model that’s favoured by organisations with more traditional views on work-life balance, including many of Australia’s large corporates. 


Flexible Model

In this less prescriptive setup, employees get to pick where they work each day, depending on what they feel suits them best. Got a day of deep work? Stay home. Need to collaborate? Head to the office. This model suits people who like to control their own schedule, but it demands a high level of self-management and requires very high levels of trust.

It’s often favoured in highly skilled professional settings, where productivity can be easily measured through methods such as billable hours. 


Office-First Model

Under this model, employees are expected to be in the office most of the time, but they can still choose to work from home for a portion of their time, maybe a day or two each week. It’s not as prescriptive as the fixed model, though – if an employee doesn’t have to be at the office on a set day to do collaborative work, they can choose to be at home. 

The goal of the office-first approach is often to keep teams aligned and maintain company culture. If management says it’s a day for everyone to be in the office, employees need to be there.


The case for Office First

In the post-pandemic world, the report found that it’s the office-first model that was gaining the most traction among Europe’s employers. That’s because it tends to make collaboration easier and more spontaneous. 

If an employee is stuck on a project, they don’t always have to schedule a video call or wait for an email reply. They can instead simply walk over to a colleague’s desk for quick help. This face-to-face interaction can not only solve problems faster but also foster a sense of community and team cohesion. Having everyone in the same space reinforces company culture, something that can get diluted when people are scattered remotely.

The report found that another advantage was that mentoring and career development often thrive in the office environment in a way that’s just not possible online. In-person interactions give employees a chance to observe how their leaders manage challenges or even just run a meeting. These subtle, everyday learnings can be hard to pick up in a remote setting. 

For those new to a field or looking to climb the ladder, being physically present can offer invaluable lessons and networking opportunities.


The broader organisational impact of choosing a hybrid work model

The report noted that in European organisations, choosing the right work model is often a collective, board-level decision involving multiple stakeholders, not just a matter for HR.  

This C-suite collaboration makes it essential for various departments to align their objectives and challenges and to reach some agreement on what is going to work best in the interests of the whole organisation.

In doing so, many take the view that employee wellbeing comes first. And this doesn’t necessarily mean allowing employees to work remotely whenever they feel like it. Instead, the emphasis on collaboration that comes from an office-first approach can significantly enhance team dynamics and overall productivity. This, in turn, offers a well-rounded employee experience that prioritises both wellbeing and work outcomes.


How to decide if office-first is right for you

Every workplace now has to choose which model suits the kind of work they do. For some, such as manufacturing, hospitality or retail, the nature of the work means that face-to-face has to happen. For others, though, it’s more subtle. 

Before jumping on the office-first bandwagon, we recommend considering several factors and how they impact your business.

By weighing these factors, you’ll get a clearer picture of whether an office-first model benefits you.


Implementing an Office-First approach

If people are used to having the freedom to choose, they might find some resistance to moving to office first. If that’s the case, here are our tips for transitioning effectively. 

Announcement: Clearly communicate the shift to an office-first model and the rationale behind it.

Transition Period: Offer a grace period for the team to adjust to the new setup.

Office Layout: Redesign the office space to maximise the benefits of in-person collaboration. Show everyone why being in the office matters so much. 

Flexibility Clauses: Despite being office-first, consider built-in flexibility for special circumstances.

Review: Periodically assess the effectiveness of the new model. Make tweaks as needed.

Implementing office-first isn’t just a policy change. It’s a cultural shift that demands clear communication and a thoughtful approach. By considering the nuances and involving your team in the decision-making process, you can make the shift as seamless as possible.


Want more?

If you’d like to know more about implementing an office-first approach in your workplace, get in touch

The ‘Closing Loopholes’ Bill could be about to change Australia’s workplace laws in the most significant way since the Fair Work Act was introduced. 

If the Bill passes through both houses, the Albanese government will be able to implement its workplace relations agenda, changing everything from the rights of casual workers to the laws around industrial manslaughter and from minimum employment conditions through to the definition of employment itself.

We explore how the Closing Loopholes Bill will impact your organisation if it becomes law.


What is the Closing Loopholes Bill?

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023 aims to introduce some of Labor’s workplace relations-based pre-election promises, as well as some of the outcomes agreed at last year’s Jobs and Skills Summit. 

While the Bill may not be law yet, it will likely pass through parliament in some form after February next year, after a Senate Committee Report. (Although independent Senator David Pocock, whose vote is likely to be needed, supports splitting the Bill)

That means all organisations should start preparing now. Here are some of the key provisions you need to know about. 


A re-written (and more onerous) definition of casual workers

Over the past couple of years, several high-profile court cases attempted to define what constitutes a casual employee. Then, in early 2021, the Morrison government stepped in, legislating that the written contract – rather than the patterns of behaviour – should be paramount.

The Albanese government wants to change this – by introducing a new test that considers the totality of the relationship between employer and employee. The idea behind this is to end what the government calls “the permanent casual” to look at “what’s really going on”. If passed, the test will require employers to continually assess their workforce and the nature of the way they engage employees to make sure they are genuine casuals.

This could impose a real burden on employers in sectors that rely heavily on a casual workforce, such as retail and hospitality.


A new definition of employment itself?

Another area the government is targeting is the distinction between employer/employee and principal/contractor. Again, this has been a long-litigated and contentious area of employment law.

Under the government’s proposed definition, we’ll see a return to a test based on many factors, effectively expanding the definition of who counts as an employee. This also reverses recent High Court authority, including WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato [2021] HCA 23 and Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union v Personnel Contracting Pty Ltd [2022] HCA 1, both of which adopted a narrow definition of who was an employee.

Tied in with this are new ‘same job, same pay’ provisions. These give the Fair Work Commission authority to make orders preventing employers from undercutting the wage provisions of enterprise agreements by using labour-hire workers.

If passed, the new provisions could also impact several sectors, especially those that rely heavily on contractors.


Stronger penalties for underpayment

New ‘wage theft’ provisions in the Closing Loopholes Bill will make deliberately underpaying employees a criminal offence. 

The Fair Work Ombudsman will handle any initial investigation and has the power to make ‘snap’ entries. If they find something amiss, the Commonwealth DPP can take legal action based on information from the Australian Federal Police. Prosecutions can start up to six years after the alleged offence, and the penalties are severe – up to 10 years in jail for individuals and fines that could go as high as $7.8 million for companies.

But there is a safety net. The FWO is offering a “cooperation agreement” for businesses that self-report wage theft. This agreement serves as a ‘safe harbour,’ protecting you from further prosecution. 

So, while the Bill brings more accountability and stringent rules, it also provides an avenue for rectification for those businesses and individuals that find they have breached the Act.


Greater protections for gig economy workers

The FWC will also be able to set fair minimum standards for ‘employee-like’ workers, such as those working through ride-sharing and food delivery apps. They’ll also be able to hear claims concerning unfair deactivation or termination from a service.

This further regulates one of the most controversial and vulnerable workplace sectors and one that is growing more important to the overall economy. 


New rights for union workplace delegates

There are new rules around workplace delegates’ rights and protections, including in employer disputes. Workplace delegates will be allowed ‘reasonable access’ to workplace facilities, as well as to communicate with current and potential union members about industrial matters. 

A general protection will also apply to workplace delegates. This includes preventing employers from unreasonably refusing to deal with them. Employers are also prevented from obstructing workplace delegates or misleading them.

Workplace delegates also receive paid time off for training in their role, unless they’re employed by a small business.


Tougher anti-discrimination laws

Stronger protections will apply to workers who face discrimination as a result of family or domestic violence. This aims to bring the Fair Work Act into line with federal anti-discrimination legislation.


Industrial manslaughter

Industrial manslaughter laws already exist at the State level. The Closing Loopholes Bill will introduce a federal industrial manslaughter office that could land an individual 25 years in jail. Meanwhile, companies could face fines of up to $18 million if they’re found to be reckless or grossly negligent. 


In short…

These are just some of the changes that the Closing Loopholes Bill aims to introduce. If enacted, it will bring about new responsibilities for most employers and change the definition of many workplace tests.

That’s why it’s vital you stay on top of the legislation, especially if you have a high number of contractors or casual staff. 

If you’d like to know more about the impact this is likely to have on your workplace, get in touch

The start of a new financial year also brings new changes to Human Resources. We explore five key ones likely to impact your workplace.

1. Super changes once again

From 1 July 2023, the Superannuation Guarantee Contribution (SGC) is going up again. This time to 11%.

The SGC will continue to increase by 0.5% every year until we reach 12% in FY2026.

The other change to super includes an increase to the contribution base to $62,270 a quarter. This effectively means once someone’s salary hits $249,080 a year you no longer have to make super contributions on that portion of their salary over the contribution base.

The concessional contributions cap remains unchanged at $27,500.00.

2. The new minimum wage is in effect

From 1 July 2023, the National Minimum Wage goes up 5.75%, an increase of $70.20. That means the least you can pay anyone is $23.23 an hour or $882.80 a week for a 38-hour working week. For a casual, the minimum hourly rate is $29.04 per hour.

3. Unfair dismissal threshold raised again

High-income earners don’t have access to our federal unfair dismissal laws and generally speaking, can’t bring a claim in the Fair Work Commission. The cap for what constitutes a high-income earner has been raised again, from $162,000 to $167,500.

Just remember, exceeding the threshold doesn’t mean an employee has no rights if you terminate their employment. They can still access the Fair Work Act’s General Protection provisions.

The maximum amount of compensation the FWC can award has also been raised by $2,750 – from $81,000 to $83,750.

4. Changes to tax-free thresholds on redundancy payments

From 1 July 2023, the tax-free redundancy thresholds have increased to $11,985 plus $5,994 for every year of service. For a genuine redundancy, these thresholds are important when working out what an affected employee’s take-home payments are likely to be.

5. Expect more legislation changes in the new financial year

It’s fair to say that 2023 saw some of the most significant changes to the Fair Work Act since its inception in 2009. And it appears these tranches of changes are not ending any time soon. Shortly we are expecting to see the Protecting Worker Entitlement Bill to pass through royal assent.

We will keep you updated on these changes as they come through.

Are you FY24 ready?

As FY24 begins, there are plenty of Human Resources -related changes that businesses need to be on top of. If you have any questions regarding the changes or are keen to find out how they could impact you or your business, speak with one of the Catalina Consultant team members today.


New legislation allowing employees access to 10 days of Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave (FSVL) applies for large business from today, 1 February 2023. What does this mean for employers?

Firstly, what’s changed?

What is FDV?

Violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s close relative, a current or former intimate partner, or a member of their household, that:

Who is included?

When can it be accessed?

Full-time, part-time and casual employees may apply for FDVL if:

What evidence is required?

An employer can ask their employee for evidence that shows the employee took the leave to deal with family and domestic violence
If the employee doesn’t provide the requested evidence, they may not get FDVL
The evidence has to convince a reasonable person that the employee took the leave to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence

Types of evidence

What about Confidentiality?

New regulations prohibit employees from including information concerning FDVL on employees’ pay slips (Regulations)
This includes information about the employee taking FDVL, including leave records as well as any evidence provided by the employee
Payroll systems must be set up to ensure non-disclosure in leave records and on payslips
Pay slips must not mention FDVL, including any leave taken and leave balances

What are the obligations of an employer?

What should employers do now?

We recommend that all businesses take the following actions immediately:

We are here to help you with any of these changes. Reach out if we can offer you support.

As we head towards the holiday season, it’s fair to say that 2022 was yet another big year for Australia’s workplaces. We look back at seven HR issues that have helped shape the previous 12 months.

1. Labour shortages

Perhaps the most important factor that shaped Australia’s workforce over the past year has been our labour market. With the unemployment rate sitting below 3.5% and with immigration slowing thanks to COVID-19 restrictions of the past two years, many industries and employers have faced a full-blown labour crisis. In fact, a lot of employers have struggled to get new workers while others have failed to keep their existing ones without offering significant pay increases. 

It’s at times like these that both recruitment and retention strategies take on a whole new importance. So, if you’re not doing what you can to optimise your workplace culture and keep employees happy and productive, now is the time to start. 

2.  A new government

In May, the Albanese-led Labor government took office, bringing with them a different approach to industrial relations This included a renewed emphasis on job security and gender equality.

In early September, the government also hosted a Jobs Summit in which it committed to multi-employer bargaining, as well as changes to the ‘better off overall’ test the Fair Work Commission uses when creating Awards. 

To help alleviate labour shortages (see 1 above), the government also announced it planned to lift the number of skilled workers it would accept from overseas.

3. Elevation of psychological risks

Mental health has been a major issue in Australia’s workplaces for some time. However, this year, the NSW government made it mandatory for employers to assess the workplace for psychological risks (and protect their employees from them). This elevates psychological harm to the same level as physical harm under NSW law, and means employers have new obligations in the field.

So if you haven’t already assessed the psychological risks in your workplace and taken steps to rectify them, do so as soon as possible.  

4. Clarity on contractors

Towards the end of last year, the High Court handed down its Workpac decision, which means that this year – finally – employees have had a higher degree of certainty over their employee obligations. 

The distinction between casual and permanent employees is now more obvious, especially when combined with the former government’s legislation around transitioning from casual to permanent. That meant employers could act with a bit more confidence when it came to staffing issues this year.

5. Diversity comes of age

Diversity has been a major issue in our workplaces for some time. However, 2022 was the year that it finally became a workplace priority for many of Australia’s employers. And why wouldn’t it have? Diverse companies are shown to “lure better talent and improve their decision making, customer orientation and employee satisfaction” – all major considerations in a job market like the current one. 

6. The workplace changes

While COVID-19 is still with us, 2022 was a year of less disruption than 2020 or 2021. We didn’t have the lockdowns or border closures or anything else that impacted our businesses in quite the same way as we became used to in the two preceding years.

And yet, this didn’t mean we went back to how things were pre-pandemic. Instead, we still kept many of the workplace practices that had been developed over the past two years. A lot of workplaces have adopted more flexibility, with employees using a hybrid model of working both from the office and from home. Some have even abandoned the physical office altogether – or at least now only ask employees to come in once a fortnight or once a month. 

This has presented new challenges for managers and business owners, but it’s also introduced new efficiencies – especially when it comes to communication. In many cases, it’s also made output and productivity the main gauges of employee performance

7. Outsourcing becomes even bigger

With labour shortages and flexible working now very much part of our daily lives, we’ve noticed outsourcing is also on the rise too. To some extent, we believe that’s because employers are now used to having high-quality work performed offsite. But we also think it’s part of a push to keep costs down in light of rising wages and high inflation.

Either way, outsourcing functions – including HR – was a major trend we noticed this year and one we believe is likely to continue in 2023.  

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about outsourcing your HR function, get in touch. 

The year’s end is fast approaching, but there are still several HR-related things you need to do before everyone clocks off for the summer break. To help, we’ve created this checklist of the six things you should do to get your HR function right before 2023 arrives.

1. Take stock

With limited time left between now and the end of the year, you should map out exactly what needs to be done. That means, of course, factoring in routine HR tasks such as payroll. But it shouldn’t just be about doing the bare minimum. There’s still probably enough time to get other, more strategic things done too. That could include things like developing recruitment and training plans, working on employee engagement strategies (it’s going to continue to be one of the biggest issues next year) and other important HR tasks.  

2. Prioritise

That said, you’re unlikely to get absolutely everything you want to complete before the break, so work out what your main priorities are and what you need to do to make them happen. Use the tried and trusted technique of ranking each task as ‘Urgent/Non-urgent’, ‘Important/Not important’, and focus on those that are urgent or important. 

If some of your big picture stuff is important but can wait until the New Year, work out what you can realistically do this year to progress it, so that you don’t have a mountain of work to come back to once the holidays end.

3. Communicate

This can be an unproductive time in some workplaces as people get that ‘end of term’ feeling. But, as a business owner or manager, you can’t afford to let things slide. So let people know your expectations between now and the end of the year. Don’t be oppressive about it – you want people to be happy AND productive But you need to make sure they also get through the work that has to be done. You should also let people know your expectations around the holiday period. Are you closing down for a while? Do you expect people to take leave? If so, let them know. 

Over-communicating is always better than under-communicating. 

4. Throw a party

You’ve probably organised your workplace party by now. But if you haven’t, there’s still time to do something. No matter how small your workplace, or busy you are, celebrating the end of year is an important point in the calendar and something your people deserve. 

Even if it’s just a lunch or some informal drinks, make sure you get people together before the holidays start to reflect on, and celebrate, the year that was.

5. Say thank you

Speaking of which, this is the time of year you need to say thanks (and your office party/lunch is an important part of that). For many of us, 2022 has been another trying year, and it’s important you let people know they’re appreciated. 

Saying thank you is important for your workplace culture, as well as for employee productivity and wellbeing. 

It’s also important for you as a manager or owner, because it boosts your productivity and wellbeing too. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “Gratitude is good for you.” 

So compile a list of the highlights of the past year, who’s been involved in them. And celebrate them either at the end-of-year function or in a company-wide communication. (Or both.) Just be sure to thank everyone for their efforts this year.

6. Get your HR ready for 2023

Finally, it’s worth remembering that while the year may change, the work goes on. There’s nothing worse than arriving back from holidays with a pile of work on the proverbial desk. So, going back to step one above, gear up for what lies ahead by drawing up a list of what needs to be done in 2023. 

Make headway into it now if you can, before you go on leave. And plan out what you can’t get through so that you don’t place yourself under unnecessary stress when you arrive back in the new year.

Want more?

Have a great holidays. If you’d like to know more about HR strategies for the rundown to the end of 2022, get in touch. 

Employers often use restraints of trade to try to stop employees from taking their confidential information to a competitor and gaining an unfair advantage over them. But just how enforceable are they? 

A recent New South Wales Court of Appeal (NSWCA) found that whether a restraint of trade is enforceable depends on whether you’re trying to protect a legitimate interest, as well as factors such as their duration and an employee’s seniority.

The background to the case

The case started with a familiar scenario – a senior sales manager left his employer to work for a competitor. However, his employment contract contained three clauses: a confidentiality clause, an ‘exclusive employment clause’ (this said he must devote his time and attention to the employer during business hours and promote its best interests), and a restraint of trade.

The restraint of trade clause was one of the typical ‘cascading’ ones that employers sometimes use that allow for ‘12 months’, ‘9 months’, ‘6 months’, etc, in the hope that a court will enforce the most reasonable duration.

When the employee left and worked for a competitor, the employer alleged he broke all three of these clauses in his contract. 

He then failed to comply with the notice of termination clause of the contract, which provided for three months that he would not work in direct competition. Instead, he started working for the competitor within four weeks of leaving. He also helped the competitor poach a more junior employee who was subject to a similar restraint of trade clause. 

The proceedings

The former employer brought proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW (the NSWSC)  alleging the employee – and the employee he poached – had breached their employment contracts. It received interlocutory orders (that is, temporary orders), which prevented the employees from working for the competitor until the court decided the case.

The court eventually handed down a decision in the employer’s favour. It found:

The employee appealed the NSWSC’s decision in the NSW Court of Appeal. 

The appeal: Are restraints of trade enforceable? 

The Court of Appeal noted that restraints were only enforceable insofar as they protected an employer’s reasonable interests for a reasonable amount of time.

In this case, the employer had a legitimate interest in protecting its confidential information from a competitor, including its marketing plans and potential weaknesses in its product. As the employee was senior and privy to this information, it was, therefore, reasonable to restrain him from a competitor for nine months.

However, it also noted that the employee he helped poach was more junior and did not have any awareness of the company’s confidential information. It wasn’t reasonable to restrain him from working for a competitor because he could not damage its legitimate interest. 

The Court of Appeal also found that the employee breached his notice of termination provision. He had also breached his contractual and fiduciary duties to his former employer when he helped poach the employee.

The Court of Appeal also found that because the competitor had encouraged the employee to breach his fiduciary duty, it, too, was liable.

What the case means for you as an employer

There are times you can rely on restraints of trade to protect your confidential information, but they need to be proportionate, and they can’t be used as a ‘catch all’ to try to limit who employees can work for. You’re also far more likely to find they’re enforceable against senior employees.  

It’s always a good idea to have restraints drafted properly by your legal adviser. It’s also often a good idea to use ‘cascading’ clauses – based both on duration and geography – so that a court will enforce appropriate terms rather than ‘striking out’ an unreasonable restraint. 

Also. if you’re hiring an employee from a competitor and they have a restraint, proceed with caution. If possible, have your legal adviser check their restraint over before you sign them up.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about restraints of trade, get in touch.

Alternatively, you can read the full decision here


NSW-based employers now have a positive obligation to manage, respond to, and prevent psychological risks in the workplace. The new laws, which amend the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017, became effective on 1 October 2022. 

Although employers were already responsible for their employees’ psychological health, the new regulation makes their duty more specific. In doing so, it provides that they must manage psychological risks the same way they currently manage physical risks in the workplace. 

‘Psychosocial risks and hazards’

The changes require employers to implement control measures to eliminate ‘psychosocial risks’ as far as is reasonably practicable. And, if they can’t eliminate these risks altogether, they must attempt to minimise them as far as is reasonably practicable. 

A psychosocial risk is then defined as one that arises from a ‘psychological hazard’, namely:

The new regulation also lists different examples of psychological hazards, including:

What you need to do to meet these obligations

The new regulation says that you must identify any reasonably foreseeable psychological hazards that give rise to health and safety risks. Once you’ve done this, you must introduce, maintain and review control measures to eliminate or reduce them. The regulation doesn’t detail exactly what you should do. Instead, this will depend on the nature of the risk and the workplace. However, you must consider all relevant matters when determining what control measure you’ll implement. 

This includes taking into account:

What the changes mean for you as an employer 

To meet your new positive obligations as an employer, you should, as a minimum:

One final thing…

The new laws bolster existing WHS laws to explicitly call out psychological risks – something that hasn’t been done in the past. This means that workers subjected to behaviour once mainly regulated by other Acts – such as workplace bullying and sexual harassment – may now be more likely to bring a WHS claim.

To protect against this as an employer, you should use the same process you do when taking all steps to eliminate physical risks, i.e. Identify (the hazards), Assess (the risk), Control (the hazard), and Review (control measures). 

You can read more about how to do this on the SafeWork Australia website.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how these changes specifically impact your workplace, get in touch

Labour shortages and rising wages mean employers need to do more with less. So, if you’re one of the many business owners who find they have too many HR tasks and not enough staff to complete them, here are six HR tasks we think you can automate, outsource or eliminate.

1. Managing leave

Many employers still rely on an employee to stay on top of everyone’s leave entitlements. But these days, managing leave entitlements – including sick leave, annual leave, carer’s leave and long service leave – can all be automated. 

When it comes to sick leave, some of today’s HR software can automatically follow up with employees, make sure they’ve submitted a doctor’s certificate (which they can do via their phone) and then notify team leaders and managers of their absence.

Best of all, modern HR software can let you identify trends in people’s sick leave – which can be great for identifying mental health issues and minimising potential psychological harm to employees.

Using an automated system to track annual leave can also give you complete visibility over when people will be absent. It can also reveal when you’re likely to be short-staffed, based on your workflow – and even potentially recommend critical times employees should be encouraged to take leave. 

Not only is there no need to have someone doing this all manually anymore, but by automating, you could eliminate risk while also giving yourself a strategic advantage.

2. Timesheets and payroll 

If you have someone processing timesheets and payroll manually, now’s the time to rethink your approach. 

There’s excellent software out there that will do this for you much more efficiently and cost-effectively. It will automatically ensure you’re complying with relevant tax, superannuation and employment laws, submit what you need to the ATO, and generally make your life as easy as possible.

Or, if you want a more comprehensive offering involving a human touch, you could outsource it. 

3. Hiring new employees

Hiring new employees is a function we often fundamentally associate with HR, but it could be one best performed by someone else. After all, it’s something that’s vital to your business and its ongoing success, but it also requires specific skills and processes. And depending on the size of your business, it can chew up a lot of your resources.

These high-impact, low-volume tasks are often the very best ones to outsource. There are specialists, such as recruitment companies or a virtual HR provider like ours, who can tap into their network, offer impartiality, and help you select the best candidate. We can even work with you to develop a strategic plan for attracting and retaining talent for the long term, so that you know what you need ahead of time.

4. Performance reviews

Performance reviews have traditionally been another fundamental part of the HR process – and a part that can take an extraordinary amount of time. They’re also one aspect of the relationship between management and employee that can be sensitive, fraught with risk, and carry long-term implications for workplace productivity and culture. 

That’s why this is another part of the HR process that often makes sense to eliminate from your in-house function and outsource, saving time and money. 

5. Compliance

Making sure your organisation complies with employment and HR laws can be complex. It can also be something that can consume your HR professionals, keeping them away from the areas in which they excel. 

The good news is that these days, HR software will make sure you’re complying with some of the rules and regulations you need to. And, for a high-level, or strategic view, you can always outsource.

6. Writing policies and procedures

Again, writing policies and procedures is laborious, and it’s also easy to get things wrong – potentially opening your organisation up to legal exposure. And yet, writing complex, sometimes specialist policies and procedures often falls to generalist HR professionals. A better approach is often to outsource this work to people who specialise in the area so that you know you’re following best practice and setting yourself up for success.

Looking for ways to eliminate more HR functions?

HR covers a range of functions from the strategic through to the detailed, and it’s often virtually impossible to hire people with all the skills you need. By outsourcing some of the tasks and automating others, you can make sure you’re always running the most efficient and cost-effective HR function possible. 

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how these changes specifically impact your workplace, get in touch

The Albanese government has pledged to criminalise wage theft. We explore what it means for you and your business.

Why wage theft is an issue

A PWC study found that Australians were underpaid $1.35 billion a year due to wage theft. The report also found the practice was especially rife in industries such as construction, healthcare and social assistance, hospitality and retail. 

There have been several recent high-profile cases involving actual or alleged wage theft that have involved companies as large as Wesfarmers and Woolworths – which shows just how widespread the problem could potentially be. 

The government says wage theft should be high on the agenda because it disproportionately affects vulnerable workers, including women, young people and migrants. It also says that wage theft is so rife that some employers have even built it into their business models.

To combat this, it will attempt to change the Fair Work Act to penalise employers and individuals who actively engage in wage theft. The government has also indicated that this is likely to include the possibility of imprisonment in extreme circumstances.

Existing wage theft laws

Section 539 of the Fair Work Act 2009 makes it a civil offence to knowingly underpay employees, punishable by up to $133,200 for individuals in the case of serious offences. But the government’s proposed new laws propose to go further.

In doing so, they are likely to be more similar to some state-based wage theft laws, including those of Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. The Victorian laws, which came into effect in early 2021, make it a crime for employers to:

The penalties for individuals who commit these offences in Victoria can be a fine of up to $218,088 and up to 10 years imprisonment; for companies, it can be a fine of up to $1,090,044. We should expect the same to happen federally. 

Staying on top of underpayment

While the new wage theft laws will be aimed at those who deliberately engage in wage theft, you can still be penalised for inadvertently underpaying your staff – and may face the prospect of having to make significant backpay.

For that reason, you should always stay on top of your minimum payment obligations, which tend to take the following hierarchy:

Some employers may face the prospect of having multiple instruments or agreements specifying different rates. In this instance, it pays to remember that individual contracts can’t usually provide rates lower than those that would otherwise apply.

Want more?

Australia’s wage laws can be complex, but it’s vital you’re across them. It’s also obviously important, both ethically and legally, that you never wilfully underpay staff. 

If you‘d like to know more about your obligations, get in touch

With unemployment at its lowest rate since the 1960s, many employers face a recruitment market they’ve never before experienced, referred to as an “employee’s market”. Gone are the days of multiple quality applicants and prolonged interview processes. Instead, for some, it has become a matter of getting someone – anyone – just to do the job and keep the business going. But even though it may not feel like it, there are still opportunities to recruit long-term staff and build a quality, high-performing team, even in times like these. We explore how you can do it.  

1. Take a step back

In an employee’s market like this, the reality is that recruiting often involves negotiating with a party that’s coming from a stronger position than yours. So, as with any negotiation, take a step back and think about why it is you need to recruit in the first place. What tasks will you need them to perform? How can they perform them? And what contribution do you ideally want them to make to your workplace? Now, when you’re recruiting, you have an idea of your bottom line.

2. Be flexible

When the employee holds the aces, you may have to look at what delivers on your needs rather than what’s ideal. If they want to work remotely a bit more often than you’d ideally like, it could be the price you have to pay to secure a decent employee.

Think outside the box when it comes to working arrangements too. For instance, could you be better off hiring two part-time employees rather than one full-time? Could you offer perks that make you a preferred employer? Again, when it’s about your bottom line rather than just going through the motions and doing what has always been done, you open yourself up to all kinds of new ideas.

3. Look in new places

In an employee’s market like this, you often need to get on the front foot and look for new employees rather than waiting for them to come to you.

So how are you trying to attract new hires? And where do you put the message out? There was a day when job ads went in the Saturday paper. Now, they can come from anywhere. Think about where your potential recruits are likely to be What do they read? What sites do they visit? And what social media do they consume?

These days it’s much easier to target the right people than it has ever been, so there’s no excuse for not connecting. 

4. Look forward

People are often more willing to move to a company when they have a clear path for them. So before you go to the market, think about where your new employee’s career could take them, and sell this to them. If you really want to recruit good talent, let them into your strategy. Show them where they fit in now and where you see them within the organisation going forward.

5. Sell yourself

Some organisations take the approach that marketing is limited to selling to clients, but the best companies know it also involves selling themselves to prospective employees. Why else would some of the biggest companies devote serious time and effort to recruitment advertising? 

If your website isn’t telling your business’s story with potential new employees in mind, change that now. Why not tell the story of some of your best employees and why they’ve come to you, and showcase the kind of career potential recruits could have?

6. Be prepared to offer more 

While pay isn’t everything, it does matter. When you go into any recruitment process, you need to know the most you’re willing to pay. If you’re hoping to attract and retain people, that may be a little more than you’d initially hoped.

But even if it’s expensive in the short term, attracting the best employees should be worth it – especially in the long run.

7. Think retention

While it’s important to go on the attack and recruit new staff, it’s often just as vital to play defence and keep the staff you already have. After all, like you, your competitors are probably trying to attract key personnel. Where better place to find them than from your workplace? Focusing on keeping current employees content reaps dividends when it comes to attracting new staff too. Outsiders notice when a workplace is a happy one, and they can tell when employees are discontent.

Read this if you need help on retention strategies that don’t involve paying more.

8. Enlist outside help

A lot of businesses shun recruiters and headhunters, thinking that their cost doesn’t justify the expense. But, it’s times like these – when labour is short, that it often does. If you can’t recruit internally, now could be the time to enlist outside help to find a decent candidate.

9. Reorganise

Finally, if you can’t fill a job, you’ll have to work with what you’ve got. But rather than just sticking someone else on it and doubling their work, maybe it’s time to reshuffle responsibilities.

Don’t just pick apart the job you need to be filled and section off parts of it, look at a range of jobs, who does what and see how the load can be shared around and better managed. That may involve automating or using technology in some other capacity, but it may also mean changing roles and titles and asking others to step up. The sweetener, of course, will be that you’ll have saved money on recruitment – which could even go as a pay rise to those with new responsibilities.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about recruiting in today’s marketplace, get in touch.

The jobs market in 2022 looks very different to anything most of us can remember. In July, unemployment dropped to a near record low of 3.4% (it went up to 3.5%) in August. But that really only tells a part of the story. The reality is much more nuanced – and, depending on your perspective, potentially even better – than the headline rate suggests. We explore what’s really happening and what it means for you as an employer.

1. A lot more people are working

While a near-record low unemployment rate hogs the headlines, two other equally important measures of our workforce are getting less attention. The first is the participation rate – or the number of people of working age who are in the workforce or looking for work. In August 2022, this increased to 66.6%. The participation rate is important because, during the pandemic, a lot of people dropped out of the workforce. Now, it seems they’ve returned with interest. What’s more, this higher participation rate meant that more people were working in August even if a slightly higher number of people were also looking for work.

2. The trend is back to permanent and full-time

The past decade or so has been characterised by the casualisation or even contracting out of work. Technological disruption, including the rise of apps such as Uber and MenuLog, has created a whole ‘gig economy’, where employment is temporary and the traditional 40-hour work week is more flexible. As part of this trend, there has also been a rise in part-time work. Well, it seems that trend has been in decline since the start of the pandemic.

The latest data shows that the main contributor to job growth was full-time employment, which increased over August by 58,800 to 9,468,500 people. Meanwhile, part-time work fell by 25,300 to 4,123,600 people. Its share of employment was 30.3%, or 1.5% lower than in March 2020.
The number of people reporting that they were underworked fell too – just 5.9% of people said they wanted more hours. That’s down from 8.6% immediately pre-pandemic and 6.6% at the start of the year.
In other words, people who want to work more hours are increasingly finding they can.

3. The war for talent is real

In case you haven’t noticed, these trends are creating a genuine war for talent. We’ve all seen the signs in cafes and restaurants desperately seeking staff, but it stretches well beyond that.
The toughest markets for employers are actually in sectors including healthcare, IT, manufacturing and retail. These sectors often rely heavily on immigration to fill vacancies, and, well, that just hasn’t been happening.
Even with the recently announced increase in the immigration limit, we can expect these sectors to struggle for talent in the coming years.

4. Wages have to realign

When there are job shortages, wage rises become inevitable. So brace yourself if you’re an employer (or celebrate if you’re an employee) because that’s what we’re inevitably going to see over the next 12 months.
In fact, we may even see a reorganisation of some sectors, which find they have to pay more to attract people. For instance, employees in aged care, child care, health care and hospitality may find that their scarcity leads to wage rises that exceed those in some other industries.

5. Money isn’t the only thing that matters

Despite this, the best employers know it doesn’t always come down to money. There are other ways employers can recruit and retain their workforce.
That begins by building a great culture where people actually want to work. But it also includes being flexible, listening to what employees want, and accommodating them.
This extends to the way you hire people too. By becoming an employer of choice, you take away at least some of the stress.

What can you do about the current jobs market?

Today’s employment market is like nothing we’ve ever experienced, but by looking behind the data and making the right decisions in your workplace, you can still get ahead.

Want to know more?

If you’d like to know more about today’s jobs market, get in touch.

The new Albanese-led Labor Government promised to make employment one of its major priorities. Central to this promise was its recent Jobs Summit, in which unions, employer groups and others came together to discuss and – hopefully – address many of the issues impacting Australia’s workplaces right now.

We look at the four issues employers need to be across as a result of the Summit.

1. A change in bargaining

The relative decline in wages has been a major issue affecting Australian employees for some time. Even though the economy has been in a state of consistent growth for 30 years (except for the pandemic), workers haven’t always seen their wages go up.

In fact, despite strong employment figures, wage decline actually seems to be gathering pace, with the average Australian’s real wage falling 2.5% over 2021.

Employers and unions both agree that the current system of enterprise bargaining has failed to deliver the right ingredients to address this wage decline. However, they’re offering different solutions to fixing it.

The ACTU wanted to see multi-employer bargaining introduced, which would mean negotiating with several employers at once rather than on an individual basis. Employers groups opposed this approach and wanted further talks.

The government has backed the unions and will begin introducing legislation to support the change.

2. Better off overall test also overhauled

Unions and employer groups found common ground when it came to the ‘better off overall’ test. This is the test the Fair Work Commission uses when assessing an agreement to make sure a worker is better off under its terms compared to those of the relevant Award. 

All parties agreed the test, which was introduced by the Rudd Labor government, was unnecessarily complicated. Changes will include giving the FWC more flexibility in applying the test, as well as removing the need to it consider hypothetical scenarios.

3. Gender equality on the agenda

Female participation in Australia’s workforce is significantly below male participation. The latest data shows that 71.0% of workforce-aged men participate in the labour market compared to 62.3% of women. The well-publicised gender pay gap is also widening, with the latest data showing a 14.1% difference between men’s and women’s wages.

In response, unions and employers agreed that childcare was a priority. Many called on the government to bring forward its pledge to further subsidise childcare (one of its election promises). Currently, that won’t happen at least until after the October Budget.

Beyond this, many are arguing for further discussion on ways to make work more flexible and accommodating to women, who still often find themselves responsible for the lion’s share of family and domestic duties. This is likely to be an area that receives considerable attention over the next few years.

4. More migration

You only have to walk through any Australian shopping centre to see the effects of our current workforce shortage – with help wanted signs now adorning many stores. However, this same problem permeates virtually every sector, and employers especially wanted something done about it

In response, the government has agreed to temporarily lift Australia’s migration quote from 160,000 to 195,000. To support developing local skills, it has also agreed to increase the number of fee-free TAFE places by 180,000.

So what can you do now?

Our employment sector is likely in for a shake-up over this term of government, and the Jobs Summit points the way to the direction that’s likely to take.

Employers should make sure they stay across the detail and adjust to the changing employment landscape. 

Want to know more?

If you’d like to know more about the Jobs Summit and how it impacts your workplace, get in touch.

A growing number of employers are introducing ‘life leave’ for employees. Should your organisation be doing the same?

We explore what is how, how it works and the potential benefits (and disadvantages) of introducing it into your workplace.

What is life leave?

Life leave is a broad type of leave that lets employees have time off simply to do non-work related things. This could be anything from being at home so that work can be done on your property, having a day off for your birthday or even just taking a mental health day. 

Different types of life leave

There’s no single template available which means different employers implement it differently. 

For instance, EY Australia introduced unpaid life leave for its employees in 2019, giving them between six and 12 weeks to ‘explore interests’ outside of work, such as travel or study. In contrast, in 2020, CBA introduced three days’ paid life leave for its employees. 

CBA’s policy had its critics because, at the same time, some employees’ sick leave entitlements were reduced from 15 days to 12 days. CBA also only allowed employees to take the life leave entitlement if they’d used up their entire annual leave entitlement of previous 12 months and had less than a total 20 days’ accrued annual leave. 

Still, an internal survey released by CBA showed an overwhelming majority of employees – as many as 80% – welcomed the move. 

Why wouldn’t you just increase annual leave?

Annual leave is different from life leave because it is a statutory entitlement for all employees regulated by the National Employment Standards (NES). 

That means the NES provide for the situations under which an employee is entitled to annual leave and outline the minimum employers must provide. Importantly, they also specify that it ‘accumulates’ – something which isn’t necessarily the case for life leave. Also, under many Awards and Agreements, employees are entitled to a leave loading when they take annual leave. 

By introducing this new type of leave, employers have greater flexibility and can stipulate whether it accumulates, whether it’s paid or unpaid and whether leave loading applies. 

The pros and cons

The advantages of introducing life leave into your workplace include the following.

There could, however, be some downsides to introducing life leave too.

What alternatives are there?

If it all seems a bridge too far for your workplace but you want some of its benefits, you could always introduce more paid – or unpaid – annual leave. Alternatively, a lot of workplaces we work with have perks such as a day off for a birthday, a day off for family commitments, an extra long weekend or two a year or flexible public holidays. Some even offer unlimited leave.

Should your workplace introduce life leave?

Whether or not you should introduce life leave at your workplace depends on a number of factors, not least of which is the type of work you do. After all, while life leave lends itself to service-based jobs – such as accounting or financial services – it would be a much trickier proposition in industries that require someone to be present – such as manufacturing or retail.

That said, the flexibility that comes with life leave – both from an employer and employee perspective – makes it an increasingly attractive proposition.

If you’d like to know more about introducing it into your workplace, get in touch.

Since COVID, more people than ever are working from home. In fact, it’s probably the single most important impact the pandemic has had on the workplace. But even before the pandemic struck, the Fair Work Act gave many employees the right to request flexible working and employers were obliged to consider that request. In my experience, some employers though are still reluctant to allow flexible working fearing that it leaves employees productive. So if you’re one of them – or if you’re an employee looking to prove your productivity when working from home – here are our tips for greater productivity.

Get off email (and other forms of communication)

Email is one of the main tools that has allowed many people to work effectively away from the workplace. More recently, it’s been joined by a host of other communication apps and methods, including Slack, Zoom, Teams, Jabber and more.

The problem is that the same tools that let us do our job are often the very same ones that distract us from it. 

How often do you find yourself giving up work momentarily to answer a message that’s probably not that urgent or just consistently checking it to see if anything interesting has come in?

One of the keys to productivity is simply to stop checking your messages. Instead, set aside a few times a day where you read and answer them in one batch. 

And, if you’re an employer looking to increase productivity in your workforce, either stop expecting an instant response or set aside a limited time each day (say 1 pm-3 pm) where people need to be available. Otherwise, try to let them get on with their work.

Structure your day

When we’re at the workplace, we have the external cues for when we should be doing certain things. We arrive and leave at set times, usually go on our lunch break at the same time others are taking lunch, and even chat around the proverbial water cooler or take our coffee breaks at a similar time each day. While imposing the same kind of regimentation on our homelife may not seem natural, routine is actually one of the real keys to being productive, healthy and even creative.

So, if your workplace hasn’t set a schedule for when you need to get work done, set one yourself. 

Give yourself a set time for when you’ll take lunch, when you’ll start and finish and when you’ll have scheduled breaks. Then stick to it. You’ll be surprised by how much more you’re likely to get done. 

Make to-do lists

One real key to productivity is to write to-do lists. But these shouldn’t just be spur-of-the-moment notes that focus only on what’s at hand. They should be strategic tools for setting out your monthly, weekly and daily goals.  

That said, you should be careful not to make your lists too long or too onerous: otherwise, you’re going to put yourself under too much pressure and feel like you’re failing when you can’t meet them. 

While it’s true that most of us have to-do lists in the office, in many ways, they become even more important at home. After all, remote working is all about keeping up your productivity to make sure the work still gets done.

If you’re an employer or manager worried about productivity, you could even have your employees submit their weekly to-do lists to you and then check them off.

Eat the frog

Eating the frog’ is a productivity technique that involves choosing the most important (and often unpleasant) task on your to-do list and making it your priority when you start the day. The reasoning is that by getting the thing that needs to be achieved done first, you’ll be devoting your best brain power to it and then leaving less important tasks for when you’re not quite as switched on. You’ll also have the sense of accomplishment that comes from knocking over your big task first.

If you’re an employer, you can encourage your remote employees to become more productive by having them identify their ‘frogs’ and then devote each morning to them.

Get time management technique

Beyond this, there are so many different ways you can organise your day to become more productive. A popular one is the Pomodoro (tomato) technique, whereby you break your day into 30-minute ‘pomodoros’ that involve 25 minutes of work and a five-minute break. You then take a longer break after four pomodoros – or after every two hours.

Another popular time management technique – and the favourite of Benjamin Franklin – is ‘time blocking’. Slightly less onerous than the Pomodoro technique, it involves breaking your day into blocks and then assigning work you’ll complete within them. By providing yourself with your deadlines this way, you should help overcome procrastination and get more done. (Although you will need a certain degree of flexibility, as even Franklin himself admitted.)

There are so many potential ways to organise your day for productivity, and we even found this quiz that can help you find which one’s right for you. And, if you’re an employer worried about your employees’ time management when working from home, why not train them in time management first? 

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about setting up your workplace for productive remote working, get in touch. 

One of the realities of ‘living with COVID’ is that it’s always a possibility that we’ll be infected. In fact, at the time of writing, around 1% of the Australian population is estimated to have an active case of COVID, and – at times – this number is estimated to have been double that amount. That means your workplace is likely to face a situation where some of your team members are out of action and unable to work because of the illness.

So what are your obligations to employees affected by COVID and what rights do they have when it comes to continuing to work? We explore.

Health and safety is paramount

It should go without saying that when an employee test positive for COVID, you can’t expect them to attend work. Everyone must isolate for at least seven days and can only leave home for medical care or in an emergency. So they can’t legally attend the workplace.

But the sick employee isn‘t the only one with obligations in this situation. As the employer, you have workplace health and safety (WHS) obligations too, including the obligation to provide a safe workplace. That means preventing the risk of COVID from spreading to other employees. 

You should carry out a risk assessment, speak with affected employees and take steps to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. For instance, you could direct close contacts to work from home, where possible. 

Do you need to pay the employee?

There’s actually no general obligation to pay an employee who’s required to self-isolate due to COVID. However, some enterprise agreements, workplace policies or employment contracts may require you to do so. 

A permanent employee suffering from COVID can use their paid or unpaid sick leave entitlement, or if they’ve used this all up, they can take paid or unpaid annual leave. 

When an employee is absent from work because they’re caring for someone suffering from COVID, they can use their carer’s leave entitlements, both paid or unpaid. They can also use their annual leave, and you can’t refuse any reasonable employee request to use it.

The Commonwealth government has also introduced a scheme to pay workers who aren’t receiving an income due to COVID. The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment offers a lump sum payment for every seven days of isolation spent with COVID or caring for someone with COVID, including:

When should the employee come back to work?

The employee can generally return to work once they’re COVID-free and their isolation period has ended. 

If you’re worried about an employee coming back to the workplace, you can generally direct them to remain at home. However, you’ll need to pay them, even if they can’t work remotely.

You also need to make sure you’re not unlawfully discriminating against them. This can be a grey area, so speak with your legal or HR adviser if you’re in any doubt.

Can you make others attend the workplace?

It’s likely that if someone in your workplace has COVID, others may be hesitant about coming to work. 

Employees have the right not to attend work if they’re likely to be exposed to a serious and immediate hazard. So, it’s incumbent on you to make sure you do everything practical to reduce the risk of infection. 

You also have to consider any requests to work flexibly and in some cases – such as when it’s genuinely safer for them to work from home – you may have to allow their requests. However, if you have reasonable grounds to deny the request – such as having a genuine need for the employee to attend the workplace and having taken all reasonably practical steps to make the workplace safe – you can legitimately refuse it.

Want more?

When one of your employees has COVID, it has genuine ramifications for your workplace and your workers. You should always speak with your legal or HR adviser about what steps you need to take. 

Contact us now if you’d like to know more.

It’s hard for us to believe that Catalina Consultants is now a decade old. It has been an incredible 10 years, with the business growing and evolving from just one person to a multi-skilled team servicing clients around the country. We sat down with founder and Principal Merilyn Speiser to ask her about the highlights of the past decade, as well as what’s in store for the next 10 years.

So, Merilyn, can you cast your mind back 10 years and tell us how you came to start Catalina Consultants in the first place?

I was a partner at a major accounting firm, which gave me exposure to the way lots of businesses worked and I saw the difference between those businesses that had access to quality human resources advice and an HR function and those that didn’t. 

In particular, I saw some good businesses that weren’t large enough to afford a full HR team and had to make a choice about where they spent their money and where they didn’t. This meant they always had gaps in their HR department and this would always cost them one way or another. I thought to myself ‘wouldn’t it be great if all businesses could have access to a full HR department regardless of their size’. That was when the concept for Catalina Consultants was born.

When you started, you were the only employee. How were those early days and when did things start changing?

At the start, I thought I had a good idea but I wasn’t sure what the appetite for it would be. There wasn’t really the same knowledge of outsourcing core business functions, such as HR, as there is now. Most of my work was coming from my accounting and personal network. I had to do everything myself and a lot of the work was more consulting style. I was doing a lot of leadership training, performance and engagement-related work. This was great but it was just a part of what I wanted to do.

Everything changed when I was approached by a national architecture firm that wanted Catalina Consultants to run its entire HR function. They didn’t just want strategic advice or high-level work done. They wanted a provider who could do the admin and keep the lights on as well. There was no way I could do it all by myself and I realised that if I wanted to play in this space I needed to hire someone to help out, even if I couldn’t really afford it yet. 

The next client we took on was an IT company and it was even bigger still. They had four offices and 120 employees and we were asked to oversee everything HR-related, so I hired again. It was such a good decision and everything started growing from there.

I’m really very grateful for those early clients. Without them, there’s no way we would be here today.

What has been the key to your success?

I think we’ve always offered a very different proposition from other outsourced HR businesses. HR comprises many functions and you need employees at a whole range of levels. That’s what we offer. A lot of others simply have mid-to-senior level employees who they place, say, a day a week with a client. I think that’s entirely the wrong approach because it says ‘HR only happens on a Monday’. With us, we’re always with our clients – they know they can contact us whenever they need help no matter what it is. 

That said, we also offer a level of flexibility, so some clients like us to come in and be visible in their workplaces, like a traditional HR practice. Others want only part of our services, such as offering advice that will facilitate the success of their managers. Whatever it is, we can make it work.  

What are the main things you’ve seen change in your business and also in HR over the past decade?

One of the real changes over the past decade is the understanding of what can be achieved remotely. Obviously, COVID played a big part in that, when most professional staff had to work from home. But there was a growing understanding of remote working before that too. It means the conversations I’m having now are very different from the ones I had in the start because I no longer have to convince people that we don’t have to be always physically present to do a great job – although sometimes we are.

Another big change has been that, in the early years, businesses often saw supporting their HR function as a discretionary spend. Now, even small start-ups tend to understand the need for strong HR right from the outset. That can be anything from strategic C-suite advice and guiding the leadership team through to creating the right culture or wellbeing engagement, or even having the right retention strategy in place. 

Finally, I’d say that the rise and use of technology and data have really changed HR and made it more affordable for everyone to understand their drivers and make better decisions. We’re able to now provide even smaller clients with quite a sophisticated data-driven HR function for a reasonable price. 

10 years is quite an achievement. What lies ahead for Catalina Consultants over the next decade?

We’re still growing and evolving and we have so much planned. We’re going to be expanding into Melbourne shortly. The mix of businesses tends to be very different there – with more manufacturing – and our model really lends itself to that sector.

Beyond that, we have plans to start a recruitment arm and a legal arm, as well as IT. These are adjacent services to what we already offer and there is a real synergy between them and what we do already.  Watch this space!

Finally, looking back a decade ago, what is the one thing that you really got right with the benefit of hindsight?

I think the main thing was putting trust in others. When I began hiring people the salaries I had to pay were higher than what the business was earning from contracts but I knew if Catalina Consultants was ever going to get off the ground, it had to be more than me. Every time I hired someone it was a real turning point. There is real strength in numbers in any workplace and everything we did together was far better than I could have ever achieved on my own. For any business, your people really are your biggest asset! That’s ultimately what HR is about.

The dust has now settled on the May federal election, with the Albanese-led Australian Labor Party taking power thanks to an outright majority in the House of Representatives. But in the Senate, it’s a different story, with Labor likely to have to negotiate with the Greens and others to pass legislation. 

Labor’s election platform included real changes to workplace relations laws, including an emphasis on protecting workers in the gig economy. We explore what their platform means for you, and how it’s likely to be impacted by their position in the Upper House.

An emphasis on protecting workers in the gig economy

One of the main thrusts of the ALP’s platform is to more fully protect workers in the gig economy. This comes in light of recent high-profile cases concerning the potential underpayment of gig workers, as well as questions of who bore liability for delivery drivers killed on the job.

Most notably, the Labor government wants to tighten the definition of ‘casual employment’ in the Fair Work Act so that it includes an objective test of what constitutes a casual employee. (You probably remember the ongoing saga of the Workpac case, which ended in the High Court.) The government says any amendments will be based on the actual nature of the employment relationship rather than the agreed terms and conditions of employment.

More secure work for Australians

In line with the rise of gig workers, a real trend that we’ve seen over the past couple of decades is the growth of job insecurity. The new government wants to change this, allowing the Fair Work Commission to rule on the minimum standards that apply to employees engaged in new and changing ways. As part of this approach, the government says it will include ‘job security’ in the objectives of the Fair Work Act. This will mean the FWC must take job security into account when making any decision.

The government will attempt to bring in laws that dissuade employers from reducing wages by sourcing employees from labour-hire firms, as its platform says:

We have seen too many examples of companies across a variety of industries deliberately using labour hire to undercut the negotiated pay and conditions of workers who are employed directly.”

On top of this, the new government will limit the use of rolling fixed-term contracts, so that no employee can be engaged on a fixed-term basis for more than 24 months.

Labor’s getting tougher on rogue employers

The new government wants to make it a criminal offence for an employer to profit off their staff by denying them entitlements. Citing the 7-Eleven case, the government says this practice has reached ‘epidemic proportions’ and that disproportionately affects migrant workers, young people and women. 

It will also allow employees to pursue claims of underpayment of superannuation – something they don’t have unless it’s written into their employment contract. Currently, many employees need to rely on the ATO to track down underpayment on their behalf. 

A renewed focus on equality for women

Noting that women are overrepresented in casual, insecure and low-paid work, the Albanese-led government pledges to strengthen the Fair Work Commission’s ability to order pay increases for female-dominated industries. It also says it will fully implement all 55 recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work Report and will include 10 days’ family and domestic violence leave within the 10 National Employment Standards.  

Finally, the government says that it will ‘push to close the gender pay gap by legislating so companies with more than 250 employees will have to ‘report their gender pay gap publicly’. So, if you’re a larger employer, get ready to report!

And what about that Senate…

While the government’s agenda focuses on equality and security, it’s of course dependent on it being able to get its legislation through the Senate. After all, a majority of 39 is needed to pass any laws in the Upper House, and the ALP has just 26 seats. That means it will be reliant on the Green (who hold 12 seats) as well as at least one independent Senator. 

It’s likely, therefore, that the government will also have to negotiate with the Australian  Greens when it comes to implementing some of its industrial relations agenda.

Fortunately for the government, the Greens’ platform has the same emphasis on job security and equality as the government – but sometimes it tends to go much further. 

For instance, the Greens want to see the minimum wage lifted to 60% of the median wage (this could be as high as $55,000 if based on full-time earnings, up significantly from its current level of $42,255.20). 

The Greens would also like more money invested in creating jobs in both the renewables and the arts sectors and want a new ‘Future of Work’ Commission to be established. This new body would examine issues such as digitisation, flexibility, remote working and a four-day work week, and would make recommendations to government. 

In short…

The election of a new government – and the path it needs to follow to pass laws – will mean that there are likely to be several changes to the workplace relations landscape. 

If you’d like to know more about what this specifically means for your business, get in touch.

The start of a new financial year also brings new changes to Human Resources. We explore five key ones likely to impact your workplace.

1. Super changes once again

From 1 July 2022, the Superannuation Guarantee Contribution (SGC) is going up again. This time to 10.5%. You may have only just got used to paying 10% super but now you’ll have to find a little extra. 

The SGC is now slated to go up by 0.5% every year until we reach 12% in FY2026, which is ultimately where the government wants it to be. 

Other changes to super include:

2. The new minimum wage is in effect

From 1 July 2022, the National Minimum Wage goes up 5.2% or $40 a week. That means the least you can pay anyone is $21.38 an hour or $812.60 a week for a 38-hour working week.

This is accompanied by changes to a pay increase to workers covered by minimum Award wages of 4.6% or $40, whichever is higher. 

3. Unfair dismissal threshold raised again

High-income earners don’t have access to our federal unfair dismissal laws and can’t bring a claim in the Fair Work Commission. However, the cap for what constitutes a high-income earner has been raised again, this time from $158,500 to $162,000.

Just remember as a human resources professional, exceeding the threshold doesn’t mean an employee has no rights if you terminate their employment. They can still access the Fair Work Act’s general protection provisions.

The maximum amount of compensation the FWC can award has also been raised by $2,000 – from $79,000 to $81,000. 

4. Changes to tax

From 1 July 2022, you won’t have to report to the ATO when an employee who receives shares under an employee share scheme leaves your business. 

If you run a professional services firm, the ATO has said it will be changing its approach to professional services profits and how they flow through to the business owners – ie partners and principals. If you’re in any doubt, check with your accountant. 

5. New entitlements for some Award workers

New rules apply to workers covered by the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Award. From 1 July, the minimum number of hours a casual home care worker or part-time employee covered by the Award can be paid for has been lifted from one hour to two hours.  

For part-time social and community services workers, the minimum has been lifted to three hours. However, if they’re performing disability services work the standard two-hour minimum applies.

Are you FY23 ready?

As FY23 begins, there are plenty of Human Resources -related changes that businesses need to be on top of. If you have any questions regarding the changes or are keen to find out how they could impact you or your business, speak with one of the Catalina Consultant team members today.



Many employers see probation periods as something of an insurance policy when it comes to recruiting staff. If things don’t work out in the first six months, they potentially give you the option of ending the employment relationship without incurring significant costs or facing lengthy legal action. 

But with labour shortages, wage rises and mass resignations a feature of the employment landscape in 2022, do employers need to be a little more circumspect when it comes to terminating a probationary employee’s employment? We explore everything you need to know about probation periods in 2022.

The case against terminating employment

Let’s begin by looking at when terminating isn’t the best path. 

Hiring and firing employees is an expensive business. In 2019, I wrote about how to terminate employment when someone is on probation. Back then I noted that one US study found that the cost of losing a staff member and re-hiring generally equates to around a third of their income. In other words, if you need to fire and re-hire someone on $60,000 a year, expect it to set your business back $20,000. 

That study was made in a very different labour market than the current one too. Today, the costs are likely to be much higher, given just how difficult it is to find good employees.

That means terminating someone’s employment – even when they’re on probation – isn’t something you’d do lightly. 

But, still, there are times you really should dismiss an employee, especially where the cost of their continuing underperformance will be much bigger in the long run. 

How do probationary periods work? 

Even when you’ve done all the right things in the recruitment process, you’ll sometimes make mistakes. After all, you can’t be 100% certain about anyone’s work – or how they fit into your organisation – until you actually see it for yourself. Probationary periods are designed to get around this, letting you use an employee’s early time with you – usually between three and six months – to assess whether they’re right. 

If they’re not, well, you have the opportunity to end the employment relationship without the same legal obligations you’d have towards a more long-standing employee. 

That said, an employee still has some entitlements during probation. For instance, they’re still entitled to the 10 National Employment Standards and some of the protections contained in the Fair Work Act 2009

This means you’ll have to provide them with a week’s notice of termination (or at least payment in lieu of this notice period). They’ll also be entitled to be paid for any annual leave they’ve accrued. 

What they usually won’t be entitled to do, is to bring an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission.  However, under the Fair Work Act 2009, employees can’t bring an unfair dismissal for the first six months of their employment anyway – or 12 months where the employer has less than 15 employees.

The key: An effective probation period

The key to getting probation right – especially in today’s environment – is to run an effective probation period. This means not just giving your employee the opportunity to prove themselves but also helping equip them with the skills they need to be a good employee. 

Here’s how I think you should do that in 2022.

Read more here about getting the first six months of employment right.

Can you extend a probationary period?

With labour in short supply, you might be tempted to extend an employee’s probationary period, effectively giving them a second chance. But are you allowed to do this?

The answer is that it depends on what the contract of employment says. Some employment contracts will provide that the employer can extend probation in certain situations. If the employee is covered by an Award or Agreement, you also need to be mindful of this too.

At the same time, always remember that the employment laws, most notably the Fair Work Act 2009, still apply. That means, that if you extend an employee’s contract beyond the statutory probation period, they will have the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim, as well as to all the other entitlements of other employees. 

With that in mind, there may be little point in attempting to extend a probationary period because the employee will have all the same rights as other permanent staff members.  

How to terminate an employee when they’re on probation

While you can terminate a probationary employee’s employment without having to go through some of the requirements of a permanent employee, you can’t just dismiss a probationary employee for any reason you like. 

Even if they can’t access unfair dismissal remedies, probationary employees can access unlawful termination remedies from the moment they start working for you. That means you can’t terminate their employment for a prohibited reason, such as temporary absence from work, union membership, making a complaint or on the basis of race, gender or pregnancy.   

If you are terminating employment for a legitimate reason, you don’t have to wait until the end of the probationary period before dismissing them. When you’ve done your best and you really have reached the point of no return, my view is to act now and begin the process of hiring someone to replace them.

Need a bit of help on how to do that in times like these? Read our Ultimate Guide to Hiring New Employees.

Want more? 

Terminating a worker’s employment can be fraught, even when they’re on probation. And never has there been more at stake than right now. Get in touch if you’re unsure about one of your new employees and need a guiding hand.

Research shows having people from different backgrounds and different points of view can be great for any workplace. As McKinsey noted in its groundbreaking 2014 Diversity Matters study: 

“The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and country suggests that gender, racial, and ethnic diversity are competitive differentiators: more diverse companies lure better talent and improve their decision making, customer orientation, and employee satisfaction.”

But recruiting a diverse team isn’t necessarily as easy as it seems. Even most organisations’ best efforts fall short of hiring for true workplace diversity. 

With that in mind here are our four tips for successfully recruiting for diversity. 

1. Look outside your networks

The traditional way businesses have worked was that people tended to recruit through personal networks, or if they didn’t, they tended to hire people just like themselves. If someone knew you or knew your friends, went to the same university as you or grew up in the same area, you could trust them, right?

One of the main problems with this is that unnecessarily limited the pool of talent available. This restricted the types of ideas and perspectives that came from employees. And that, in turn, restricted the number of people a business would appeal to. 

So, the first step in hiring for diversity is to look beyond your immediate networks. That means advertising publicly – or through an independent party – for any job vacancy.

2. Be objective

A vast body of research shows that the hiring process is biased and unfair,” says the Harvard Business Review. That’s not just because hirers tend to favour people who think and act like themselves without even realising it, it’s also because they tend to be drawn to charisma rather than skill. The sweet-talker who performs well in an interview usually gets hired ahead of the more reserved – and often more competent – candidate.  

One way to help get around this is to create a list of attributes and skills you’re looking for in your new hire and to focus on these rather than on factors that don’t actually relate to how well someone is going to perform a job. 

If you’re carrying out the recruiting process internally, you should also try to pull together a diverse team of people to carry out the hiring process.

Better still, why not create your list of skills and attributes and then give it to someone external so that your own biases play no part in the recruitment process at all?

3. Go blind and hold a test

It’s not just in the job interview that bias can take hold. One place that it can often kick in – and reduce diversity in the workplace – is during the initial CV check. 

A way to get around this could be to have someone remove names and other obvious identifiers from applicants’ CVs before you do a cull. 

Even when you’ve narrowed it down, you don’t necessarily have to go straight to a face-to-face job interview. Depending on the type of role you’re hiring for, you could ask people to perform a work test or to provide a sample of something they’ve done. 

That way your first port of call will be on someone’s quality of work rather than on their background.      

4. Work on your own culture

Sometimes workplaces end up lacking diversity because the culture simply doesn’t attract people from various backgrounds or with different points of view. If that’s your organisation, you need to find ways to make your workplace more inclusive. 

Educate your employees on diversity and its merits and introduce diversity training for your managers. Set diversity goals and hold people to account for meeting them. Introduce workplace activities that appeal to a cross-section of people, not simply one narrow group. 

To make your workplace truly diverse, you need to look within as well as without.

Want more? 

You can read about how we recruit here at Catalina Consultants in this article.

Alternatively, if you’d like to know more about creating a more diverse workplace through your recruitment strategies, get in touch.

There is little doubt wage rises are coming in 2022. With inflation surging and the cost of living taking centre stage this federal election, there’s now little doubt your employees will be seeking a pay rise in 2022. However, a lot of business owners feel ill-equipped to deal with higher incomes, with some telling me they’re already losing staff to competitors willing to offer more.

That’s why I thought it was time to look at non-financial benefits, or what you can do when you can’t afford a pay rise.

Reduced hours/increased time off

If you can’t afford to pay someone more, what about asking them to work less? The opportunity to take more holidays, leave work earlier or have a Flexi day each fortnight holds real appeal for many employees. That means it could be a good way to keep them on board without needing to offer more money.

If you’re worried about the impact this might have on your business’s productivity, you don’t necessarily have to be. A comprehensive Icelandic study found that there was no reduction in an organisation’s level of service when its employees went from working five days a week to four days a week. In fact, many indicators of service provision and productivity actually rose. At the same time, employees’ happiness and well-being improved dramatically.

If you’re going to go down this path though, it helps to make sure that your employees actually want to work less. For some workers, cutting hours may feel like a demotion or backwards step in their career rather than a benefit.

Other flexible working options

It’s not just time off that many employees want, it’s also the opportunity to work autonomously. During the COVID lockdowns, many of us got very used to working our own way. We often also had the opportunity to fit in more time with our families, on hobbies and just generally looking after ourselves. Now, as things return to normal, it can be a difficult thing to go back to the feeling that we always need to be in the office.

By continuing to offer some degree of flexible working even after COVID, your workplace could continue to appeal to employees even without a pay rise – especially if competitors aren’t doing the same.

Providing recognition

One of the main things employees want out of their work is the recognition for a job well done or at least the feeling that they’re not being taken for granted.  Too many employers forget this and expect their employees to keep working their best and remaining loyal, without ever letting them know how much they mean.

Don’t fall into this boat. Make sure you tell your staff how much you value them even if you can’t afford to pay more. Throw after work drinks or regular dinners to celebrate their achievements and acknowledge how they contribute.

Career mapping

While some employees are tempted to move by a short-term windfall, many look to the longer term. If you can offer a genuine and fulfilling career path, they’ll have much more incentive to stay with you. This could be a good time to sit down with the staff you want to keep to find out exactly what they want from their careers and how you can help facilitate it. By following through, you’ll be giving them more reason to stay than just pay.

Know where you stand

Finally, before you say no to a pay rise, you need to do your homework and find out exactly where you stand. If your employees are covered by Awards or Agreements and these provide for a pay increase, you may have no option but to pay more.

You should also review your bottom line, to work out how much is coming in and what’s going out. If you find that you need to increase pay, it may be time to increase your prices…

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how to get non-financial benefits work for your business, get in touch.

It has been a very big couple of years for all of us, with workplaces disrupted and more people working remotely than ever before. I think that has real implications for the way we should be measuring and giving feedback on performance, and during performance reviews.

The ‘no surprises’ performance review

Let’s get one thing straight: the age of the traditional performance review, where an employer tells an employee whether they’re doing well (and hence whether they’re getting a pay rise), is over. Or at least it should be. I’ve always believed that if someone walks out of a review surprised by what was said to them, there’s a problem. And that goes for the manager as well as the employee. That’s because performance reviews should never be a once-off. They should be part of the ongoing, consistent way employers manage and engage with staff. Being a good manager is raising any feedback – positive or negative – at the time it’s relevant, preferably no later than at a weekly check-in. Most importantly, it also means ‘coaching’ your employees. This involves engaging in a two-way dialogue where you listen to their concerns and encourage them to speak up about their challenges and goals. There’s no need to save them up for one every six months, or once a year for a performance review.

Coaching in the time of COVID

A lot of employers already understand this but some have let coaching slide during the pandemic. Others have struggled to take it online. However, this really is when we need it most and technology has actually made it easier than ever to build a coaching culture in your organisation. Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft teams let you meet with employees distraction-free whenever you need to. Moreover, the idea of people being away from the office actually makes it more important (and efficient) to schedule ongoing, regular catchups. By checking in and having regular catch-ups, you’re keeping people engaged with the workplace and their careers. That helps keep morale and productivity high and your business churning along. So if your team is working remotely or you’re running on the hybrid model, schedule a weekly half-hour meeting with every team member and ditch the big performance review. Use it to coach and guide them, keep them engaged and, most importantly, listen to their concerns and aspirations.

What to discuss when you’re coaching employees

Instead of using the performance review to hand out brickbats and bouquets, the coaching approach should centre on four big ideas:

1. Giving people leeway to make mistakes. Use your weekly catch up to find ways people can take on new challenges. Focus on productivity and give them the autonomy to do the task the way they want to (within reason, of course). Just make sure you also offer adequate support.

2. Taking calculated risks. Encourage people out of their comfort zones and stretch them. Just don’t push them beyond their capabilities.

3. Having honest conversations. If you’re not prepared to let them take on work they want to, or if you can’t address their concerns, let them know why.

4. Asking questions. Try to understand what motivates people and where they want to be in their careers. Inspiring and motivating people begins with understanding what makes them tick.

The benefits of the coaching approach vs performance reviews

Once you step beyond the traditional performance review model and move towards a coaching-based model, you’ll potentially open up so many benefits for your business, including:

1. Empowered employees

You’ll give employees the opportunity to align their work with their own private and professional goals. This is likely to mean they’re capable of taking on more responsibility as well as more complex challenges – something that has the potential to deliver real benefits to your business. It lets you set and review goals more frequently, giving your employees the opportunity to stretch themselves and build the skills they’ll need to advance their careers more quickly.

2. More accurate insights into employee performance

Coaching helps remove subconscious bias. As long as five years ago, McKinsey research revealed companies that have ditched the traditional performance review for the ongoing coaching model have access to a more rational, less subjective analysis of employee performance. This even includes automating many measures of performance that were traditionally undertaken through more subjective human assessment. It also includes using apps to collect exact data on how an employee performs.

“By getting rid of bureaucratic annual-review processes—and the behaviour related to them—companies can focus on getting much higher levels of performance out of many more of their employees,” McKinsey notes.

3. Better staff retention

A coaching-based approach lets employees have their ideas heard regularly. And that’s key to helping them know they’re a valued member of your team. Studies show that valued employees are also more likely to be more engaged and therefore more loyal employees – vital at a time when the war for talent is intensifying. Not only does that mean you’re more likely to hold onto key talent, but you’ll also incur less in staff turnover costs.

4. More efficient

Believe it or not, regular ongoing coaching will actually save you time and money compared with a traditional performance review. After all, you’ll cut down on all the unnecessary admin that comes with a performance appraisal.

Want more?

We have a wealth of experience helping businesses like yours build a coaching-based model into everything they do. If you’d like to know more, get in touch.


The COVD-19 pandemic has upended so much of our lives: from lockdowns to social distancing, and from remote working to relocating altogether. It’s also changed workplaces and what we want from our work. Here are four ways how.

1. People want hybrid

Remote working has been on many people’s wish lists for some time. But for many of us, the pandemic made it a reality for the first time. This gave a lot of employees a new level of flexibility and autonomy, and also showed employers that their teams could stay productive away from the office. On the other hand, the pandemic also highlighted the benefits of the physical workplace – the camaraderie, the subtleties of human interaction and the casual conservations that weren’t possible when everyone was only connecting online. But while many of us see the benefits of the workplace, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re necessarily keen to return full time. A recent survey by Slack showed that only 12% of people want to return to the office full-time, while another 13% want to work from home full-time. Meanwhile, 72% want hybrid working, or the opportunity to do both.

This will have profound consequences for employers going forward, as well as for the way the world works more generally. For instance, if we’re only in the office three days a week, do we really need all that office space? How do we effectively manage a team that’s not around half the time? And what does it mean for the long-term future of businesses that rely on office-based nine-to-fivers for their trade?

2. Work needs to be meaningful

COVID-19 gave us the time to stop and question whether we were satisfied with our work. And for a lot of people, the answer to that was ‘not really’. People found that they wanted work to be more in line with their value and their interests. This has led a lot of people to change employers but it’s also led to more people changing careers. One US study found that as many as 50% of workers wanted a career change with one-third wanting to change industries altogether. The figure may not be quite as high in Australia (one estimate reported in the AFR put it at around one-quarter of employees). But the trend is definitely still there. This means employers will have to work extra hard to attract and retain staff and that creating meaning in people’s roles – by providing autonomy and letting them into the ‘big picture’ – will become even more important.

3. We’re ‘working to live’

In line with work needing to be meaningful, COVID-19 has made more people determined to find balance in their lives. As the saying goes, we want to ‘work to live’ rather than ‘live to work’. More people want time with family and friends and the ability to engage in hobbies and passions outside of work. This ties in with flexibility in work and measuring performance by productivity rather than hours put in. It also means that an increasing number of employees are beginning to value some things more than money. This is something employers need to keep in mind when recruiting new staff and encouraging existing staff to stay – although it’s likely that wage rises are on the agenda soon too.

4. Few of us want to commute anymore

One thing that COVID-19 has really changed is people’s willingness to commute. While it’s true that more people have moved into regional areas and out-ring suburbs, those same people aren’t usually expecting to sit on a commuter train for three hours a day just to perform their role. This can be seen in the number of trips we’re taking on public transport. Statistics show these were down 50% in Melbourne and 38% in Sydney after the first lockdown lifted and, anyone who has caught a bus or train into the city can’t help but notice how many fewer people there are riding with them. On those days that people do go into the office under a hybrid model, increasingly we’ll see them travel outside of peak hour where they can – which is likely to mean reduced hours or a different pattern (say 7-to-3, instead of 9-to-5). Again, this is something employers will have to keep in mind when it comes to attracting staff – offering greater flexibility and even offices outside the CBD where people can potentially travel against the traffic.

Want more?

If you’d like advice on how to adapt to the changes COVID-19 has brought about in your workplace, get in touch.

Staff surveys were once commonplace. However, in an age of big data and automation, they’re no longer standard in many workplaces. We think there are real advantages to going back to basics and asking employees what they think of your workplace and how you could improve it. Here are the five key benefits we think you’ll see from staff surveys.

1. Better staff retention

The war for talent is taking off and it’s harder than ever to retain good employees. An anonymous survey can go someway to helping you overcome that problem. A survey be a great way to find out exactly what your employees intend to do with their careers. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, two senior members of Facebook’s analytics’ team argued that surveys were a surprisingly accurate way to discover how long employees intend to stay with you – and were actually much better than other, more organic ways of trying to track this.

The authors also revealed employees who don’t complete the survey can also be an important source of information. After all, they’re 2.6 times more likely to leave in the next six months than an employee who filled it out.

2. Increased trust

Good employers know that trust is a two-way street. Receiving and taking on board employees’ feedback is just as important as giving it the other way. By giving employees a forum for communicating their ideas while telling you what they really think, you’re creating the kind of environment for trust to grow. That’s one of the things a good staff survey can do.

3. Insights into your business

As a manager or business owner, you don’t ever see everything that goes on in your organisation. Your employees can be the best source of information on what’s happening ‘at the coal face’. By having the opportunity to comment on what’s working and what’s not, they could well be giving you the information you need to refine and improve your processes so that you build a better, more efficient business.

4. Improved morale

When you ask employees to complete a survey, you’re empowering them to have a voice. That in itself can be great for morale, which, in turn, is great for productivity. In the HBR example cited above, Facebook found that 95% of employees completed their workplace surveys. As many as 61% went the extra mile, leaving their own feedback and suggestions rather than simply filling in the numbers or rating their satisfaction. That shows just how engaged with the process employees can be. What’s more, if you show that you’re taking on board the feedback and acting on it, you have one of the foundations you need to create a truly great workplace culture. And great workplace culture is always the foundation for a great business.

5. Identifying small problems before they become big ones

One of the most powerful ways a survey can help your business is that it lets you see trends or ways of thinking so that you can gauge the mood of the group. You can see firsthand if people are dissatisfied or if something’s not working. You can also often identify problems you didn’t know existed and stop them from becoming much bigger ones.

In short, if you make staff surveys a regular part of your HR process, you give yourself the opportunity to run regular health checks on your business and give yourself a vital tool in ensuring you stay on course.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about conducting a staff survey at your workplace, get in touch.

The Morrison Government’s attempts to bring anti-discrimination legislation  didn’t exactly go the way it had hoped. While it argued that it was attempting to protect the rights of religious groups and cultural minorities, many critics believed its proposed laws actually gave employers the right to discriminate – or otherwise behave unfairly – towards certain minority groups, most notably transgender people.

Another criticism levelled at the government was that both Australia and various states already had anti-discrimination legislation that went further than the government’s proposed reforms.

With that in mind, we look at whether it’s ever legal for employers to discriminate.

Non-discrimination is the law

The first thing to note is that discriminating against an employee or potential employee is already illegal in most circumstances. The federal Age Discrimination Act 2004, Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of age, disability, race and gender respectively. The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 also forbids discrimination in employment or occupation.

The Fair Work Act 2009 also forbids employers from discriminating against employees by taking adverse action against them based on their ‘race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin’. This could include such action as dismissing someone, treating them differently from other employees or failing to offer them a position. It also outlaws both direct and indirect discrimination, ie where a term or condition has the effect of treating some employees differently from others.

Then there are State and Territory anti-discrimination Acts, as set out below. These tend to overlap with the federal laws, although they often apply a little differently.

Australian Capital Territory – Discrimination Act 1991
New South Wales – Anti-Discrimination Act 1977
Northern Territory – Anti-Discrimination Act 1996
Queensland – Anti-Discrimination Act 1991
South Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984
Tasmania – Anti-Discrimination Act 1998
Victoria – Equal Opportunity Act 2010
Western Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984

But there are exceptions, some of which we outline below.

Inherent requirements of the job

One time that an employee can often discriminate is generally where it goes to the heart of the job and the person’s ability to fulfil it.

For instance, section 30 of the Sex Discrimination Act lets employers discriminate against employees based on gender where the duties can only be performed by someone of a particular gender. This includes where physical attributes are needed to perform the role (i.e. strength) or it’s appropriate based on privacy or decency (i.e. where the role involves fitting clothing).

The Disability Discrimination Act allows an employer to discriminate where the employee’s disability means they can’t perform the inherent requirements of the job. However, it also places an obligation on the employer to consider ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Similarly, the Fair Work Act says that an employer’s action doesn’t constitute ‘adverse action’ if it relates to the ‘inherent requirements of the job’. Unlike the Disability Discrimination Act, the employer doesn’t generally have to prove that the employee can’t perform the role, only that it was a genuine consideration.

Health and safety grounds

In NSW at least, it’s not unlawful to discriminate against someone where it’s done to comply with Public Health Orders. That means, for instance, where someone has an infectious disease, such as Hepatitis A, they can legitimately be excluded from food handling duties or other duties where the possibility of infecting others is high.

Of course, the right to discriminate on health and safety grounds took on a whole new meaning, in light of COVID-19. Vaccine mandates were upheld in court many workers who have refused to be vaccinated – such as those in NSW’s education system – have been legitimately being stood down.

Find out more about an employer’s right to discriminate against unvaccinated employees.

The grounds of religious belief

One of the most topical areas impacted by discrimination laws, and the main source of contention in the Commonwealth Government’s failed anti-discrimination laws is an employer’s right to discriminate on religious grounds. This has a point of contention for some religious institutions and religion-based private schools in particular.

But this right is actually often already enshrined in various pieces of legislation. For example, section 37 of the Sex Discrimination Act excludes religious bodies from the discrimination provisions insofar as they affect the ordination of priests or ministers, appointing people to perform duties or any other practice. Section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act provides an exemption allowing educational institutions to discriminate against someone – including based on their marital status, sexuality or gender identity – where it is in line with the doctrines of that religion.

The Age Discrimination Act also contains a similar exemption for religious bodies. Meanwhile, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, ‘excludes any distinction, exclusion or preference in connection with employment of a person in a religious institution, if the distinction, exclusion or preference is made in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion’.

In short, there are already ample ways for religious-based organisations to get around anti-discrimination laws where it’s in line with their beliefs.

The consequences of getting it wrong

While there are always some bodies that can get around anti-discrimination laws, the reality is that in most instances and for most employers and employees, they still very much apply. Getting it wrong may not just lead to the cost of an anti-discrimination claim or unlawful dismissal case, it can lead to severe reputational damage.

For this reason, it’s always best to play it safe and to go into an instance where discrimination may occur knowing your obligations and your options.

If you’d like to know more about these, get in touch.

Wage rises look inevitable in 2022, after years of stagnation. ABS data shows that in the final quarter of 2021, the Wage Price Index lifted 0.7% – its highest rate of growth in three years. Now, many economists are forecasting that wage growth will ‘accelerate strongly’ this year – largely the result of low unemployment, labour shortages and rising inflation.

For many employers, this may be alarming news, especially those who may not be earning any more or who haven’t put up their own prices in some time. With that in mind, here’s our guide to dealing with pay increases in 2022.

Keep on top of Awards, Agreements and Contracts

Australia’s minimum wage system is notoriously complex. Many Australian workers have their minimum terms and conditions set by Modern Awards or Enterprise Agreements. These usually also provide for minimum rates of pay, which the Fair Work Commission revises annually. If your organisation pays according to these, you need to keep up-to-date with any changes and implement them when they happen – usually 1 July.

You should also be across the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which the Fair Work Commission also sets. At the moment, the NMW is set at $20.33 per hour or $772.60 per week. This too will change on 1 July 2022.

On top of this, you should understand the pay clauses in individual contracts or enterprise agreements. These can often also provide for minimum increases based on CPI  or other factors. You should also be across any informal agreements or workplace practices because these too can form part of an employees’ contract of employment and could influence how much you need to pay.

Budget for increases but work out who gets them

From a practical perspective, one of the most important things you can do is to factor wage increases into your budgeting and planning. Any additional money you need to pay will have to come from somewhere. Will you need to increase prices, cut costs or even face the prospect of lower profits?

Even though wages look like rising, you still have some power to determine who receives them and how much their pay goes up – so long of course as you’re meeting your legal obligations. Most pay rises are tied to performance and experience, and there’s no reason to depart from that now.

Some things matter more than money

If you can’t afford to raise salaries by too much but still want to keep staff, it also pays to remember that some things matter more than a wage rise, at least to many employees. Most people want to do satisfying work, have a degree of autonomy over how they do it, and have the flexibility to do other things they enjoy.

By facilitating this, you could go a long way to making employees happy and retaining their loyalty and their service without significant pay rises.

For example, how much would it cost you do allow extra leave? Could you reduce working hours or offer flexible days without affecting productivity? Small things that promote a strong culture – like off sites, company get togethers and social events all count towards keeping employees happy too. By creating the kind of place people don’t want to leave, you may be able to retain employees without having to raise wages too much.

Tie wage rises to growth and productivity

One way to make wage rises work for everyone is to tie them to productivity. That way, you can make sure that increased pay is linked to increased profit. By involving your employees in the process and working with them to set targets and rewards, you should be able to create an incentive scheme that helps propel your business forward.

Remember, some level of turnover is healthy

Finally, while mass walkouts are no good for business, some level of turnover is actually healthy for any organisation. It allows you the opportunity to promote employees or bring in new ones. With that often comes new ideas, new energy and a new dynamic.

Don’t panic if you can’t retain everyone this year. The war for talent is heating up and you won’t win every battle. But, so long as you have good productive people in your organisation and you manage them well, you’re going to be ok.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about preparing for this year’s wage rises, get in touchContact.

The last few years have been a period of enormous change for many workplaces. Now we look ahead at the 7 HR trends to expect in 2022.

1. Hybrid work to become a permanent feature of employment

The pandemic has given people a taste of working from home and I think we can now say with certainty that it’s highly unlikely we’ll go back to the pre-pandemic office, at least in the white-collar world. Flexible working is here to stay. Many employees enjoy it and many, if not most, don’t want to return to full-time office work.

But that said, the pandemic has also taught us that the workplace offers value too – it makes connecting and collaborating easier, it helps us build friendships and it lets us engage in the informal part of work where so many of the best ideas and plans are hatched.

This year, I think it’s likely we’ll see most office-based employers introduce a blended workplace, where people are expected to be in the office sometimes but can perform their work wherever they want for most of the time.

2. New ways to communicate

During the pandemic, many of us were bombarded by emails, messages and posts and meeting requests, Let’s be honest, how many did you leave unread? The problem was with so many different ways to communicate available, a lot of offices found a lot of messages and even meetings were missed. And even if we got it right internally, our clients were on different systems (Should we use Teams, Zoom or Google Hangouts?)

In 2022, I think we’ll see a lot more workplaces put more effort into getting their communications systems right. I also think we’ll see communication systems become more standardised between workplaces.

3. New office designs

With fewer people in the office, a lot of workplaces have a lot of empty space and I don’t think that’s necessarily going to change. The simple fact is that many workplaces don’t require as much space anymore (see 1 above).

When people do come together in the workplace, it will be more often to collaborate and that requires a different kind of space too. So expect more informally designed workplaces to spring up, with more breakout spaces, communal areas and, of course, meeting rooms. Would anyone complain if 2022 spells the end of the office cubicle?

4. The rise of the offsite

We’ve been kept apart for much of the two years and that’s had real implications for those strategic meetings, as well as for our chances to interact with peers and colleagues. So expect 2022 to be the year the offsite returns in a big way.

Whether that’s a company-wide meeting, a division or practice group strategy session, or even a combined seminar with clients, expect this to be the year you get out from behind the desk.

5. An intensified war for talent

The pandemic has caused labour shortages like we haven’t seen in some time. And it’s likely these will only intensify as our economy heads back into full swing. That means employers are going to have to do what they can to attract and retain top talent.

This could translate into new workplace policies such as a shorter working week or unlimited leave. It could open up the possibility of new payment arrangements such as profit sharing. And it could lead to a whole generation of employees having the opportunity to progress their careers.

6. Wage rises

When the balance of power tips towards employees, it usually means one thing: wage rises. And that’s exactly what I think we’re going to see in 2022.

Employers who want to retain good staff may have to start paying them more, plain and simple. And that has repercussions across the whole business and beyond.

7. The year of the manager

Finally, with hybrid working, a new reliance on technology, and the balance of power shifting towards the employee, I think this will be the year that the best managers really shine. The manager of 2022 will have to be personable and be able to get the best out of employees without micromanaging. They’ll need to be trusted. They’ll need to be able to communicate with a workforce and drive productivity when people often aren’t on site. And they’ll need to communicate in an effective and efficient way that cuts through the digital noise.

In many ways, I think this is the most exciting HR trends and development we’ll see over the next 12 months.

Want more about HR trends for 2022?

If you’d like to know more about the HR trends likely to shape 2022, get in touch.

2021 has been a trying year for all of us. COVID-19 disrupted workplaces, kept us out of the office and put many businesses on hold. But from the ashes of this disruption, whole new ways of working have evolved and emerged, along with new styles of management and a new emphasis on employee wellbeing. We explore the HR trends that mattered in 2021 and forecast how they will affect the workplace in 2022.

1. COVID-19: beyond vaccination, masks and leave

2021 was our second year of the coronavirus and, as we kept hearing, in many ways it was also the year we began to learn to live with it. After being locked down for several months, many of us returned to the office, even though it meant masks and social distancing.  

Earlier this year, we fielded many enquiries about the status of unvaccinated employees. Fortunately, with almost 95% of adults in NSW and Victoria now vaccinated, this is becoming less of a hot issue. With so many businesses unable to run at full capacity, we were also frequently asked about the ability to force employees to take leave.

As we move into 2022, our state and federal governments have both announced that lockdowns will become less likely. So, with the virus still about, it’s likely that many of the modifications to the workplace we’ve adopted this year will continue well into next. (See 3. below.)

2. A new focus on mental health

It’s no secret that lockdowns and working from home (WFH) had a real impact on many employees’ mental health. Fortunately, many employees began to notice this and we saw a newfound appreciation for the importance of mental wellbeing.

What we also noticed was that talking about mental health became more common in the workplace. 

This means we saw a lot more employers introducing formal measures to ensure their employees’ mental health stayed protected, including offering mental health leave and adopting a formal mental health policy.

Read more about mental health in the workplace.

3. Returning to the workplace mattered

While WFH had its upsides, the experience of remote working during COVID-19 gave a lot of employers and employees a new appreciation for the benefits of the workplace.  After all, while some people were more productive and content working from home, a lot weren’t. And many couldn’t wait to get back into the office

In most workplaces, so many of the best ideas happen informally, around the proverbial water cooler. Working remotely can deny us these benefits, or at least make them a lot harder to achieve. So having everyone in one place again made a lot of people’s work improve. It also gave us much needed human contact, giving us that much needed social aspect to our work.

4. Flexible and hybrid work come of age

Despite this, 2021 was the time that remote working came of age. With their workforces stuck at home, many employers were forced to understand and invest in proper collaborative technology. They were also made to up their game when it came to managing remote workers and understanding how to motivate them and keep productivity up.

Now, even as we return to the office, many employers are comfortable having their employees work a hybrid model, where they spend some of the time in the office and the rest of the time WFH, bringing the best of both worlds.

5. HR trends to expect from 2022

If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Few of us saw this year’s prolonged lockdown coming despite the experience of 2020.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to forecast exactly what 2022 will bring. But, we’re still confident of a few trends.

First, we expect to see the War for Talent intensify. As the economy heads back into full swing, we’re likely to see skilled employees in high demand. That means wages could rise (along with inflation). However, it also means those employers with the right workplace culture are likely to come out ahead.

Second, it’s unlikely we’ll go back to the pre-pandemic office. Hybrid and flexible working are here to stay. That means employers are likely to palace more emphasis on productivity than on hours worked – a great thing all round.

Third, while people are sick and tired of the pandemic, I think we’ll see more optimism return. And with the balance of power shifting from employer to employee – and employers responding – we could see people enjoying their work more and finding greater job satisfaction. 

In short, I’m hopeful we’ve reached the bottom and that, with the lessons we’ve learned over the pandemic, we have a more exciting year ahead of us.

Want to know more about these HR trends? 

If you’d like to know more about the trends impacting HR right now, get in touch.

The first six months of your relationship with a new employee is vital for building the foundation for their entire time with you. We explore what you can do to set both them and your organisation up for success.

1. Develop a formal onboarding process

Onboarding an employee should begin before they even start, when you make the employment offer. Make sure you give them enough time to consider and negotiate their employment contract and that they’re clear on the terms and conditions of employment. As part of this step, you should also have a formal onboarding policy, which you can present them with when they sign up to work for you. 

This onboarding policy should cover the first six months of the employees’ time with you. It should include details of what you expect from the employee, what they should expect from you, what training they will need, your policies and procedures and key contacts, including any mentors or buddies (see below). You should also include details of any formal reviews.

2. Start the onboarding before they arrive 

Once you’ve agreed the terms and conditions of employment, you usually don’t have to wait until they start to make contact. (Unless, of course, there’s a restraint of trade at play.) 

Depending on the situation in which you’re hiring the new employee, you should be able to send them some welcoming content even before they arrive. This should include details of what they need to do on their first day. But it should also include details of key people they’ll need to work with and important things they’ll need to know.

3. Make them feel welcome 

Remember, just because your office starts work at 8.30 or 9am, that doesn’t mean you should get your new hire to begin at the same time. You’re usually better off getting them to come in mid-morning, so that your people have time to properly prepare for their arrival and they’re not left sitting outside in an empty foyer.

We’ve all been to that workplace where we’re not introduced to people and you have to figure out who they are and what they do as you go. This isn’t really a recipe for feeling part of the team. 

Arrange each new employee a buddy and when they arrive, arrange for that buddy to introduce them around the office. Don’t make the buddy the office junior (unless you’re hiring a junior). Make sure they’re on the same level as your new hire. 

Also,  don’t confuse orientation with onboarding. It’s just one step in the onboarding process – and an important one – but there is also so much more.

4. Set expectations

Solid relationships are always built on mutual understanding. Right from the start you should make it clear what you expect from your new employee when it comes to hours of work, productivity, raising problems and more. You should also ask them what they expect of you and what you can do to help them get their work done and make their life easier.

5. Train

Some employers take the view that they shouldn’t invest too much in their employees until they’re certain that they’re going to stay. Nothing could be less useful for effective onboarding.

I’m a firm believer in training people properly right from the start so that they can make a contribution from day one. After all, one study found that as many as 93% of employees would stay at a business that invested properly in their careers. Because it creates more efficient employees who are less likely to leave, proper training should also benefit your bottom line, even if it costs you in the short-term.

6. Keep up the talk

The worst thing you can do for any new team member is to leave things unsaid. If the employee is doing a good job, let them know and if the employee isn’t living up to expectations, let them know too. Even a small bit of guidance can often help employees get back on track and do their best work. By putting everything out in the open, you also help prevent small problems from becoming bigger ones. 

You should also ask the employee if something doesn’t make sense, if they need guidance in any part of their job, or if there’s anything you can do to make their life easier.

7. Understand your obligations

One reason that the first six months matters so much to many employers is that it’s the period of time in which unfair dismissal laws don’t apply (although it’s 12 months for small employers). That means, a lot of them see this period as risk-free when it comes to hiring and firing staff.

But it always pays to remember that having employees work for only a short period can be exceptionally costly for your business. One 2019 study found that hiring an entry level staff member costs on average of almost $10,000, while hiring an executive costs an average of almost $35,000.

Also, even though the unfair dismissal laws may not apply, you still have obligations. You can’t dismiss an employee for an unlawful reason and the employee is still entitled to the general protections that all workers enjoy. 

So, if it’s not working out, you should still tread carefully before terminating the employment contract and involve a professional if you need to.

Want to know more about planning for your employees’ first six months? 

If you’d like to know more about getting the first six months right, get in touch.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted almost everything, including the workplace. And, in some countries, one unforeseen consequence has been an increased number of employees quitting their jobs or changing careers. It’s a phenomenon that’s become known as the Great Resignation.  

So, if you’re worried about struggling to retain employees in a post-pandemic world, read on.

What is the Great Resignation?

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have caused many people to reassess their lives and, it seems many have decided that their employment needs to go. The Economist reports that in September 2021, a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs and that 400,000 Britons did the same thing in the third quarter of this year. This led psychologist and professor, Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University to dub the trend the Great Resignation. 

While we haven’t yet experienced the same phenomenon here in Australia, some believe the Great Resignation will soon hit our shores too. A recent PWC Australia study called ‘What Workers Want’ found that as many as 38% of the nation’s workers plan to leave their employer over the next 12 month.

While some level of turnover may be healthy for an organisation, losing employees on this scale can cause real cost and disruption. In fact, in cases such as professional services where employees hold special skills or knowledge, a mass resignation could be very difficult to recover from.

With that in mind, here’s what we think every employer should be doing to avoid the potential fallout.

Feeling valued the key factor

The PWC Australia study found that feeling undervalued was one of the most significant factors driving employees to consider leaving their employers. While many believed that this could be solved by more remuneration (get set for rising wages), a substantial portion (22%) also said their employer’s lack of concern for their wellbeing was the main reason they felt undervalued. 

The good news is that there is a lot you can do as an employer to help satisfy employees on this front. And fostering a culture that encourages employees to have a life outside of the office is chief among these. 

The best way to do this is to work with your employees to develop shared values – ones that encourage working productively during hours but also taking a break from work. 

You also need to lead by example, monitoring your own hours to make sure you set the right tone. If you’re in the office at all hours, chances are your employees will feel they need to do the same. Put value on output rather than presenteeism.

Support employees’ mental health 

As an employer, there are many ways you can support your employees’ mental health. This could include having an open culture where mental health is openly discussed, as well as appointing mental champions among your senior team members. 

Many employers are now also adopting a formal mental health strategy, which provides employees with guidance on mental wellbeing and provides them with the right support. You should continue doing the same.

Be realistic about workloads

Taking on too much work and then under-resourcing it is one of the most severe stressors employers place on their employees.  In some sectors, such as professional services, many employers have a long history of doing just this – overburdening junior staff with too much work and then failing to provide the structures and support they need. 

If you’re at risk of falling into this boat you need to be upfront with clients, as well as with your staff. Agree with your employees what’s reasonable and don’t over-promise to your clients. Those organisations that are upfront and honest about fees, budgets and timeframes tend to be happier places to work – the kind employees want to hang around at.

Use your office but take advantage of technology

One reason many employees around the world have decided this is time for a change has simply been the lack of office interaction. After all, while working from home (WFH) has its benefits, it can also increase our sense of isolation and make work a lot less, well, fun.

As COVID restrictions lift, I’d encourage employers to reintroduce the workplace and everything that’s great about it

That doesn’t mean we should abandon WFH. But it does mean that we should encourage face-to-face interactions as part of a flexible approach, where employees work from the office sometimes but have the freedom to practice WFH when it suits them. This can work wonders for wellbeing and productivity.  

Just be sure to provide the right support, including technology. 

Get feedback

One of the easiest ways to gauge the mood of the office, and make sure people are satisfied with their careers, is simply to ask. Conduct a survey to find out how people are feeling, what their wellbeing is like and what you can do to improve their situation. You’re likely to find you have several easy wins and that you can make your staff a lot more satisfied and less likely to leave, without having to do too much.

Just be sure to keep things professional and anonymous, and be sure to word things appropriately. Don’t be afraid to bring in the professionals if you need help.

Keep refining what you do 

While the Great Resignation may be a single phenomenon, it’s likely to have a lasting effect. The pandemic has made a lot of people assess what they want from life and, for many, it seems that the grind isn’t part of it. Many employers may find that they need to be more mindful of creating an environment that puts their employees first.

For that reason, it’s important to track your progress against any wellbeing initiatives and to keep refining and improving what you do. Doing so could keep you ahead of the game, make you an employer of choice and help you attract and retain the employees that will drive your business forward.

Want more on how to manage the Great Resignation? 

If you’d like to know more about what your organisation can do to help stave off the Great Resignation, get in touch.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted your employees’ wellness more than you realise. We explore what to watch for, as well as what you need to do.

Working from home has its upsides, but it can also have a tangible impact on our wellness and mental health.

In fact, it’s not uncommon to be impacted by the downsides of working from home – such as isolation, lack of separation between work and home life – without even realising it. We look at how to recognise mental health issues, as well as how to look after your (and your colleagues’) wellbeing.

Understanding wellness and mental health

It can be tempting to think that people are either well or unwell. But when seen through a mental health lens, wellness isn’t a black and white concept. Instead, under the World Health Organisations’ definition, it’s a continuum. At one extreme, you have people in food mental health. At the other extreme are people with mental illness.

Early signs of mental health issues

There are often telltale signs when you or one of your colleague’s mental health begins to deteriorate, including:

You may notice some physical signs too, such as:

Most people aren’t at either end, but somewhere along that continuum. They also move back and forth along it at different points in their lives.

The importance of routine 

Working from home means many of the routines of everyday life are missing. Weekday and weekend can blur together. So too can work life and home life (and school life for those with kids). On top of this, a lot of things happening now are outside of our control. 

Without formal separation between each aspect of our lives, maintaining our mental health means setting new routines of our own. We can’t be available for work all day, every day and not have it impact your wellbeing. Nor can we expect to be constantly productive if we’re constantly distracted by other intrusions. 

To get around this, my advice is to map out a schedule for each day in advance – i.e. the night before – and then do your best to stick to it. 

This schedule should include start and finish times for your working day. It should also take into account any meetings or calls and even have quiet, productive time blocked for when you need to be left alone to get things done. 

It also becomes easier to establish your morning and evening routines when the family is together and daily time for exercise when you do this. 

It’s always good for our mental health to end the day with a healthy activity, such as walking the dog, doing some yoga or something else that’s both relaxing and consistent. 

Set the ground rules

Good mental health often depends on being able to get things done. When we feel unproductive, we also feel powerless. So, whether you’re living with the family, a partner, a flatmate or even in a share house, it’s vital that you set ground rules for how you’ll be living. 

For instance, work out who’ll do the washing and cleaning and when that will take place. Make sure everyone understands which spaces are used for what purpose (and who gets them when). You should communicate your routine to your family, friends and colleagues where it’s appropriate so that they know when you can be interrupted and when you need to be left alone.

Be sure to take breaks away from your screen and your workspace. This could include going for a walk or the cafe. You should even block these into your daily schedule and stick to them.

Keep the lines of communication open

Isolation is one of the very worst things for our mental health. So if you and your workforce are working from home, it’s important that you stay connected. 

In many ways, I like to treat time at the home desk, just as I would time at the office. That means using to connect personally for those times you’d appear at someone’s desk to ask something. It also means checking in and staying good morning and good evening to people personally. 

Respond as quickly as you can to tasks, just as you would in the office. And don’t be afraid to interrupt people at times. You would if you were at work, and sometimes it can be a welcome distraction.

You should also be sure to use your meeting apps effectively, whether Zoom, Microsoft Teams or something else. Be sure to hold team meetings but make them productive. Have a meeting agenda, and only invite the people who need to be there.

Make sure you respect other people and their time too by starting and finishing when you say you will and limiting the call to 45 minutes.

That said, I don’t think there’s any such thing as over-communicating. So outside of your meetings, keep checking in, giving feedback and engaging in the workplace banter. You should also keep an eye on people and look for the warning signs.

Keep up the relationships

Humans are social creatures and it’s only natural that we’re all missing our work friend when we’re doing things remotely. 

So use your chat channels and other means to keep up the same relationships you’d have in the workplace. Even have a coffee with them or meet them for a walk if you can.

Cut yourself some slack

Finally, be good to yourself and take advantage of the good things about working remotely. Meet someone for lunch, set your work hours to your own rhythm, and pop out to the local cafe for breaks when you need them.

It’s important that you know yourself and others and what motivates you. Then you’ll also understand what you can do to keep your engagement levels high. One thing I find that often helps is to switch off from media each day, especially unhealthy media. It’s too easy to get trapped in a pessimistic spiral and to believe everything is bad. Remember, we (almost) always have something to look forward to.

After all, maintaining a healthy perspective is one of the most important avenues to good mental health.  

Want more? 

If you’d like to know more about what your organisation can do to promote wellness when working from home, get in touch.

Beyond Blue offers short-term counseling and referrals by phone and webchat. You can contact them on 1800 512 348 or visit their website at beyondblue.org.au

It is hard to stay motivated in uncertain times, and there has rarely been a more uncertain time than this. We look at how you can keep your staff productive and engaged through COVID-19.

By its very nature, business is uncertain. Conditions can change, technological disruption can happen and, as we’ve found out over the past 18 months, a one-in-100 year pandemic can occur. 

The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has been like nothing most people have experienced in their lives. Restrictions have forced us out of the office, the way we’re working has changed and some of us haven’t been able to work at all. Meanwhile, many careers have been put on hold and the connections that we took for granted in the workplace have disappeared. All of this can reduce morale and become very demotivating for staff. 

So if you’ve noticed your people becoming demotivated, lethargic and unproductive in the face of this uncertainty, here’s what you can do. 

1. Be upfront

One of the worst things you can do as an employer is to pretend it’s all ‘business as usual’. Sweeping things under the carpet and expecting people just to keep going is likely to have the reverse effect, causing many to become disillusioned and disengaged

You need to acknowledge that your people are likely to be fearful and that this is a normal reaction in times like these. So let employees have their say and provide the space for them to voice their concerns. 

Just remember, that you also need to acknowledge that there are many things outside of your control and, while you’ll do your best you can’t guarantee everything. 

2. Ask for feedback (and act on it where you can)

If you want people to stay motivated and keep getting their work done ask them how you can help facilitate this, especially with so many of us working from home. These aren’t normal times and, to some extent, you still need to be prepared to allow people some space to process what’s happening. 

Find out what they would like to help get their work done and what you can offer them to make it happen. That might be something like allowing extra autonomy, providing better tech support, moving meetings to different hours or allowing earlier or later starts.  

3. Control the controllables

While you can’t control everything, you can control some things. You can probably also adjust some of these to help your employees stay motivated. For instance, letting people work different hours, readjusting meeting time to take account of people’s lives or focusing on productivity rather than time spent at the desk, can all help people stay engaged. 

Alternatively, now that we’re returning to the office, allowing people to continue to work from home a few days a week could help people stay positive. 

4. Check in

One of the most important ways to stay motivated is simply to check in regularly. After all, with little water cooler conversation happening right now, we’re missing many of those little interactions where we talk about things other than work. If people are at home, you could arrange a Zoom chat once a week or every other day, where interacting comes first and work second. If you’re back in the office, you could make this face-to-face. Just five minutes can help you feel as though you’re working on the same page and towards the same goals.

5. Keep up the social side

For many people, the social side of working for a team is the best part of it and COVID-19 has largely taken this away. That can be a major demotivator. So do what you can to keep this alive. If your people are working from home, why not arrange a weekly Zoom call for your group where you talk about things. If you’re back in the office, make sure you keep that Friday (or Thursday) drinks going – at least to the extent you can within COVID restrictions. You could even hold virtual trivia nights or other games nights, just to keep up the fun and remind people that they’re part of a good team. 

Read more about how to how to keep workplace culture when working from home.

6. Let them in

No one wants to be working towards a goal and then have it pulled from under them. Few things are more demotivating than constant surprises. In uncertain times, one of the best ways to keep employees motivated is simply to let them know what you’re thinking and where you’re headed. Share your business strategy with them, so they know the bigger picture. Let them know why you’re doing things the way you are and how you intend to do them going forward. The worst thing you can do is to allow unnecessary ambiguity because people will fill that space with their fears.

Read more about keeping employees motivated.

Want more? 

With so much uncertainty, it’s little wonder that people are unmotivated right now but there is something you can do to make it better. If you’d like to know more about what your organisation can do, get in touch.

On 1 November 2021, the Commonwealth Government’s new ‘super stapling’ rules will apply. We explain what they are and what you’ll need to do to comply with them.

What is super stapling?

Super stapling is the concept that someone’s super fund becomes stapled to them when they move employers.

Now, when an employee joins an employer and doesn’t nominate a super fund for their super contributions, the employer can choose a default MySuper product. These are basic products offered by many super funds which tend to offer low fees and limited investments.

While MySuper products have tended to perform well, the government is concerned that the current system leads people to end up with multiple funds and low balances. These savings then get gradually eaten away by fees.

As a result, the super stapling laws say that an employee’s existing super fund should now come with them to the new employer unless they nominate a different fund.

Employees do this by checking a box about their preferred super fund on the ATO’s Superannuation standard choice form. Employers need to provide them as part of the onboarding process.

What you need to do to comply with super stapling rules

To comply with the new super stapling rules, you need to check if a new employee has an existing stapled super fund even where they don’t nominate any fund themselves. You can do this through the ATO website.

If you find the employee has a stapled fund, you’ll need to make any compulsory super contributions into it.  There will only ever be one stapled fund, even where an employee already has multiple super accounts.

The new rules don’t apply to any employees who began working with you before 1 November 2021. Just new ones.

Clashes with Awards and Agreements

Many Awards and Agreements provide for super contributions to be made into a specific fund. If you automatically pay into this and not the stapled super fund, you could be breaching your Superannuation Guarantee obligations.

There are, however, some exceptions to this general rule. For instance, employees covered by Enterprise Agreements and Workplace Determinations made before 1 January 2021 may need to be given a choice of funds.

Other things to be aware of

At times, a super fund may not accept contributions. Where this happens, you need to proactively identify any rejected contributions. After all, you’ll still be in breach of your super obligations if you don’t contribute on your employee’s behalf. While the ATO has the discretion to override this, it won’t necessarily do so.

You should also consider whether you need to change your default super arrangements. This is because super stapling could impact any participation agreements you have with existing funds, especially when it comes to discounted rates.

It also pays to remember that these rules apply to any contractors who fall under the super guarantee laws too. For example, those who contract to supply their labour.

Want to talk to a HR specialist?

If you’d like to know more about how the super stapling rules apply to your workforce, get in touch.

Workplace sexual harassment has been in the spotlight over the past couple of years. And, many people would say it’s about time. The #metoo movement, sexual harassment claims against prominent people, and revelations of poor behaviour in parliament, have all brought the extent of sexual harassment in the workplace to light.

Last year, the Respect@Work Report delivered a blueprint for how to combat workplace sexual harassment. Now, the Commonwealth Government is finally acting on it, even though it won’t address all of the report’s 55 recommendations.

In an effort to stamp out workplace sexual harassment, the government will toughen some provisions of the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021, as well as the Sexual Discrimination Act and Australian Human Rights Commission Act.

While the changes to the law stop short of imposing a positive duty on employers, they still have real implications for how you need to go about managing the workplace. We look at what every employer needs to know.

Changes to the Fair Work Act

The main legislation that will be changing is the Fair Work Act 2009. The new laws will introduce anti-sexual harassment provisions into the Act, which operate in a similar way to the anti-bullying provisions. That means a worker who is being sexually harassed will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for a ‘stop sexual harassment’ order.

For the first time, sexual harassment will be an explicit reason for terminating someone’s employment. Until now, employers have generally had to prove that someone’s sexual harassment amounted to misconduct, or threatened the safety of others before they were able to validly dismiss them.

Other changes to be introduced

The new laws will also change the Sex Discrimination Act to expressly prohibit harassment on the grounds of sex. This will clear up the confusion that exists around the legislation as it currently stands. It will broaden the scope of the Act to protect more workers from sexual harassment, including volunteers, interns and self-employed people.

The Sexual Discrimination Act will also be changed to clarify that victimisation complaints can be pursued as either a criminal or a civil matter.

Finally, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act will be altered to allow victims up to two years to bring a complaint of sexual harassment, rather than the current six months.

What the changes mean for you

As an employer, the new laws will give you an express reason to terminate the employment of someone who sexually harasses others in the workplace. While they don’t impose a positive obligation on you, they should provide the impetus you need to review your sexual harassment policies. You should also make sure that you have a prevention plan in place and that your employees are trained properly in both what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report any instances of it.

Importantly, the laws also provide another reminder that you need to take action whenever there is a suggestion of sexual harassment. After all, the consequences of getting it wrong can be severe – both from a financial point of view and a reputational one.

Want to talk to a HR team?

If you’d like to know more about how the new sexual harassment laws affect your business, get in touch.

The High Court has clarified who classifies as casual employees, as well as what they’re entitled to. In doing so, it has ended close to five years of uncertainty for employers.

The ongoing saga of Workpac

In 2016, the Federal Circuit Court ruled that a Workpac employee who the company believed to was casual was actually permanent. As a result, he was entitled to the benefits of permanent employment, including paid leave. In reaching this finding, the court looked at the nature of the engagement. It noted that the worker had an ongoing roster and worked alongside permanent employees.

Another of Workpac’s employees engaged in similar circumstances claimed he also should be paid annual leave in light of the decision. In 2019, Workpac brought a claim before the Federal Court hoping for a ruling he was a casual employee. However, the Federal Court rejected its application and affirmed the earlier decision.

In doing so, the Federal Court found that Workpac didn’t expressly provide the worker with any loading but instead paid him a flat rate. It also noted that he was given his roster up to seven months in advance and that he worked a similar pattern to its permanent employees.

These factors, it concluded, meant he was a permanent employee and was entitled to the benefits of permanency.

Effectively, this meant the Federal Court found that it was the conduct of the employment relationship that mattered more than the employment contract itself.

The impact of these two cases

The two Workpac cases sent shockwaves through many workplaces, as employers struggled to come to terms with the status of their own employees. Many suddenly found that workers they assumed were casuals could in fact be permanent, potentially exposing them to significant liability.

The Commonwealth government attempted to intervene and amended the Fair Work Act so that, from March 2021, it defined who was a casual employee. This was someone who accepted an offer of employment with ‘no firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern of work’.

The government also introduced provisions allowing long-term casuals to convert to permanent employees.

The High Court’s ruling for casual employees

The High Court’s decision was based on the Fair Work Act as it stood before the government’s recent amendments.

The High Court accepted the Federal Court’s reasoning that a casual employee was someone who didn’t have a firm advance commitment for work. However, it disputed the basis on which this could be determined.

Instead of relying on the conduct of the parties, it found an advance commitment needed to be a binding obligation – that is, one that was generally written into a contract of employment or agreement.

It found the Federal Court had erred when it looked at conduct instead of examining the terms of the worker’s employment contract and the employer’s obligations under them.

What the new ruling means for employers

The High Court’s ruling provides some degree of certainty that if you’ve employed someone under a casual contract of employment they are, in fact, a casual. It doesn’t matter if they receive their roster in advance, nor whether they’re engaged to perform work alongside permanent staff.

That said, employees can still challenge sham arrangements and the general rules of engaging employees still apply.

Furthermore, as a result of the government’s recent regularly-engaged many casuals now have a pathway to permanent employment, so long as they’ve been engaged 12 months and have worked a regular pattern of hours.

Want to know more about casual employees entitlements?

If you’d like to know more about how the High Court’s Workpac ruling impacts your business, get in touch.

A lot of employers have asked us if they can make their employees get the COVID vaccine. It’s not surprising given Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne are in prolonged lockdowns. And, when we do open up again, many employers fear the covid delta virus spreading among their teams, customers, clients or patrons. So, can you force your employees to get jabbed?

The short answer is maybe…

Unfortunately, there is no one answer that applies to all employers and employees. You may ask all employees to get the COVID vaccine and provide proof of vaccination in some cases, but you won’t in other cases. Which rules apply to you depend on what sector you’re working in, as well as where you’re located.

What the Commonwealth law says about forcing employees to get the COVID vaccine

The starting point for working out whether you can ask employees to get jabbed is the Commonwealth law. Here, the Government says there are three main circumstances where you can require it where:

  1. There’s a specific law requiring an employee to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  2. It’s permitted under an enterprise agreement, award or employment contract.
  3. It’s lawful and reasonable to direct someone to be jabbed.

Specific laws requiring employees to get the COVID vaccine

The specific laws that require employees to be vaccinated tend to be different based on State and Territory, here’s how they break down at the time of writing.








Requiring vaccination permitted under a contract or agreement

Some employment contracts and agreements allow an employer to require a worker to be vaccinated. You can usually enforce these provisions, but you should also make sure you don’t fall foul of anti-discrimination laws.

If you’re drawing up a new employment contract, you could consider including a term that requires the employee to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. However, you’ll generally have to weigh this up against your duty to avoid discrimination.

Where it’s lawful and reasonable to ask someone to be jabbed

This is the least ‘cut and dry’ of the reasons for compelling an employee to be vaccinated. Whether something is lawful and reasonable needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Just because it may be lawful to require one employee to be vaccinated doesn’t necessarily mean it will be lawful to require another one.

Whether something is lawful will depend on the employee’s contract, award or agreement, as well as any laws that apply. You also need to consider the broader context, such as the nature of the workplace and the employee’s role. Also consider the extent of community transmission, the employee’s individual circumstances, and your own WHS obligations.

The Government recommends that, when assessing whether it’s lawful and reasonable, you classify your employees into four categories:

The government states that it’s likely to be lawful or reasonable to compel a tier 1 or 2 employee to be vaccinated. On the other hand, it’s unlikely to be lawful or reasonable to ask a tier 4 employee to get the jab.

For tier 3 employees, whether or not you can lawfully and reasonably ask them to be vaccinated will depend on the extent of any community transmission and whether your business needs to remain open.

The consequences of getting it wrong

Requiring an employee to get vaccinated where you don’t meet any of the requirements could leave you open to a claim of unlawful discrimination, unless you can prove that the inherent requirements of the job made it reasonable. Corporations can be fined up to $66,600 for each proven instance of unlawful discrimination, so it’s important you get it right.

If the employee can’t attend work, you may also find that it leads to a ‘constructive dismissal’, in which case you could also face an unlawful dismissal claim. This could lead to the employee being reinstated and compensated with up to 26 weeks’ pay.

Before compelling staff to be vaccinated, it’s important you get the right advice.

Talk to a HR company

If you’d like to know more about your right and obligations when it comes to asking staff to be vaccinated, get in touch.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is too common in Australia’s workplaces. And, if it happens in your workplace, you may find that you’re liable.

According to the law, there is only one way around this. This involves taking certain steps to investigate allegations in a distinct way. Let’s look at what you must do when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.

What the law says constitutes sexual harassment

Under the Sexual Discrimination Act 1984, sexual harassment is unlawful in all work-related situations. That means circumstances such as training conferences and the office Christmas party – where harassment is often more likely to occur – usually count just as much as the office itself.

The Act also defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual conduct that makes someone feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. The question of whether behaviour is unwelcome is a subjective test. That means it’s enough that the victim didn’t want it to happen. However, the question of whether the victim was offended, humiliated or intimidated is an objective one. This means a court must decide whether a reasonable person would anticipate that the behaviour would have this effect.

Under the Act, employers can be held vicariously liable where their employees commit sexual harassment. This is unless they’ve taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent it. As an employer, this is an extremely difficult threshold to overcome. This is because recently, courts have tended to find in favour of the victim.

Your legal obligations as an employer

Your legal obligations as an employer take two forms. The first is to take steps to prevent it from occurring. The second is to take appropriate corrective action if it does occur.

Preventing it begins by having a solid sexual harassment policy in place. But this is not enough on its own. You must also communicate this policy to employees. They must understand, and know how to report any instances of alleged harassment. Your management must also model what appropriate behaviour looks like. If the bosses aren’t behaving appropriately you can’t expect staff to either.

Often, sexual harassment takes the form of offensive emails or electronic communications. It’s also vital that your sexual harassment policy covers appropriate digital behaviour in the workplace. 

It’s also important that you train staff and managers in your sexual harassment policy. They need to know both what to look for and what to do if an instance occurs.

What to do when alleged sexual harassment happens

Even with the very best sexual harassment policy in place and all the training in the world, you may not be able to prevent every alleged instance from occurring.

When someone makes a specific complaint of sexual harassment, you’re obliged to take appropriate remedial action. That means having a proper complaint-handling procedure so that people can report the behaviour. It also means having trained people investigate the incident and making sure that both the alleged perpetrator and the victim are treated fairly and in line with the principles of natural justice. 

The law doesn’t provide for any particular procedure businesses should implement but leaves some degree of flexibility. However, the Human Rights Commission recommends businesses use both informal and formal complaint procedures.

An informal response is one that emphasises resolution and it’s more appropriate where the alleged harassment isn’t too serious but the victim wants the behaviour to end. For more serious allegations – or where the complaint involves a senior member of staff or informal means fail – you should conduct a formal investigation.

How to run a sexual harassment investigation

When you’re carrying out a formal investigation of any kind, you should be sure to document as much as you can. You should also be careful to act impartially and responsibly.

Make sure a senior, independent and skilled person runs the investigation. They should interview the alleged victim and particularise the allegations in writing. They should also put these to the alleged perpetrator in full, giving them the chance to respond.

Once this is done, you need to gather all the evidence that you can, although it’s important to remember that facts are likely to be disputed.

Also, often in sexual harassment claims no one has witnessed the event but you still need to speak to other relevant people and gather what evidence you can.

Once that’s done you can determine whether, on the balance of probabilities, sexual harassment has occurred.

What are your options if you find someone has committed sexual harassment?

How you should respond to a finding of sexual harassment depends on factors such as its severity, the harasser’s level of contrition, the wishes of the victim and any past actions, such as warnings or prior incidents.

With these factors in mind, your options can range from counselling and a formal apology to official warnings and disciplinary action, including termination of employment.

It’s also important that you treat the victim fairly, such as offering to reinstate any leave they may have taken as a result of the incident and reimbursing any costs they’ve incurred.     

The consequences of getting it wrong

Finally, it’s important to remember that there can be severe consequences for getting sexual harassment wrong.

Most frequently, courts have found in favour of the victim where they bring a claim against an employer for vicarious liability. It’s only in the most watertight cases that an employer escapes sanction. For instance, in one of the rare cases where the court found that an employer had taken all reasonable steps, the employer had:

Outside of the legal consequences, a sexual harassment incident can often cause real reputational and business damage too – not to mention damage to workplace morale. On the other side of the equation, dismissing an alleged harasser without adequate evidence can leave you exposed to a claim of unlawful termination.

Want more?

In short, sexual harassment is a fraught area with real repercussions for the victim and potentially for your business too.

If you’d like help preventing harassment in your workplace or need advice on how to deal with a specific incident, get in touch.

In December 2020, the Morrison government introduced an ambitious new industrial relations bill. Known colloquially as the ‘omnibus’ IR bill, its effects would have been so far-reaching that some commentators forecast that it would become a new WorkChoices.

But after failing to win over the crossbench, the government was forced to water down its proposed legislation. Now, the only provisions left in it are aimed at creating a legal definition for casual workers.

So, what does the new bill say? Why does the government think we need it? And what does it mean for you if you’re running a business?

Curtailing the entitlements of casuals

The single most important part of the government’s original bill was aimed at clarifying the entitlements of casual employees in light of the Federal Court’s WorkPac v Rossato decision.

When the Federal Court handed down the WorkPac decision in 2019, it sent shivers down the spine of many business owners. That’s because the court found that a purportedly casual worker who worked regular hours in a pattern similar to full-time colleagues was actually a permanent employee. This meant that he was entitled to the same benefits, including long service leave and long service leave.

What’s more, the court ruled that he was entitled to be paid for them at the same rate of pay he received for casual shifts. The employer claimed this rate included a casual loading, but the court concluded it did not.

The government’s bill – and the only part that has passed – aims to change this and to provide greater certainty for employers by providing a definition of what casual employment actually is.

It says that it is an employment relationship “made on the basis that the employer makes no firm commitment to continuing and indefinite work according to an agreed pattern”. An employee is then considered a casual if they accept the offer of work on this basis, as well as meeting other criteria, such as:

Miscategorising permanent staff as casuals

We all know that the transition from casual to permanent can be a gradual one. Many employees who start out casual end up becoming indispensable and end up working full time. So, to get some clarity around this, the changes to the laws around casuals will also set out a defined test for when a casual employee becomes a permanent member of staff.

Under the new laws, employers must usually make a written offer of permanent employment to casual employees if they work a regular pattern of hours for six months and they’ve been employed for 12 months. The exception is where they have ‘reasonable grounds’ not to do so.

The Act then says that reasonable grounds might include:

Importantly, though, employers can’t vary a worker’s hours just to avoid this obligation.  However, an employer can offset any casual loading they’ve been paid against an employee’s claim for permanent entitlements such as annual leave.

What the government didn’t get through

Just as important as what the government has changed, is what it was unable to due to opposition from Labor, the Greens and Crossbench.

The government had hoped to use the laws to overrule the ‘better off overall’ test for enterprise agreements in certain situations. It had also wanted to reform Modern Awards to provide greater flexibility to employers to reduce overtime payments. However, it was denied the opportunity to do either.

But perhaps the most controversial omission was for the government itself to abandon provisions aimed at criminalising wage theft. Wage theft has been a serious issue in Australian workplaces over the past few years. In fact, the government’s original intention was to harshly punish employers who engaged in a systematic pattern of underpaying employees. This included facing criminal sanctions, including a potential fine of over $1 million and up to four years in prison. Companies would also have faced fines of up to $5.5 million.

Labor and the Greens, as well as crossbenchers, supported these changes. But the government abandoned its plans for tougher wage theft laws when it couldn’t get other parts of its bill through parliament.

Implementing changes in light of the new IR laws

As an employer, the new laws could have wide-ranging implications for your workforce, especially if you’re in a sector, such as retail and hospitality where casual work is the norm.

If you employ casuals, it’s important you do an audit of your workforce to find out who falls into this category. This could include polling your casual employees to find out whether they’re likely to want to become permanent staff.

It’s also important that you take account of any likely changed status in your HR planning and costing.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how the omnibus bill affects your business, get in touch.

COVID-19 made flexible working the norm for many businesses. With lockdowns and social distancing becoming standard across Australia, many of us had no option but to work from home. But now, as the caseload dwindles, restrictions ease and the vaccine gets rolled out, many managers and business owners want to get their employees to come back to the office. We look at what you need to do if you’re one of them.

The benefits of working from an office

The case for flexible working has been well documented. It can help attract and retain talent. Studies have shown it can also improve morale and job satisfaction and that this lifts productivity rather than hindering it.

It’s also inclusive. Flexible working provides a more level playing field to those employees with major commitments, such as parents of young children, who struggle to juggle childcare and other parts of their lives. It can benefit more geographically remote employees and give you a wider talent pool to draw on. As I’ve written before, you’re more likely to see women in leadership roles and bridge the gender divide – so much so that Bain has called flexibility one of the enablers for gender parity.

The benefits of being back in the office

But let’s not forget that there are benefits to being back in the office too – and many of us have come to appreciate these more over the past 12 months.

For starters, being in a workplace gives us much needed social connection. That’s something that’s vital for our mental health. As Beyond Blue notes, connecting with others can help can help ward off anxiety and depression.

It can also be an important factor in helping create collegiality between team members, fostering a common purpose that’s aligned to your business objectives and helping you build a strong workplace culture.

Working in close proximity to others is great for creativity too. People have the opportunity to bounce ideas off each informally other in a way they can’t when everyone’s working from home. This can lead to better processes, greater efficiency and even new products and services.

Finally, just as working from home can be inclusive, so too can working from the office. COVID-19 showed us that not everyone is well equipped to deal with flexible working in the same way. We don’t all have home offices. Some of us have to work in the kitchen or lounge room. Some even live in share houses or cramped quarters.

Working from home is especially disadvantageous for younger or early-career workers. Not only are these the employees who often take advantage of the social side of the workplace, they are also the ones who derive the most benefit from the face-to-face guidance and mentoring that the workplace can bring.

What’s the right approach to flexible working post-COVID?

I think it’s fair to say that the world will never go back to what it was pre-COVID, when the default was simply to work from the office full-time. But I think we should all be open to a more balanced approach, where the workplace and flexible working go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing.

For that reason, I believe the right thing for many businesses to do is to offer a blended working week, people the option of working flexibly some days but then also have days where they’re expected to be in the office, within reason.

How to get employees to come back to the office

With that in mind, here are my six tips for getting your employees back into the office more regularly.

1. Think flexibly yourself

Many employers tell me that a two/three split works well for them, where people are expected to be in the office Monday-to-Wednesday but then have the option of working flexibly on Thursday and Friday. That way, you can get all the benefits of the workplace but all the benefits of flexible working too.

2. Communicate why it matters

If you want people to come back, let them know why it’s important.  Nothing is more important than communication when it comes to keeping everyone motivated and on the same page.

3. Keep up the autonomy where you can

One of the reasons flexible working proved such a hit with many employees during the pandemic was often their newfound freedom to work how and when they want. Employees were often suddenly trusted to do their work and most rose to the challenge. In fact, one survey found that Australians were the world’s most productive flexible workers.

Many other surveys put autonomy number one on most workers’ wish list, even ahead of salary. So, if you can keep some of that – say letting people start and finish early or late to suit their commitments and rhythms, it should go a long way to making the return to the office happier all round.

4.  Set up some new rules

While Australia may have escaped the worst of the pandemic, we still need to be careful and it’s important that you follow any social distancing and other rules that apply. Beyond that, however, I think you should also bring in some new rules for how work needs to be done. For instance, one thing the pandemic reduced our tolerance for was pointless meetings. So why not set a rule that you should try to formulate an action point without a meeting based on a phone call or quick chat?

5. Make it fun

Let people remember what’s great about working from an office by having a social function (within the rules, of course). Even informal drinks can make a real difference to people’s moods.

6. Give it time

While some people will be happy to return to the office, others may take some time to adjust. So, be prepared to wait out a few months until things really click into gear again.

Want more?

If you’d like help devising a plan to get your employees back to your office, get in touch.

Everyone needs an end of year break if they can afford to do so. And, with 2020 being a year like no other, there might be a reason to enforce a break for teams. We look at why both you and your employees should be taking time away from the office and the long term benefits that it can bring.

HR Benefit 1: Productivity will rise

As any year draws to an end, it’s only natural that we all start to feel tired and worn out. For many people, as 2020 draws to a close, that feeling of fatigue could be more prevalent than normal. After all, we’ve had to put up with a lot this year: uncertainty around the economy, our jobs, our businesses, or personal finances and, most importantly, our health. Even if you’ve come through the virus relatively unscathed financially, chances are it’s taken a psychological and emotional toll.

There’s a body of research that shows that taking a break lets you refocus and recharge. In fact, HBR argues that: “Statistically, taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home”. That’s right, employees who take regular holidays are were likely to also get that all-important raise. So go on, take that break and encourage others to have one too.

HR Benefit 2: You’ll encourage creativity

When we take a break away from the office or travel, we often gain new experiences, meet new people and are exposed to new cultures or different ways of thinking. This can help us look at problems in new ways and approach our work and our lives differently. What’s more, having psychological detachment from work for a while makes it more likely you’ll come up with new ideas. And, when you’re running a business, those new ideas can be gold.

HR Benefit 3: You’ll find things can go on without you

If you’re a business owner, chances are you have a hard time letting go. Yes, being in control can be a good thing. But, you need to be able to allow your business to operate without you being there. Trust your management team. By taking a break and getting away from the workplace, you might be surprised by how well things can run without you.

HR Benefit 4: You won’t be missing much

In Australia, one of the best things about having your break over the Christmas period is that often not much work gets done in your absence. With most people out of the office, few big buying or strategic decisions get made and the business tends to run on a philosophy of just getting by. Of course, this comes with a caveat. For some industries, such as retail and hospitality, this time of year can be the busiest of all. But if it’s not for you, take a break.

HR Benefit 5: You’ll avoid the burnout

Let’s face it, for many of us, it’s taken all of our mental reserves to get through this year. By stepping away and relaxing for a bit – whilst encouraging your employees to do the same – you can put this challenging year behind you and look forward to a new start in 2021.

Enjoy the festive season

On behalf of the Catalina Consultants team, have a wonderful Christmas and relaxing New Year. Come back feeling relaxed and refreshed. We look forward to working with you in 2021.

The year 2020 has been such a significant disruption to our lives in more ways than you can imagine. But, has also accelerated and cemented many workplace trends. From the rise in remote working to the change in dress codes, we look at how this year has changed the modern workplace.

Working from home was the norm

Lockdowns forced many – even most – of us to set up shop for a while from our home office, lounge room or bedroom. Now, for many of us, there’s no going back. In fact, research conducted by the University of Sydney found that many Australians wish to work from home two days a week, with 75 per cent of us believing our employees should support that idea.

After all, COVID-19 killed the commute, given us an extra couple of hours in the working day, and, in many cases, has provided newfound flexibility to work, both in the way we want and when we want. However, with any up is a down. Many of us found working from home to be an isolating and lonely experience at times.

As part of the newfound trend towards remote working, many employers have come to the realisation that a company’s HR function can largely be carried out offsite. This has lead to a renewed interest in outsourced or virtual HR services.

Likelihood of continuing into 2021 and beyond: 9/10. I think for most workers out there, it dawned on them just how much of their job they can actually do without going into the office.

Productivity mattered most

Do you believe in ‘presenteeism’? Those who stake their reputation on being first in and last out of the workplace? Well, these employees have had to think of a different approach. With more employees out of site, 2020 has been less about the hours, but more about the quality of work being produced.

Likelihood of continuing into 2021 and beyond: 6/10. While this newfound emphasis on results has been great for business, there may be some employers out there that value long working hours. 

Managing was more difficult

Managing employees working remotely can be challenging at the best of times. Throw in an unprecedented pandemic, the need to stand down or lay off staff and management gets even more challenging. And, yet throughout all of this, the best managers still found a way to ensure that workplaces continue to share a sense of purpose to keep teams functioning. How? Through using regular catch-ups and team meetings blacked by video conferencing software.

Likelihood of continuing into 2021 and beyond: 0/10. While managing will always have its challenges, 2020 was as tough as it gets.

It wasn’t the best time to start a career

Who was one group that really felt the effect of 2020? Those starting a new job. As you know, when it comes to learning the ropes and getting on top of a new role, you rely on training, face-to-face interactions and induction periods. COVID-19 meant that this couldn’t happen. Spare a thought for those poor graduates and other new starters who had a pretty tough year entering the workforce.

Likelihood of continuing into 2021 and beyond: 3/10. We should be back to normal and hopefully, as we get more used to remote working, more mentoring can happen even when we’re not face-to-face.

Technology took off

Using technology in the workplace isn’t exactly a new trend, but 2020 meant we really had to embrace the digital world. Forced out of the office and with no other way to stay in touch, we relied on apps to conduct our meetings, keep track of projects and get our jobs done. How many of us knew what Zoom was at the start of the year? And, now, how many of us can’t live without it? Then there were the collaboration tools including Slack and Microsoft Teams, as well as Google G Suite Atlassian’s Jira and Trello and more.

Now, no matter what task you want to do at work or how you want to communicate, there really is an app for it.

Likelihood of continuing into 2021 and beyond: 10/10. There really is no going back.

What to expect from 2021

2021 is looking far more promising than 2020 – there’s a sense of optimism and I feel that people are approaching their work differently. Whilst 2020 has been challenging, it has certainly identified ways in which our jobs can be conducted differently. There are benefits to the office and there are benefits to working from home. It comes down to balance. If you would like to some advice or suggestions around structuring your workplace in 2021, then reach out to the Catalina Consultant team today.

Can’t afford to pay a Christmas bonus this year? There are other ways you can be rewarding your employees. As we can all imagine, there are many businesses out there that have found 2020 a challenging year both emotionally and financially. And, as a result, the traditional Christmas bonus might be off the cards. That’s not to say a reward system shouldn’t be in place. It’s just about being a little creative. Here are seven HR-approved ways in which you can be rewarding your employees without having to pay them money.

HR Tip 1: Give them complimentary leave

Time is precious. Giving employees extra leave can be an effective way to boost morale and show appreciation for their efforts. Consider adding a day or two to people’s leave quota. Otherwise, what about declaring a company-wide holiday? Let people have an extra day off either between Christmas and New Year or in early January. How’s that for rewarding?

HR Tip 2: Host a company lunch or picnic

Why not give everyone a half-day off in the lead up to the holiday period or soon after you get back from leave? And, why not consider hosting a company or team picnic? Along with encouraging people to mix and get to know each other, it’ll let employees share in the business’s success without having to resort to paying bonuses.

HR Tip 3: Pay it forward, with a future bonus scheme

If you can’t pay a Christmas bonus this year, how about doubling next year’s one? If that sounds like madness, why not consider setting it up in a way that’s based on both business performance and employee’ performance too? After all, by aligning bonuses to performance, the business can get a lift while making those employees happy and productive too.

HR Tip 4: Let them drop a task

Ask everyone in your team to reveal one task they really dislike doing. Then find a way to do it without them, by re-assigning it, outsourcing it or even find a way to get rid of it. Of course, you need to ensure that what people choose isn’t core to their job description and role.

HR Tip 5: Write a personalised Christmas card

You’d be surprised how appreciative a handwritten card can be. Particularly when it’s written by management. A handwritten note expressing gratitude for the year’s work and personal contributions can actually have a real impact when it comes to making employees feel appreciated. In difficult times, it’s the simple gestures that count.

HR Tip 6: Make it work from other areas

If you’re absolutely adamant about providing your team with a Christmas bonus, work out if there’s a way you can take the money you need from somewhere else. Just be sure not to drain the training budget or other key areas that might help employees develop their skills and set your business up for long-term success.

HR Tip 7: Ask the simple question, what do you want?

If you really don’t know what to do in lieu of a bonus, ask your employees instead. Of course, you need to put some limitations on it but by letting them have a say, you’ll empower them while also keeping them happy. Plus, you’ll get to know your team members a little more and what they actually appreciate.

Reward and recognition doesn’t always have to have a dollar figure

As someone that’s been working in human resources for years, I understand the importance (and power) of keeping employees engaged. Typically, a Christmas bonus is considered the go-to when it comes to rewarding employees. Yes, it’s a great morale booster in the lead up to the holiday season, but it’s not the only way to do it. If you can’t afford a bonus this year, remember there are still creative ways to show people you care without handing out cash.

Australia’s complex wage system means you may be paying your workers too little without knowing it. In this article, we explore what you need to be looking out for to ensure you’re not underpaying your employees.

How does Australia’s wages system work?

Australia’s wages system consists of different levels of pay and employment conditions, which can be hard to interpret.

At the most basic level, the Commonwealth Government’s 10 National Employment Standards and the minimum wage is the best place to start. These apply to almost all workers (however, some State Government employees are exempt) and generally can’t be contracted out of.

On top of these standards are modern awards. These cover employees by individual sectors and their experience. And, they provide penalty rates and overtime.

Outside of modern awards are modern agreements including enterprise agreements. These are significantly more defined, developed for specific businesses or groups of businesses.

Finally, an organisation might develop their own employment contracts which are agreed between the business and the employee. These can offer better conditions than the above awards and agreements, but can’t offer anything less than described. An agreement can be in writing, but can also be verbal, based on practice or even custom. These agreements can be developed into a contract without you knowing it – for example, you might verbally agree with your employee on a 10 per cent commission, despite it not being written in the contract.

What’s the minimum wage in Australia?

The minimum wage for a full-time worker is currently $19.84 an hour, or $753.80 for a 38 hour week. But it’s important to remember that this is for permanent employees only.

Casual workers must also receive a 25 per cent loading as they don’t receive paid annual leave, sick leave or other entitlements. That means if you’re choosing to employ casual staff, the minimum you can pay them is $24.81 an hour. That said, this is the minimum wage for adult workers who are at least 21 of age. If an employee is under 21, they may not be entitled to this full amount. Instead, it’s a percentage based on their age.

Exactly what percentage? This depends on the industry they’re working in. This is something that employers need to be aware of. If you’re curious to know what the industry rates are for juniors, you can view the Fair Work website.

What are other things to be looking out for?

Generally, employers are pretty good when it comes to paying employees the right wage. Where I’ve witnessed discrepancies, is often around entitlements outside of wages. Think overtime, overnight hours or working on a public holiday. These payments are covered by awards.

What about experience? Some employees are entitled to a higher rate of pay due to their seniority and experience. For example, an employee who supervises others or is more skilled should be paid more. And, depending on the industry and role, some employees are entitled to allowances, as well as leave loading – these too can sometimes be accidentally ignored.

So, what about unwritten contracts?

Another challenge – one that can be complex – are entitlements that haven’t been agreed in writing. These entitlements could be part of workplace culture or verbally agreed.

For instance, you might pay staff 15 per cent superannuation, offer a commission structure even though there’s no entitlement under an award agreement or written contract. If you’re not careful, employees can argue that they have a contractual right to keep receiving it, even if you’ve always seen it as discretionary.

Underpayment of employees – some examples

As a business owner, it’s your job to be aware of any changes and to ensure that employees are being paid fairly. Here are some scenarios that I’ve personally witnessed, where employees have underpaid their employees without even realising it:

How to ensure employees are being paid properly

If you’re looking to avoid underpayment, there are several things you should do.

  1. Regularly perform an award and agreement audit. Ensure that there haven’t been updates to agreements.
  2. Work out what you’ve agreed. If you now have other agreements in place, be very clear on what they are.
  3. Put it in writing. To avoid ambiguity, record everything.
  4.  Sign contracts. If you need to, encourage employees to sign a contract to formalise their arrangements.
  5. Set up payroll properly. Many businesses, especially small ones, fall down when it comes to execution. Get your payroll right.

Still have questions regarding awards and agreements?

It’s a complicated space. At Catalina Consultants, we’re human resources professionals and have a thorough understanding of this space. If you require any assistance regarding workplace agreements, payment rates or contracts, feel free to reach out to us today.

2020 has been a year like no other. It will be remembered for a pandemic, a recession, months and months of lockdowns, social distancing, face masks and hand sanitiser. It’ll also be known as the year many of us started working remotely and some of us barely entering the office at all.

It’s understandable in these conditions that some people are finding it hard to keep focused and are desperate for the year to be over. But in the workplace, you need to keep spirits up and productivity high. If you’re wondering how to keep your team motivated, here are some of my suggestions.

HR Tip 1: Lead by example

It’s not just employees who are flagging towards the end of 2020, it’s you, the business owners and managers. If you’re clocking off early or you’re visibly distracted, it’s going to filter down through all levels of teams. That means now, more than ever, is a time to lead by example. Make sure you’re putting in the effort if you expect team members to do the same.

HR Tip 2: Set achievable goals

If you’re setting goals for yourself, set them for teams as well. After all, most people work better when they have an objective they’re working towards.
Ask yourself, could these be team goals or individual goals? What’s realistic in the short term? Work with them to set out a timetable for achieving it and even consider implementing a reward system at the end (see HR Tip 5 below). That way you’ll have almost two months of productive work before the Christmas break.

HR Tip 3: Keep up the talk

For many organisations, there are plenty of teams working from home. And, this can bring different challenges when it comes to keeping the team together and working as one. At the start of the pandemic, the regular Skype or Zoom calls were a bit of a novelty. But as times passed, they’ve become more of a necessity.

If people are out of the office, be certain to keep up the communication. Don’t leave them alone, disconnected and unaware of what they need to be doing. Make sure everyone knows they’re still part of the team and that they’re responsible for helping you achieve goals and driving business forward.

HR Tip 4: Think individually as well as holistically

With so many people out of the office, it can be tempting to take a group video call each day and leave it at that. But people are complex, and everyone is coping with the current situation in their own way. It’s incredibly important to have team meetings, but one-to-ones can really make a difference.

In the run-up to the end of the year, be sure to have those individual chats. Use these meetings to make sure they’re okay, check-in with their mental health and give them the opportunity to speak up about how they’re feeling.

HR Tip 5: Celebrate the end of the year

It’s always worth celebrating wins and this year is no exception. If you’re planning a Christmas party or end of year celebration, just be sure to do it COVID safe. For example, a staff picnic or beach day might be a better alternative to an office party. If you’re unsure of the rules or need some inspiration, read our article around COVID-safe Christmas parties.

The end of the year isn’t far away

These are just some of the ways you can keep teams motivated in the run down to the end of the year. If you’d like to know more about keeping your employees energised and productive over the next few months, please reach out. One of the Catalina Consultants team members will be in touch.

It’s usually this time of year that HR professionals spend time preparing the protocols of the annual Christmas party. But it’s 2020 and coronavirus brings a whole new perception on what’s acceptable. If you’re planning to host a party for your organisation, read our guide on how to best prepare below.

Can you even have an office Christmas party in 2020?

As it currently stands, there are rules we have to follow. Yes, in theory, you can host an office party, but with restrictions.

In New South Wales, a four-square metre rule applies to indoor gatherings and a two square metre rule applies to external gatherings.  This means an indoor venue of 100 sq m can host 25 people and 50 if it’s outdoors. In Victoria, restrictions are tighter, with just 10 people allowed to gather outdoors right now in Metropolitan Melbourne. However, there’s a good chance this could change before Christmas comes around depending on the number of coronavirus cases. And, in other jurisdictions less affected by COVID-19 – such as Queensland and WA – there are fewer restrictions but there are still rules to keep in mind, such as Queensland’s two square metre rule for outdoor venues.

How to keep your end of year function COVID-19 safe

2020 has been a tough year for many of us, so it’s perfectly understandable the need to celebrate. Here are some things you can prepare from an HR perspective.

  1. Know where you stand with restrictions. I’ve already said this but can’t stress it enough. Falling foul of restrictions can lead to severe penalties. And, it’s not just the fine you need to worry about. As a business owner, you have a WHS obligation to keep all employees safe.
  2. Stay flexible. I know it’s a great feeling to get the Christmas part all booked, but things are a little different this year. With the COVID-19 situation (and restrictions) changing frequently, try and keep things flexible if you can.
  3. Keep it private. With restrictions in place, big gatherings are problematic. If your organisation is on the larger side, consider breaking up individual departments rather than having a party for the whole company.
  4. Make it outdoors. A significantly safer option.

What are some alternatives to an office Christmas party?

As you can see there’s plenty of rules to follow and restrictions in place. As a result, it might just be too hard to organise an office party. If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional Christmas party, why not consider some of these ideas?

What are my HR obligations with COVID-19?

It’s important to remember that COVID-19-related human resources obligations will continue to apply right through the Christmas period These include ensuring the wellbeing of employees, particularly their mental health as well as workplace safety. You should also be doing what you can to keep all employees positive, engaged and focused.

Still have Christmas celebration questions?

If you’re still unsure of what you can and can’t host in your workplace, or need clarification around COVID-19 rules and restrictions then reach out to the Catalina Consultants team today. We’d love to assist.

On 1 July 2020, the government announced changes to the paid parental leave scheme. But with an economic crisis looming and Victoria struggling, these changes have gone largely unnoticed and unreported. In this article, we look at what they are and how they affect both employees and businesses.

The new flexible parental leave scheme

Most employers are already familiar with the Government’s paid parental leave scheme. It provides new parents with a payment equal to the minimum wage on the birth/adoption of their child. However, on 1 July 2020, the scheme changed. Parents can now access two flexible periods of leave. The first, 12 weeks, which can be taken within the first year of birth/adoption. The second is 30 days, which can be taken at any time within the first two years.

Why is this so significant? Employers may need to be more flexible about their own parental leave policies. In fact, Fair Work is encouraging employers to be as flexible as possible when it comes to the entitlement, including allowing an employee to take their second period of leave while working part-time. For example, an employee who previously worked four days a week could return to work for two days a week for 15 weeks –equating to the second entitlement of 30 days at their normal rate of pay (or close to it).

Which employees are covered?

To qualify for the paid parental leave scheme, an employee must be the birth mother of a child, an adoptive parent of a child or another person caring under ‘exceptional circumstances’. An employee needs to have an adjusted taxable income of less than $150,000. Furthermore, they must work at least 330 hours over 10 of the 13 months preceding becoming a parent.

Interestingly, the father isn’t usually the person considered for the payment –  if the father earns more than $150,000 a family would be eligible but if the mother earns more than $150,000 they wouldn’t be.

What it means for you as an employer

As an employer, you’re responsible for administering payments on behalf of your employees, receiving the money to forward on. It’s important to note that the scheme is just a minimum. If employees are covered by an award/agreement that provides a higher parental leave entitlement, you need to pay this too. However, you can use the money paid to you under the scheme to partially fund that entitlement.

And, it’s also important to remember where an employee’s contractual or award entitlement falls short of the government’s scheme – whether that’s on the length of parental leave or the flexibility – it is the terms of the government’s scheme that prevails.

What about employees who don’t qualify for the scheme?

If an employee has a parental leave entitlement under an award, contract or agreement but doesn’t meet the income or work thresholds, you’ll have to meet costs out of your own pocket.

How does JobKeeper and COVID-19 impact the paid parental leave scheme?

If an employee is receiving JobKeeper, their payments count as work when it comes to paid parental leave eligibility. According to Services Australia, if a pregnant worker stops working due to COVID-19, they are still classified as working under the ‘dangerous job’ provisions. Keep in mind, an employee only needs to be working 10 of the past 13 months. They may still qualify for the payment even if they’ve been stood down or made redundant by your organisation.

Still have questions?

The new parental leave provisions are intended to bring in greater flexibility but they may also introduce greater confusion. If you need help understanding your obligations, get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team today.

As we watched fireworks bring in the new year, did we ever think this is how 2020 would play out? Now with just three months left before 2021 is here, what should your business be doing? And to make sense of the commercial reality we’re living through? We share with you five human resource-related things that every business owner should consider before 31 December comes around.

HR tip 1: Review your organisational structure

The pandemic is forcing many businesses to change how they operate from an HR perspective. So how’s your organisational structure looking? Roles have morphed into new ones, employees have taken on different tasks and some may be performing more work than ever before. All of this means that the next three months are a good time to think about your structure – how do you want this to look moving in 2021? What’s working? What’s not? And how can you make your organisational structure more efficient and effective?  In fact, with no clear end to this ‘coronarecession’ in sight, making this a priority is a business-critical way to look after your business. Need some assistance? Read more about keeping your employees in a downturn.

HR tip 2: JobKeeper 2.0 and JobMaker

The original JobKeeper scheme ran six months between March and September 2020. And, now it has been extended in the form of JobKeeper 2.0. Full-time workers receive a subsidy of $1,200 and part-time workers a subsidy of $750 a fortnight until the end of 2020. Subsequently, they’ll receive $1,000 and $650 moving into 2021. This compares to the flat $1,500 a fortnight subsidy under the original JobKeeper, which applied regardless of how frequently an employee worked.

Just like the old scheme, your ability to qualify generally depends on showing a revenue drop of 30 per cent. This will be based on your September GST reporting when compared to a similar period (i.e. the September quarter last year). If you received JobKeeper but now don’t qualify for JobKeeper 2.0, you may need to consider taking some HR measures. Will you need to stand staff down? Reduce hours or even make some redundancies? This is a bitter pill to swallow, and if you’re faced with these scenarios as your only option, then it’s imperative that you comply with the Fair Work Act. It’s also important to follow any awards and agreements. Still have questions regarding JobKeeper 2.0? Read more about it here.

In the recent Federal Budget the JobMaker scheme was introduced to increase the employment of people under the age of 35 as well as trainees & apprentices. Eligible employers will receive $200/week for each new hire aged between 16-29 years of age and $100/week for each new hire aged between 30-35 years of age. 12 months of credit is available for the above hires and will expire on 6 October 2021. The subsidy is capped at $10,400 per new hire.

Eligible employees are those that have been employed for at least 20 hours of paid work per week on average received either the JobSeeker payment, Parenting Payment or the Youth Allowance payment prior to being hired began employment between 7 October 2020 and 6 October 2021.

We suspect there will be some fine-print once these provisions are actually passed so reach out if we can assist in navigating this new subsidy.

HR tip 3: Work out your flexibility policies

COVID-19 encouraged businesses to allow more flexibility in the workplace. As things seem to be returning to normal, ask yourself if your organisation needs this flex to stay?

If you are going to let people continue to work remotely, what conditions will it be under? Do you need to rethink your HR policies? And, how will this all work? Will you expect them to come into the workplace on a regular basis – i.e. a day or two a week? Will you expect them to keep timesheets or to check-in via Skype at a regular time each day?

Just remember there are the positives and negatives for having people come into work, just as there are positives and negatives to staying at home. Getting your flexibility policy right will be one of the most vital things you can do as we move into 2021.

HR tip 4: Invest in your culture

Are your teams feeling burnt out? Tired? Disconnected? The 2020 pandemic has had an incredibly impactful effect on people, with thousands of Australian’s mental health tested. Can you be lifting the spirits of your team? Take a fresh look at your business culture and put in place some initiatives that will energise and inspire. Does this look like a celebration? A (socially distanced) team lunch? Even a small token or gift to show your appreciation? Think about what you can do to be inclusive and lift employee spirit. Show your people that you’re supporting them wherever you can.

HR tip 5: Think wellbeing

I believe mental health and wellbeing initiatives will be one of the biggest areas of interest for the HR community in 2021. You only have to look at the dramatic increase in psychological distress, anxiety and depression to understand the devastating effect COVID-19 has had on people’s mental health. Related to this, how do you manage performance in a pandemic-affected world? Business owners will need to find a balance, with empathy, compassion and understanding coming to the fore. And, if you’re worried you or your managers don’t have the skills to implement this, it might be the right time to invest in training.

Make sure you’re HR ready as we enter the next chapter

These are strange and uncertain times and 2020 has been a rough year for all. But, you’re now presented with an opportunity to prepare yourself, your business and your teams as we approach 2021. If you would like some assistance in putting in place some new custom HR policies or wish, need help with implementing some of these  to discuss the option of outsourcing your HR function, then speak to us today.


JobKeeper has ended and JobKeeper 2.0 has arrived. So do you qualify? How do you qualify? And, if not, what should businesses be doing now?

Why did the original scheme end?

When the government announced the original JobKeeper program earlier in the year it had no idea how long the pandemic would last. The hardest part? Just how economically devasting the pandemic has been. JobKeeper’s main goal was to support businesses and employees through the immediate effects of the pandemic, ensuring they could operate and unemployment numbers to be kept low.

In July 2020, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg made the announcement that JobKeeper was to be extended. The catch? A reduction in payments.

What are the new payments under JobKeeper 2.0?

Like the original JobKeeper, the new scheme provides a set payment for eligible workers. However, this has been reduced from the original payment of $1,500 a fortnight. There are also now different levels of payment depending on whether an employee in full-time or part-time, which we’ve outlined below:

The government introduced this distinction after being criticised for effectively giving many part-time workers a ‘pay-rise’. At the time, they offered a flat rate for all eligible workers regardless of the number of hours they worked.

Are you eligible for JobKeeper 2.0?

You’ll need to be able to prove that your actual GST turnover has fallen compared to a comparable period. This is usually September 2019. The basic test requires most businesses to show that GST has fallen 30 per cent. However, for some charities, that figure is only 15 per cent. For larger employers (ie those with a turnover greater than $1 billion) it’s 50 per cent.

There are also some alternative tests for some businesses – those that have had a substantial increase in turnover or irregular turnover, or those that have undergone a significant restructure. You can read about more about these on the ATO website.

Okay, you don’t qualify for JobKeeper 2.0. What’s next?

The reality is that many businesses who qualified for JobKeeper won’t qualify for JobKeeper 2.0. If that’s you, and business has suffered, you may have to face some tough decisions. This could include having to restructure, cutting costs or looking for new revenue streams. You may also find yourself in the position of having to carry out redundancies.

If you do have to take action such as this, it’s vital you do it the right way.  You don’t want to face the cost of legal action or penalties. It’s also important to keep in mind that many of the COVID-19-related changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 have now ended. This includes an end to the standing down provisions whereby you could request employees to work fewer days or hours. It also means many of the changes to awards to encourage greater flexibility have also finished – you may need to change the way you continue to engage workers.There are some legacy provisions for those businesses who originally qualified for JobKeeper 1.0 – if this is you, then get in touch for more information.

Still have questions?

At Catalina Consultants, we understand the trial and tribulations that this COVID-19 pandemic is causing. If you’re still struggling to understand the JobKeeper scheme, are unsure if you qualify or need some HR assistance building a post-pandemic road map then reach out to us today. We’d be more than happy to assist you.

COVID-19 means more people are choosing to work from home than ever before. In fact, for some, thanks to lockdown and government restrictions, there is no other option but to work from our place of residence.

But, even when we’re permitted to be out of the home and in the office, we need to take a blended approach to flexible working rather than making it an all-or-nothing thing style. Here’s why.

What are the rules around working from home?

Flexible working was once considered a perk in many organisations, then it became the law. The Fair Work Act 2009 gives employees the right to put in a request to their HR department or management. These situations might include caring for young children or people, an elderly relative or someone with a disability, those experiencing domestic violence or anyone over the age of 55.

Since COVID-19 has struck, the human resources landscape has flipped. Suddenly many employers had no other choice but to offer employees flexible working. In some circumstances, coming into the office wasn’t an option. Or, posed a work and safety health risk.

Many people have become accustomed to working from home. They don’t want to commute, get caught up in face-to-face workplace meetings or miss out on the opportunity to work in a way that’s more suitable for their lifestyle.

The business case for flexible working

The good news for employers? This shouldn’t be problematic. And, as someone that specialises in human resources, I can see a serious business case for flexible working. Allowing people to work from home can actually help attract and retain talent. Studies have shown it can also improve morale and job satisfaction, lifting productivity rather than hindering it.

Importantly, where there’s a strong culture of working from home it can encourage workplace diversity too. You’re more likely to see women in leadership roles and bridge the gender divide – so much so that Bain has called flexibility one of the enablers for gender parity.

The lessons of lockdown and beyond

We’ve seen the framework of remote working really define itself during COVID-19. Back in March, Zoom meetings were something of a novelty. (For many people, seeing the boss in their athletic gear for the first time was enough was a strange experience). Now it’s just a fact of life. Businesses are also now seeing increased productivity. Employees are getting the satisfaction of greater autonomy and work satisfaction. They’re also finding it easier to get do their work on their terms rather than when it’s demanded of them.

The downside of working from home

It’s clear that working from home can have drawbacks. In some cases, we’ve lost the social connection we have with our workplaces – something that can be good for the business as well as for our own own mental health. We’ve also lost the chance to form those mentoring and coaching relationships, which can impact growth and opportunity for employees

With a lack of visibility, employees are needed but have ‘gone missing’. And, for those of us who need structure, there can also be a struggle with focus and setting priorities. This can be compounded by the blurred boundaries of home life, where everyday life can begin to interfere with our work.

Finding the balance

It’s this next phase that counts for flexible working. The lessons of the past six months will come together and employers will need to define how their workplace will operate in the future. And it’s here, where it’s important to find balance.

After all, whilst working from home has brought about obvious benefits, it’s not ideal for everyone. Those with families, living in shared accommodation or even simply not having access to a home office may struggle. Therefore, avoid making working from home compulsory.

A better approach?  Offer the opportunity to work from home as part of a potential blended working week. It’s also important that you don’t just consider working from home in isolation. Staggered, reduced or compressed hours will still have their place and you can combine these to create a work situation that will benefit everyone. Be sure to continue with all the same tools you’ve built up over the last little while, especially the technology. Nothing is more important than communication.

What to think about when setting up your work-from-home workforce

When organising your work-from-home workforce, it’s important to address the downsides. How are you going to manage feelings of isolation, a lack of motivation or the difficulties prioritising?

And, structure and routine are still important. Without taking away the autonomy, it’s important to set expectations. Agree on a set time daily to check-in, have regular meetings and phone calls. And, whilst it might work for you as a business owner, be mindful that this might not be possible for all employees. For example, don’t set a daily 5:30 pm call if teams have a family and can’t speak.

Health and wellbeing matters as well. Encourage employees to leave home from time-to-time and get the exercise they need.

Go forth and be flexible

If your organisation is considering implementing flexible working long term, then speak with us today. The Catalina Consultants team would be more than happy to offer their assistance in setting up those systems and procedures on your behalf.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, for many businesses, it’s a new way of life. Temporary closures, changes to the way we work and social distancing are now the norm. In circumstances like this, it can be hard for business owners to remain positive. As someone that works in human resources, keeping team morale up and employee spirits high is something that matters to me. Here are seven things you can be doing to stay positive through this pandemic.

HR Tip 1: It’s time to let go

The reality is that a lot of what’s happening right now is outside of anyone’s control – we can’t control lockdowns, caseloads and the virus spreading (at a macro level – obviously, all businesses can try to do their part). So the first step in staying positive? Accepting this – we need to let go and realise that there’s nothing we can do beyond our immediate sphere of influence. Ensure this way of thinking flows through your organisation to each and every team member.

HR Tip 2: Only control what you can control

Instead of worrying about the big picture, you’re better off focusing on what can be controlled. What can you be doing within the workplace? Encourage mask-wearing? Ensure you’ve set up hygiene stations? Making sure employees are kept 1.5 metres away from each other? But also, you have the opportunity to control the atmosphere and culture of your workplace – keep things positive. If you’re constantly thinking of the ‘doom and gloom’, it’ll show and you’ll start to see a drop in morale.

HR Tip 3: When necessary, switch off

There’s no shortage of COVID-19 related news. Real-time blogs, constant media conferences and social media live streams mean we’re constantly bombarded by news about the virus. Yes, it’s important to keep up to date but if it’s all you and your teams are consuming all day, I can assure you, morale will drop. Encourage employees to listen to music and avoid the news – and, for you leaders, there’s nothing wrong with spending some time with your own thoughts. Clear your head.

HR Tip 4: Keep up the support

One of the best ways to stay positive is to think about how you can help others. In fact, studies show giving someone else the help can lead to confidence, control, positivity and optimism. The pandemic has hit everyone differently, so think about those around you who could do with your support. A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

HR Tip 5: Ensure everyone is still connecting

One of the most obvious ways the pandemic has hit us is our social relationships. There’s no – or very little – of face-to-face time right now. Social interaction in the workplace is important – it fosters friendship, boosts happiness and builds a sense of teamwork. If your employees are working from home, ensure you schedule regular Zoom meetings or encourage team members to stay in touch. Just knowing you’re not alone can go a long way to boosting your positivity.

HR Tip 6: There’s nothing wrong with a little break

For many business owners, their work becomes an extension of themselves – completely understandable when building and running a business can take so much time and effort. But, it’s important to be able to have a break. When you’re not at work, put energy into something that doesn’t involve the office at all – go for a run or cycle or consider trying a new hobby like painting or gardening. And, this is something that you should be encouraging employees to be doing as well. Having a focus outside of work can go a long way to staying positive.

HR Tip 7: Focus on the little things

Celebrate the small victories you’re having right now – the new client (or even the client who renews), the positive feedback for a job well done, the employee who goes the extra mile. These are the glimmers of hope that will keep you and your teams going through this strange period.

Need some more ideas to keep up the morale?

At Catalina Consultants, we understand the importance of keeping teams happy. If you’re a business owner that requires support with implementing some morale-boosting initiatives, then we’d love to help. Speak with our team today.

As an employer, there’s a lot you can do to support your employees’ mental health. From an HR perspective, you have a responsibility to take care of your employees, particularly around their mental health. In this article, we look at the simple steps you should be taking and explore why it’s crucial right now – both for your employees and your bottom line.

Why does workplace mental health matter so much?

Good mental health is the glue that binds a workplace together. Employees with good mental health are happier, more productive and more likely to stay in roles. A PwC study found that for every dollar an employer puts into ensuring good mental health, they get back an average return of 230%.

However, there are some employees who feel that their employers can be doing more when it comes to mental health. While 90 per cent agree that good mental health is important for a properly-functioning business, just half believe their workplace is mentally healthy. Seventy-five per cent admit that mental health will impact whether or not they take a job. Perhaps, and most importantly, it’s the second-most decisive factor in determining whether to leave employment and take a job elsewhere. What’s the first? Pay, of course.

What contributes to poor mental health in the workplace?

Many factors can contribute to poor workplace mental health. But the reality is, more often than not, it comes from the top. Poor management practices, lack of communication, creating unnecessary stress and providing a lack of support are all critical contributors to a mentally unhealthy workplace. While every workplace culture is different, it’s incumbent on employers and their HR department to provide staff the support they need and to create the right environment. We’ll show you how to do this in six steps.

HR Tip 1: Work out your mental health priorities

Headsup.com.au recommends once leadership commits to managing mental health in the workplace, begin by identifying all mental health needs. You can do this by meeting with employees both individually and in a group setting. Surveys and informal conversations have their place too. You should also look at all the HR data you have available, such as absentee rates and workers compensation and harassment claims statistics to analyse where any problems lie.

HR Tip 2: Have a written plan in place

In anything HR-related, you should always have the right strategies, policies and procedures in place. While WHS and employment laws cover such things as workplace bullying and harassment, these really should be seen as the base level for how you operate. Complement these with a written mental health plan – one that expresses your priorities, defines what you want to achieve and outlines your focus and attention. Be sure to include what’s acceptable in the workplace and what’s not. The more detail you can add here, the better.

HR Tip 3: Get buy-in from across the organisation

Leadership is the key to promoting mental health in the workplace. Make sure senior staff members are on board as well as the rest of your team. Let people know what you’re trying to achieve and why it matters so much. And, it’s worth training departments in what to look for when it comes to recognising the signs of anxiety, depression and poor mental health in others.

HR Tip 4: Give people the power to speak up

Often people feeling stress or suffering anxiety don’t feel empowered to raise the matter, with stigma often playing a part. It can also be stress caused by managers and colleagues, or a feeling of being unsupported. Keep an open-door policy and encourage teams to raise issues when they see or experience them. Here, an anonymous hotline can give people the courage they need to come forward.

HR Tip 5: Be realistic about work levels

One of the leading causes of a mentally unhealthy workplace is employer expectations. There are some people in leadership positions that expect employees to overwork, leading to burnout. Others often ‘throw them to the wolves’, naturally siding with clients whenever there are issues. Make sure expectations are in line with what employees can realistically achieve. If you expect them to have skills they don’t, train them. If you expect them to bill more, cut their other job requirements so they can focus. And, always approach any conflict with an open mind. You know the customer isn’t always right.

HR Tip 6: Communicate, communicate and communicate again

The best businesses always have one thing in common: open communication. And, there’s never been a more critical time to have open communication than right now. COVID-19 has introduced a whole new level of stress – with reduced turnovers, job losses and redundancies becoming normal. Let employees know how you’re going and what lies ahead. And, if people are working from home, check in on them regularly to find out how they’re going. There’s no excuse for leaving people out of the picture just because they’re out of the office. By keeping up the conversation, you’ll be ensuring that workplace stress doesn’t impact your organisation.

Keep on top of mental health

It’s never been so important. If you require assistance in setting up an HR strategy around mental health or wish to speak with a human resources expert, then reach out to the Catalina Consultants team. We’d love to help.

The High Court of Australia recently overturned a contentious ruling that effectively awarded part-time employees more personal/carer’s leave. Now, it’s hours that count, not days when it comes to working out an employee’s leave entitlement. Here’s our outline and how this will impact employers and employees moving forward.

What brought about the decision?

On 13th August 2020, the High Court of Australia handed down a decision in Mondelez Australia Pty Ltd v AMWU & Ors [2020] HCA 29. The case was regarding accruing and taking paid personal and carer’s leave under the National Employment Standards.

To give an overview, it’s important to understand the Fair Work Act 2009. According to section 96(1), “an employee is entitled to 10 days of paid personal/carer’s leave”. Section 96(2) says entitlement to this leave “accrues progressively during a year of service according to the employee’s ordinary hours of work, and accumulates from year to year”. Under section 99, an employee’s “ordinary hours of work” calculates their paid leave.

What happened in the case?

In the Mondelez case, two employees worked 36 hours a week, in 12-hour shifts spread over three days. As a result, Mondelez credited both employees with 96 hours of paid/carer’s leave per year. When these two employees chose to take paid personal/carer’s leave for a shift, Mondelez deducted 12-hours from their accrued leave balance. And, over the course of one year, both employees accrued leave equivalent to cover eight 12-hour shifts.  However, these employees argued their entitlement of 10 days and not 8.

Initially, majority of the Full Federal Court accepted the argument. Their position? That a “day” in section 96 refers to “the portion of a 24 hour period that would otherwise be allotted to work”. However, the High Court disagreed. They rejected the “working day” construction. Their position? A “day” or “10 days” is calculated by referencing the employee’s ordinary hours of work. “10 days” in section 96 is two standard five-day working weeks. One “day” refers to a “notional day” consisting of one-tenth of the equivalent of an employee’s ordinary hours of work in a two-week period. However, not all employment structures follow two-week cycles. Thus, the paid personal/carer’s leave entitlement of “10 days” can be calculated as 1/26 of an employee’s ordinary hours of work in a year.

For further information regarding the case itself, you can read the High Court’s full decision.

What do these changes mean for you now?

The High Court of Australia has announced the following:

So in effect we are back to the old way of calculating personal leave – if someone works 4 hours a day, they accrue personal leave at the rate equivalent to 4 hours a day. If someone works 2 days a week, they accrue leave at the rate equivalent to 2 days a week.

Implementing leave changes

Do you have any questions regarding these leave updates for part-timers and shift workers? Perhaps you need an HR communication plan to announce these changes in your workplace? Please reach out to the Catalina Consultants team. We’d love to help.

As someone that manages a large human resources team, I understand the importance of strong leadership. And, an even greater leader comes to the fore in uncertain times. They reassure, motivate and inspire during tough situations, providing the right amount of support and ongoing guidance. Working in HR has made me realise how much COVID-19 has tested many businesses, managers and leaders. If you head up team, what are you doing right now to instil leadership? I’ve put together a guide of six things great leaders do and how you can apply it to day-to-day business during these precarious times.

HR Tip 1: Acknowledge reality

As we’ve seen during the COVID crisis, the best leaders have been the ones who admit what’s happening and acknowledge the scale of the challenge they face. They don’t engage in obfuscation, lying or magical thinking. And, leaving people in the dark means, people can’t see what’s coming until it’s too late.

What does this mean for you?

Admit that COVID-19 is impacting your business. If you’re suffering or finding the situation challenging, ensure your employees are up-to-date with the situation. They won’t just thank you for it; they may also have insightful views on how to help.

HR Tip 2: Be decisive but not divisive

In a crisis, doing nothing is simply not an option. You need to act, and you need to act fast. The best leaders do this while taking their team along with them. Bad leaders blame others, foster division and make decisions without consulting.

What does this mean for you?

As a leader, be prepared to make hard decisions and be prepared to explain why you need to make them. Don’t look for scapegoats; your suffering is no one’s fault. Be compassionate and remember that COVID-19 was beyond the control of anyone in your business.

HR Tip 3: Get expert advice

It’s impossible to know everything and have the right answers. That’s why great leaders are also great listeners and open to asking questions. That doesn’t mean they’re avoiding responsibility – in fact, this is far from it. A leader that takes time to get the right answers from experts around them is smart decision making.

What does this mean for you?

Make sure you’re not alone in this – tap into the expertise of your leadership team. Just understand that each team member will be coming at the issue from different perspectives.

HR Tip 4: Lay a clear roadmap

In a crisis, the best leader is one that prepares a plan and is comfortable enough to share it with their team. They’ve explained their reasoning, told everyone what they’re collectively trying to achieve and then provides concrete steps for when action will be taken. The worst leaders have are the ones who muddle along without a vision, assuring people it will be ‘okay’ and changing their opinion on a whim.

What does this mean for you?

Let everyone know exactly where you’re heading, what’s changed and what will happen next. When people know where they stand, they’re likely to be less anxious and more productive. And, they’ll have goals to work towards as part of a broader team.

HR Tip 5: Acknowledge mistakes or a change of plan

That said, uncertain times are, well, uncertain. New information comes to hand regularly that can change our view and make us reconsider what we’re doing. For example, restrictions are changing on a weekly basis and vary from state to state. When this happens, those great leaders acknowledge what’s changed and explain why a different approach is needed.

What does this mean for you?

We all make bad calls, especially when we don’t have all the information at hand. If you recognise you’ve made a mistake admit, explain and move on.

HR Tip 6: Keep up the communication

Finally, the best leaders choose to keep lines of communication open. They provide regular updates, check-in regularly with their teams and ensure that all are aware of their future plans. They don’t go missing and leave employees in the dark – even when things get really bad.

What does this mean for you?

Keeping up the conversation and continuing an open door policy builds trust and rapport between a leader and their team. In a crisis, there’s no such thing as overcommunicating.

Are you a leader, ready to take charge?

Have any questions about leading teams through a crisis or need assistance with putting together a communication strategy for your organisation? We’d love to help. Feel free to reach out to the Catalina Consultant team today.

Employee sentiment analysis is one of the hottest things in human resources right now. But what exactly is the point of it? How do you do it effectively? And how can it improve your organisation?

What is employee sentiment and why analyse it?

Employee sentiment analysis involves taking a snapshot of what your employees think and feel about your workplace at a point in time. Its purpose is to show you how your staff perceive your business and their place in it, what they believe you do well and not so well, where they see the company (and themselves) headed and what makes them tick.

This information can give you valuable insights into your workplace culture and highlight any strengths or weaknesses you might have. It can also serve as an action plan for what you need to work on to create a real culture of high performance.

How do you measure employee sentiment?

The truth is, a lot of businesses have been doing some form of employee sentiment analysis for a while. We’ve all filled out one of those employee surveys – the ones that ask us to rate specific statements on a scale of 0-to-10 depending on how much we think it applies to us. That’s a basic form of employee sentiment analysis. So is analysing the HR and payroll data, such as leave sheets, absenteeism, worker’s compensation claims and other information that tells you what employees are experiencing.

These days, however, employee sentiment analysis has moved well beyond pen and paper and into the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. There is software that will automatically analyse reams of data that your organisation stores in an attempt to get an accurate picture of where things are at. This can include quantitative and qualitative information, such as performance reviews, onboarding and exit interviews, performance feedback and, well, any other information that you choose to use.

Tips for carrying out your employee sentiment analysis

If you want to gauge employee sentiment in your workplace here are some things you should always keep in mind.

1. Keep it relevant

If you’re doing manual employee sentiment analysis through surveys, make sure they’re relevant to what people do. A lot of businesses opt for off-the-shelf questionnaires that ask generic questions. Most employees will see through or switch off from this type of polling and treat it as a box-ticking exercise. Give your questions some proper thought and connect them to the reality of your employees’ day-to-day work.

2. Keep it short

As a general rule, the longer something is, the harder it is to keep someone’s attention. If you go in with 100 different questions, people are likely to give up pretty quickly. That means your data will be incomplete or inaccurate.  If you find you’re asking too much, whittle your survey down to no more than about 10 questions. Allow employees to elaborate if they feel the need.

3. Keep it confidential

Nothing will turn people off answering questions truthfully than having their information shared with others. Always guarantee confidentiality over any survey and ensure privacy and anonymity.

4. Keep it up

While a single burst employee sentiment analysis can be great for giving you a snapshot of where your business is at, what’s even better is when you do it frequently so that you compare changes in sentiment. Think of how economists use consumer sentiment to gauge the likely direction of the economy.

Regular analysis can help you identify issues – such as potential staff departures or declining morale –  before they start to hit your bottom line. It can also give you the information you need to keep refining your policies and practices so that you build a high performing team.

Want more HR advice?

If you need help analysing employee sentiment in your workplace, get in touch.

I speak from experience when I say that HR, as a profession can be a challenge. Some are just minor difficulties but others can be far more serious, often keeping us awake at night. Let me reveal some of these HR pain points.

Staying on top of HR laws

The world of human resources can be a legislative minefield. From the Fair Work Act, National Employment Standards, WHS laws right through to anti-bullying legislation and anti-discrimination legislation. There are laws regulating every part of the employment relationship.

Then, of course, there’s the way in which these laws and regulations need to be interpreted – they can change regularly, thanks to the court and tribunal decisions. And, if that’s not enough, we have to keep on top of the many Awards and Agreements that apply to different sectors, industries and workplaces.

Even though we’re not lawyers, our knowledge around this HR-related legislation needs to be up-to-date – a challenge we’re faced with daily. We have to be able to recognise the red flags and steer our clients in the right direction, even if we stop short of giving legal advice.

People management issues

When it comes to working in human resources, there are plenty of ‘grey’ areas due to the fact we work with people. And, people management isn’t straightforward.

Although our loyalty lies with the employer, we need to make sure they’re being fair (often, open to debate) and that issues raised in the workplace are actually serious ones, worthy of performance management.

In my career, I’ve been witness to a range of people-related issues. And, in some cases, it can be management itself that’s the problem, not the employee. When that happens, convincing a manager to see a different perspective can take real skill.

Getting recruitment wrong

It costs a lot of money to hire an employee and it costs even more to replace the wrong one. There are some scenarios where the wrong person is hired for the role or the employee is simply not the right fit for an organisation.

That’s why we have to be as thorough as possible before making an offer. As part of our recruitment process, we choose to go through multiple interviews, psychometric testing and we carry out a proper reference check. And, after we’ve hired, we also make sure we have the right protection through proper onboarding and a watertight probation period.

Find out more about how to hire the right way in our ultimate guide to hiring employees.

Employees becoming disengaged

Productive employees are key to business success – keeping these employees productive can be a challenge. However, even the best workers can become disengaged given the right (or wrong) circumstances.

To counter this, we recommend having an effective key talent program that gives employees a career path, keeps them motivated, engaged and keeps them striving. I also believe in strong leadership, mentoring and role-modelling to show employees how to harness their potential.

Bad managers present a HR challenge

Poor leadership always leads to poor performance – bad managers can get employees offside, make inefficient decisions and bring down morale. But even underperforming managers can learn new skills – investing in coaching, training and mentoring will assist them in improving their job. And, when they do, the business will improve.

A lurking harassment or bullying case

An HR professional – even the best HR professionals – can only see so much in a workplace. And, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. Lurking underneath the facade of a happy workplace could be a bullying or harassment claim waiting to happen.

A workplace sets its culture from the top and employees model their behaviour and expectations from their superiors. So it’s always important to stamp out bad behaviour from the top down. Again, here’s where training and clear communication comes into it. It’s also why you need clear policy and that you empower people to speak up.

Are you facing a HR challenge right now?

At Catalina Consultants we’re experts when it comes to tackling challenges like these. If you’re facing some of these challenges in your workplace or have any questions, then please reach out to us. We specialise in putting together custom HR strategies that can tackle issues like this and would love to assist.

Do you know where you stand with your employees and their working status? The Workpac appeal decision means employers need to tread carefully when looking at the distinction between casual and permanent employees. Since Workpac v Rossato, employers who get that distinction wrong can face hefty liabilities.

What happened?

Last year the Australian Federal Court ruled a regularly working casual employee in mining recruitment to be a permanent employee. As such, they received permanent employee benefits, including annual and long-service leave. This decision was handed down in Workpac v Skeene

Another purported casual employee, Mr Rossato attempted to claim the exact same status and benefits. As a result, the employer decided to bring the case before the Federal Court. The bench found Mr Rossato to be a permanent employee, not a casual. Why? He worked regular hours in a similar pattern to Workpac’s other fulltime employees.  He had been doing this for over three years. Along with this, Workpac provided Mr Rossato accommodation on-site and a roster seven months in advance.

It was clear that Mr Rossato’s employment was both stable and regular in nature.

Workpac’s HR dilemma 1: What about Mr Rossato’s casual loading?

Workpac’s argument suggests that if Mr Rossato is a permanent employee, then he isn’t entitled to the 25 per cent loading applied to his pay. However, the full bench rejected this argument. Instead, the court discovered his pay was on a flat hourly rate. This amount was simply the market rate – Workpac wanted to attract and retain the right staff. Despite their attempted argument, any casual loading couldn’t be separated from the payment as a whole. And, the court found that Mr Rossato supported this employment contract – it didn’t include an identifiable casual loading rate. It also didn’t allow for this loading to be clawed back if he was deemed to be a permanent employee.

Workpac’s HR dilemma 2: What about Mr Rossato’s hourly rate and entitlements?

Workpac also argues that, based on its belief that Mr Rossato was a casual employee, the organisation had paid him an hourly rate above the Enterprise Agreement. Workpac claimed their entitlement was to offset the above-agreement amount against any entitlements owed to Mr Rossato.  The court rejected this submission too – finding that the above-agreement payment and Mr Rossato’s denial of leave didn’t correlate. The court also noted employees aren’t entitled to cash out leave for extra pay except in limited circumstances.

What do these findings mean for you as an employer?

The most recent Workpac decision highlights the importance of ensuring your employee’s working status is correct. If not handled correctly, you may find yourself facing significant claims and potential bad publicity for underpayment.

Want to make sure you’re doing everything correctly? Start with your employment contract and get proper legal advice. Write clear clauses specifying the nature of the engagement and allocating an amount of the employee’s pay to casual loading. Make sure you treat casuals as casuals and not as permanent staff. This means they shouldn’t have fixed rosters or know their hours well in advance. If you’re in doubt, you may be able to switch them to part-time permanent employment or fixed-term employees.

That said, the Commonwealth government is actively reviewing this space and has indicated that there may be changes to the law. Workpac has also said it will appeal the decision.

Unsure of your employee’s entitlements or have any HR questions?

At Catalina Consultants, we’re the HR experts when it comes to employment status, contracts and entitlements. If you have any questions, then feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to help.

At the end of each FY, I recommend business owners and managers review their HR practices and requirements. Also, to look ahead to the next 12 months. And this practice has never been more important than right now. For many businesses, FY2021 is shaping up to be a very different kind of year to any we’ve experienced, and that will have profound implications on your HR strategy. 

With that in mind, here are six things you need to know in human resources for the 2021 financial year.

HR Tip 1. Assess your situation 

Before you can properly plan for HR, you need to know what you’re planning for. What will business look like in the short-to-medium term and what human resources will you need to make it happen? 

Now I know that sounds like a difficult thing to predict right now, but it’s also an important thing. You need to remain realistic. If your business has halved, you won’t be able to afford to run it the way you have in the past. If you’re one of the lucky ones who have a growing business right now, you also need to plan for that.

HR Tip 2. Make a post-JobKeeper plan

A lot of businesses are currently relying on the Federal Government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy to keep their employees ‘on the books’. In some cases, it’s JobKeeper that’s keeping their whole operation afloat during one of the worst economic conditions we’ve experienced in our lifetime.

But JobKeeper was only ever meant to be a temporary solution. At the end of September, it’s scheduled to run out. And whilst the government has been hinting that it may continue financial support beyond that date — at least for some industries — nothing is set in stone. So, if your business is currently relying on JobKeeper, make sure you have a plan in place for when it ceases.   

HR Tip 3. Take redundancies into consideration 

If you won’t be able to keep on all your employees, the reality is that you may need to start thinking of what action to take. For some, that could mean reducing hours or changing the makeup of your workforce, for others it could also mean redundancies.

If you do have to make some employee’s roles redundant, it’s important that you do it correctly. Take the time to properly assess the needs of your business, as well as who can perform them. You also need to consider whether you can accommodate employees in other roles.

Furthermore, it’s vital that you pay staff their correct entitlements, including any redundancy payment under their employment contract, Award or agreement (or if they don’t have one, under the National Employment Standards). Getting this wrong can lead to expensive claims — something that could be disastrous for business.

HR Tip 4. How will your workplace function in FY2021?

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic was bad news for many businesses, one positive that seemed to come out of it for many, was that it changed the way people worked. This especially rings true when it comes to working from home

Many people I spoke to were surprised by how productive and engaged their teams were when they weren’t in the office — and many have vowed to allow greater flexibility as things get back to normal.

Now is the time to work out what your workplace will look like over the coming financial year. If you decide employees should be granted permission to work from home more frequently, make sure you have the HR procedures in place so that it happens correctly. 

And, if you don’t want people working from home — that’s completely fine too. 

HR Tip 5.  Stay atop of legislative changes 

The 2021 financial year is bringing with it several important legislative changes. It’s important that you are across these to avoid any hidden surprises later in the year. 

Key legislative changes include adjustments to the maximum superannuation guarantee contribution (SGC) which now tops out at $21,694 a year (or a salary of $228,360). At the other end of the salary scale, the minimum wage will go up to $19.84 an hour. 

There are also changes to the tax-free redundancy threshold and the Paid Parental Leave scheme. You can read about the legislative changes you need to be across here

HR Tip 6. Communication is key

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do when it comes to HR is to communicate. And this need to communicate goes up ten-fold in uncertain times.

So if you’re not regularly speaking with your employees, discussing where each other stands and communicating actions, FY2021 is the time to start.

And, if you need help with how to do that in a COVID-disrupted economy, here’s where to start.  

Want more expert HR planning advice? 

FY2021 is going to be a year like no other. But with the right planning, you can help stay on top of HR issues. If you’re ready to rethink or restructure your human resources, or need help with your HR planning for FY2021, get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team today. 

FY21 is almost here and, as always, it’s bringing a range of human resources related changes. From updates to awards, superannuation and increases in minimum wage and paid parental leave, we explore what you need to know. Including, what your business should be doing to prepare to be HR ready for the next financial year.

1. FY21 minimum wage increase

The Fair Work Commission has announced a 1.75% increase to minimum wages. This will apply to all award wages. Increases to awards will start on three different dates for different groups of awards:

For anyone not covered by an award or an agreement, the new national minimum wage (NMW) will be $753.80 per week or $19.84 per hour. The increase to the NMW applies from the first full pay period starting on or after 1 July 2020.

What you need to do: Implementing the national minimum wage to all employees, even if the employee isn’t covered by an Award or industrial instrument. And from there, check out the Fair Work Commission website to work out if your business is affected now, in November, or not until February 2021. If you’re having trouble navigating these changes, get in touch.

Red flag: Do you have any interns or commission-based employees receiving less than the minimum wage? If so, call us to discuss your options.

2. The maximum Superannuation Guarantee contribution to rise in FY21

The maximum SG contribution base will increase to $57090 a quarter, up from $55270 a quarter. This is a salary of $228,360 a year.

What to do: If you have any employees receiving an annual base salary of more than $228,360, you’re limiting yourself to making a maximum SG Contribution on their behalf of $21,694.20 a year.

Red flag: If you offer ‘base plus super’ watch that you don’t inadvertently pay your employees over the maximum threshold unintentionally.

3. Concessional superannuation contribution caps to remain

Any of your employees can make a concessional (before-tax) super contribution of up to $25,000 each financial year. Typically, people do this by electing to salary sacrifice a regular or lump sum amount into their nominated superfund. Any SG contribution you make on their behalf will count towards this threshold.

The detail to remember: If someone doesn’t use their annual concessional contributions cap of $25,000, they can carry forward the unused portion for up to five years, provided their total super balance is less than $500,000.

4. Another increase to the unfair dismissal threshold

The high-income threshold for unfair dismissal will increase from 1 July 2020from $148,700 to $153,600 (excluding super). The threshold effectively limits an employee’s eligibility to be protected from unfair dismissal under the terms of the Fair Work Act. Be careful as an employee can be under a modern award that negates this threshold’s impact. The high-income threshold is also used to estimate the maximum amount someone can potentially receive under a successful unfair dismissal claim.

What you need to do: Update your documentation to note that an employee earning over the high-income threshold can’t usually bring an unfair dismissal application to the Fair Work Commission. Exceptions include incidents such as being covered by an Award or EA that entitles them to access the FWC’s unfair dismissal jurisdiction.

5. Tax-free threshold for redundancy to rise

Any redundancy payment you make to an employee has a tax-free component. The amount of this component rises in line with how many years of service an employee has provided. For FY20, the tax-free thresholds will be:

6. JobKeeper payments to continue to 27 September

For those businesses who are eligible for the JobKeeper wage subsidy, these reimbursements will at this stage continue through to 27 September. Whilst there has been speculation that the system may finish early or in fact continue, at this point it is still intact.

One point to watch and prepare for: August 2020 is a three-fortnight month so the per-employee subsidy will be $4500 for August unless you pay monthly and have already adjusted the fortnightly amount to match your monthly payroll.

7. Changes to the Paid Parental Leave scheme from 1 July (FY21)

Currently, employees can get Parental Leave Pay for a continuous block of up to 18 weeks. This equates to 90 payable days.
From 1 July 2020 this entitlement changes somewhat in terms of how the leave may be taken. If the child’s birth or adoption is on or after 1 July 2020, your employee may still get up to 90 days. However, their payment will include both:

Employees still may wish to receive Parental Leave Pay in a single continuous 18 week block and to action this, the 12 week Paid Parental Leave period will simply connect to their 30 Flexible Paid Parental Leave days.

What to do now: not a lot – the responsibility for making this choice lies in the hands of the employee, however you may need to consider how your business accommodates the 30 flexible days over 24 months in terms of workload and resourcing.

8. Changes to Awards in 2020

The Fair Work Commission (the Commission) has been reviewing all modern awards  since 2014, as part of its 4-yearly review of modern awards. During this process, they’ve clarified how some award clauses work and changed other clauses. Then in September 2019, the Commission confirmed their final review and new awards take effect at different stages in 2020.

For most awards, the biggest change is layout, language and inclusion of rates tables, which help with the right pay. Other aspects such as inserting a number of awards, clarified the annualised salary provisions. The easiest way to tell if your award has changed is whether the “(2010)” has transitioned to “(2020)” – eg Retail Award (2010) is now Retail Award (2020).

Reach out if you are wanting advice on any of the Award changes relevant to your business.

Are you FY21 ready?

The last six months have presented business owners with change and uncertainty in relation to HR legislation. As FY21 begins, there’s plenty more HR related changes that businesses need to be on top of. If you have any questions regarding the changes or are keen to find out how they may affect you or your business, then speak with one of the Catalina Consultant team members today.

With restrictions being lifted across Australia, many employers are choosing to return to the office. But, from an HR perspective, policies and procedures need to be put into place. Here’s what every employer needs to know and do about helping their teams return safely, and creating a COVIDSafe plan.

The economic effects of COVID-19 put many businesses to shut their physical workplaces and send employees home to work. But now, as Australia’s economy slowly reopens, so too will our office doors. Although we’ve done an excellent job of containing the virus to date, the threat of an outbreak looms as we attempt to find that feeling of normalcy. And, nowhere is that more true than in our workplaces. As an employer and to meet your human resources obligations, the Government has requested all businesses develop a COVIDSafe plan to ensure employees, customers, clients and contractors are safe, secure and looked after when they head back to work.

What do you have to do to meet these standards of safety? Well, here are some of my HR tips to perfecting your COVIDSafe plan.

What do you need to include in your COVIDSafe plan?

Your COVIDSafe plan should set out the measures you’re taking to keep your employees and customers or clients safe. This should cover three things:

> How you intend to keep employees and the public safe on the return to work
> What you’ll adapt your business now and in the future
> How you intend to access assistance package.

You’ll need to update your plan during each step of the return to full economic capacity.

HR Tip 1: Safety is your duty of care

SafeWork Australia’s guidance says that before you get into formulating your plan you must follow workplace health and safety (WHS) laws and observe your general duty to keep people safe in your workplace – this is also an HR obligation that all employers must follow. When it comes to human resources, I can’t stress this enough. Where reasonably practicable, you must eliminate the risk that people will be exposed to COVID-19. The government suggests that you can do this by implementing work from home arrangements, requiring physical distancing, ensuring good hygiene and regularly cleaning the workplace.

You also have a duty to other people in the workplace and must require any customers, clients or contractors to engage in physical distancing. The government recommends you should use contactless deliveries and payments where you can. You also have a duty to maintain the workplace, including keeping washrooms clean and making sure there’s an adequate supply of soap or hand sanitiser. But your duties under WHS law don’t start and end there. SafeWork Australia points out you have a duty to communicate with workers so that they understand how to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. This might include, for instance:

Guidance on how to wash hand properly
> Training on how to fit and use personal protective equipment (PPE)
> Training on how to clean properly
> Guidance on setting up a safe home work station.

HR Tip 2: Carry out those risk assessments

When you complete your COVIDsafe plan you must give effect to these duties by first carrying out a risk assessment. You must also consult with workers to get their input on what should be done. After all, SafeWork Australia says that it’s your employees who’ll know where risks lie and often have the best ideas on how to overcome them.

HR Tip 3: Keep the workplace safe

SafeWork Australia has also come up with two checklists you should complete to make sure you’re cleaning the workplace properly and maintaining good hygiene. Another takes you through how to maintain physical distancing in the workplace. As part of your COVIDSafe plan, you should also print signs and posters on good hygiene and handwashing practices and talk to your workers about these new expectations. There are posters on physical distancing that you should also display. You’ll find links to all the signs and checklists you need in the online version of the COVIDSafe plan.

On top of this, your COVIDSafe plan should include any directions specific to your industry. You can read about those directions here. It should also highlight what you should do in the case of a workplace infection, including what action you plan to take and how you’ll communicate with staff and meet your privacy obligations.

HR Tip 4: Return and adapt

Under your COVIDSafe plan, you’re also required to show how you’ll get your business up and running again, as well as how you’ll adapt to the current situation. As part of this, you need to review whether physical and social distancing will change the way you do business. Also, it’s worth considering if it’ll change the way your employees interact with customers and each other – will any employee’s safety be compromised? SafeWork Australia suggests you may need to tap into the expertise of others such as your accountant, industry association and local government. It also suggests speaking with businesses similar to yours to find out what they’re doing and whether you can implement similar processes.

HR Tip 5: Access support and assistance

Safe Work Australia recommends that you look into what government support and assistance is available. For instance, if you qualify for the JobKeeper subsidy,  this could help you meet your wage bill – at least until September – and keep your teams employed. Meanwhile, the cashflow boost could help your business meet its tax obligations more easily. Finally, SafeWork Australia recommends consulting the FairWork Ombudsman website to find out further information on supporting your employees, including workplace entitlements. You can also read more about your obligations to employees here.

In times like this, ensure safety first

If you’d like some assistance in setting up a COVIDSafe plan for your workplace, then speak with one of our dedicated HR consultants at Catalina today. We can assist in putting together an appropriate strategy for you and your business.

Managing the performance of employees working from home is something many managers may find challenging. When your team members are out of sight, there can be a temptation to also leave them out of mind. But with COVID-19 shutting down workplaces and disrupting businesses, working remotely has gone from a convenience to a necessity for many organisations. And now that many Australians have got a taste for it, working from home looks like it could become a long-lasting fixture for some. 

It’s always important to be across your teams and to understand how people are motivated in their roles. Everyone approaches their work differently. So, with this in mind, we thought it was time to put together our HR guide on how to manage remote employees so that they stay high performers. 

The scale of the problem

Studies have shown that about forty per cent of all jobs in a modern economy can plausibly be done from home. During the height of Australia’s COVID-19 closedown, that figure was well and truly pushed to the limit. Now, with people returning to work and many businesses scaling up again, many people have gained a taste for it. Perhaps more importantly, the government is encouraging people to work from home and discouraging public transport use during peak hour. So it seems that working from home may be the reality for many workers for the foreseeable future.  

Working from home presents a real challenge for some employers, especially when it comes to getting the best performance from their team. After all, the reaction of many employers is to counter poor remote working performance by simply asking the employee to return to the office. Now, that situation is not as simple as it seems. 

It’s time to come up with a better solution.

HR Tip 1: Harness the power of structure

One thing missing from many people’s day to day when working from home is structure. That’s understandable but the reality is that many people need it. In my opinion, good managers need to build structure into their team’s day, even when they’re working from home.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they expect their employees to sit at their desk for nine hours straight. But, it does mean having regular team meetings (preferably on Zoom to encourage employees to get out of their pyjamas). It also means having frequent phone calls with each member of staff, where possible. As a general rule, talk more often, not less. You can check in on the tasks that people are performing and make sure that productivity stays high. It also gives people the chance to ask any questions they need answered, to get on with the job.

You should aim to have regular one on one meetings with each employee to talk about what they’re working on, communicate your expectations and address any concerns that they might be having. 

HR Tip 2: Keep your door open (or your phone on, at least)    

When working from home, communication should be a two-way street. You should be available to your team, just as you expect them to be available to you. So encourage your team to call you when they have an issue or to contact you via a chat app (our team loves Google Hangouts!). Don’t leave everything to email — when you’re in the office, you’ll usually have a whole lot of informal interactions. By recreating this in your remote workplace, you can quickly and easily deal with the small stuff and keep your employees productive.

HR Tip 3: Encourage breaks

Believe it or not, one of the biggest problems associated with working from home for many workers is the difficulty of pulling themselves away from the screen. Or, at least, that they will probably find themselves sitting in front of the computer too often, trying to compensate for not being in front of you. 

This can often be counterproductive and lead to a lack of motivation and burn out. Encourage your staff to take regular breaks and enjoy the better parts of working from home. 

HR Tip 4: Socialise with your employees

The extroverts of your office thrive on social occasions, such as the office birthdays and Friday night drinks. So try to recreate this where you can — enjoy afternoon ‘quarantini’s’, share a virtual meal together at lunch or simply start your morning meeting with a chat or the latest TV gossip. Keeping the social butterflies in your office happy helps give their performance a boost and keep your workplace culture strong.

HR Tip 5: Encourage and support your staff

Scared and stressed workers are rarely productive workers. If working from home has suddenly been thrust upon you, some employees are likely to feel anxious and concerned. The Harvard Business Review explains that it’s important you show empathy and keep up communication amongst the workplace. Simply asking employees how they’re going and what they’re finding challenging can go a long way in helping them to overcome their fears. 

HBR also says that employees take their cues on how to react from managers. So if you’re stressed and cranky, it’s likely that they will be too — let employees know they’re supported to encourage clarity and focus.

HR Tip 6: Have the difficult conversations face-to-face

Even with the best human resources processes in place, there may be times when you need to have a serious talk to an employee working from home about their performance. Don’t be tempted to shy away from this or revert to less direct methods, such as email. You should always have difficult conversations face-to-face, even when someone is working remotely.

Personally, I believe managers should use Zoom or another video conferencing service when performance issues need to be raised — treat the meeting as though you were in the office. Make sure you’re in a private place and that the employee is too. Look them in the eye as best you can and give it to them straight.

Be sure to follow the same process you would in the office —the same rules about performance management still apply. It’s important that, as a leader, you’re proactive and take the lead on any conversations or disciplinary action. By letting things slide, you could potentially end up in a much worse position than you would if everyone were still in the office. However, one word of caution – don’t neglect to consider the impact that COVID-19 has had on all of us, your employees included. The past few months have been stressful and uncertain, with professional and personal lives converging like never before. Take time to reflect and consider how COVID may have contributed to the issues you need to discuss.

Want more expert HR advice? 

Open and consistent communication is key to keeping employees motivated and engaged when it comes to working from home. If you’d like to find out more about managing the performance of employees working remotely, or assistance in setting up a virtual HR strategy whilst everyone is away from the office, then reach out to the Catalina Consultants team today

Australian business owners have seen the government’s JobKeeper payments as something of a saviour. The money they need to help stay afloat during one of the worst economic conditions we’ve experienced in our lifetime.

With the JobKeeper scheme ending in September, clients are asking questions. Many are asking whether they should continue to rely on JobKeeper or start making employees redundant. As qualified HR experts, we explore the pros and cons of both. And, if you have a HR team in your organisation, what you need to be briefing them on for future.

What is JobKeeper?

JobKeeper is supposed to be used as a wage subsidy providing employers with $1,500 a fortnight to top off an employee’s wages or salary. To qualify for the scheme you need a thirty per cent drop in revenue compared to the previous year. However, there are alternative tests for certain businesses, such as those that are seasonal or fast-growing. Larger companies that turn over more than a billion dollars a year need to have witnessed a fifty per cent decline in trade to qualify for the scheme. 

Businesses must apply for the subsidy for individual employees and pay them the subsidy in full, topping up their entitlement. The theory from a HR perspective is allowing employees to stay ‘on the books’ until the economy picks up. Furthermore, until employers can afford to pay their full wages. 

Most permanent employees are eligible for JobKeeper (including part-time and fixed-term contracts as of March 1, 2020), including long-term casuals. Given that in some industries a lot of workers take home less than $1,500 a fortnight, the JobKeeper scheme has actually given some employees a temporary pay rise.

The HR advantages of JobKeeper

Some of the key benefits JobKeeper can bring to your business include the opportunity to: 

The HR disadvantages of JobKeeper

Despite the generous assistance JobKeeper offers, there are potential disadvantages to relying on it, rather than making employees redundant. These disadvantages may include:

Is redundancy a better option than JobKeeper?

As someone that works in human resources and deals with situations like this regularly, this is my view. JobKeeper might help businesses that will economically bounce back, however, others won’t. It’s a different case for those businesses where operations are unlikely to return to normal.

Instead of receiving some interim support to help your business through the next six months. Taking JobKeeper means some may simply be delaying the inevitable and making it more expensive for themselves in the process. This could potentially leave yourself as the employer, struggling for survival – something which eventually leaves everyone worse off, not just the employees you need to let go.

Balanced against this, of course, is the fact that JobKeeper can bring real benefits to your business, such as the chance to utilise teams and strengthen your position in any future upswing by introducing new products or services, or using the time for employee development.

Unsure which direction is right for your business? 

The reality is that many businesses may want to try to do the right thing by their employees by taking advantage of the JobKeeper scheme. However, in time, redundancies may be inevitable. In short, what works for your business will come down to your personal situation, the industry you’re in, how your business operates as well as the structure and situation of employees. 

Get in contact with the Catalina Consultants team today if you’re unsure which direction you should take when it comes to making those all-important HR decisions, particularly around employment. Alternatively, if you feel that your business is slowly starting to bounce back, and you’re ready to rethink and restructure your human resources, then we might be able to help with a custom-designed bespoke HR strategy.

With COVID-19 disrupting businesses and causing both financial and personal anxiety, good employee communication has never been more important, particularly from a human resources perspective. In this article, I look at how you can get still the message through effectively and efficiently even during these uncertain times.

Follow these main elements: inform, reassure, direct

As someone that works in human resources, I understand the power and the need for clear communication with teams. According to BDO Canada, effective communication always has three components – to inform, reassure and direct. These are especially important during times of uncertainty and should be the focus of every communication you make.

Develop a communication plan

Now that you have the elements of good communication understood, it’s time to weave them into a formal communication plan. This plan should look at what you’re trying to achieve more broadly through your communications. For instance, is it to let employees know what’s expected of them while they’re working from home? To raise awareness of your COVID-19 or other workplace policies?  To communicate the next steps in your return-to-work plan?

Whatever it is, make sure you identify a target audience then work out what you want them to take away from the communication. You should also be careful to include specific and measurable goals.

Be open and honest with teams

Much of the news you may have to communicate at this time won’t be good news. You may have to break news about people not getting this year’s bonuses. Or ask people to reduce their hours or take leave. You may even be forced to make people redundant. Few things undermine a workplace more in times like this than obfuscation or dishonesty.

Where data is missing people often make up their own explanation for events. Good leaders explain why they need to do something and then presenting the facts to explain why they’ve made that decision. By being open and honest you get to control the narrative and prove that you’re dealing fairly with the current circumstances. This goes a long way towards boosting morale and keeping your team onside.

Read more about how to have difficult conversations in an interview I gave for Macquarie Bank.

Provide regular updates

In the face of uncertainty, there’s simply no such thing as over-communication. The situation with COVID-19 is changing rapidly and so are it’s effects on the economy and on businesses. Keep up the lines of conversation and let people know where both you and the business are at.

When you do, again stick to the facts, stay on message and don’t engage in speculation. Without naming names, you only need to look at some of the world’s politicians to see examples of constant communication done both well and poorly.

Think outside the (in)box

Many businesses rely on email almost to the exclusion of all other forms of communication when it comes to interacting with teams. But while email can be a good forum for communicating formally, it shouldn’t be the only – or even the main – way you speak to your employees.

Often there’s no better way to communicate than over the phone or via video chat (although the Zoom call shouldn’t be your default). There are also so many different apps and tools you can use to share information and communicate across a team in ways that email simply won’t let you do.

You can read about some of the apps I’ve seen used to good effect here.

Communication has never been so important

During tough economic times, communication takes on a whole new importance with teams. These are just some of the ways you can make yours more effective. If you’d like help building a strategy, delivering bad news or crafting the perfect messages for your team get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team today.

Given the events taking place due to coronavirus, businesses are faced with the task of cutting back spending where possible. But where do you cut back? And, how much? What stays and what goes? As someone that works in HR, I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your human resources alive – however, I understand, some cutbacks are unavoidable. So what should you do if you have no other option to reduce spend when it comes to your HR strategy? We explore seven ways in which you can downsize those HR costs and still have an effective human resources team.

1. Look for duplication

One of the easiest ways to save money in any business? Identify and eliminate any duplication across all departments. This could be duplication of roles, duplication of processes or really any kind of double up. Often, we find that duplication happens when tasks and processes are done manually rather than relying on technology or some sort of automated programming. In other cases, it’s because there are just too many people and too little communication. McKinsey found, for instance, that HR departments often duplicated certain activities simply because they had several layers in the organisation doing similar things. The consulting firm concluded that it was often easy to remove some of these levels with little-to-no strategic risk.

2. Redesign your processes

It’s quite common for businesses to change but for processes to stay the same. It’s also common for business processes to grow organically without any real thought as to whether these human resources processes are efficient at all. How long has it been since you looked at your HR processes? Readjusting unwieldy processes can be an easy way to keep costs down and now, might the right time to apply the metaphorical blowtorch to each of your organisation’s processes. And, here’s a little HR tip – I find it’s a good idea to work backwards: start from the result a process is trying to achieve and then chart the simplest, most efficient path to getting there.

3. Maximise your HR roles

With the right people in each HR role performing the right tasks, you’ll find that teams work more effectively and efficiently. It’ll also produce better results at a lower cost. Take a look at who’s doing what within your HR department and observe how they’re doing it. Ask yourself the following questions – are your people suited to the tasks they’re performing? (A good psychometric assessment could help determine the answer here) and, are you using skilled and expensive people to perform work that someone cheaper could do? Matching the right people with the right tasks will improve your HR output and could potentially work wonders on your bottom line.

4. Invest in better HR technology

Implementing the right HR technology won’t just make teams more efficient, it’ll help you reduce the number of tasks you need to perform in the first place. Many processes we had to do manually just five years ago can be automated. For comparatively little cost, specific processes can be streamlined and improved through robotic process automation (RPA). Payroll, new employee onboarding and compliance are all prime areas for this exciting wave of technology.

5. Interrogate your spending

It’s very easy to spend money on things that you and your teams don’t get full value from. It’s costs like subscriptions you no longer use or training that serves little purpose. Even staff or consultants whose values are not commensurate with the amount you pay. Look at where the dollars are going in and out and ask yourself, ‘am I getting the most out of this spending?’.

6. Build effective compensation packages

When there’s a disconnect between how someone is paid and their productivity at work, you’re likely to be spending money inefficiently. An effective way to save money can be to better match your HR professionals’ performance with their pay. Here, reviewing KPIs to match your business goals and shifting from relying only on base salary to bonuses can bring about better results for your HR team. You can read more about how to build better employee incentive programs.

7. Outsource your HR

Have you considered utilising a virtual or custom HR service? Outsourcing some or all of your HR capabilities can certainly cut costs while delivering more efficient HR outcomes. You’ll only pay for what you use and access a wide range of human resource skills – everything from the administration through to strategic planning – without necessarily having to employ full-time staff in each role. By outsourcing, you may be able to get by with a reduced HR team, saving you thousands in salaries and superannuation. In fact, you may be able to employ skeleton HR staff or even no dedicated HR team at all. It all depends on your business and how it’s structured.

It’s important to maintain some form of HR function within any organisation – even when times are tough. Human resources services are for the people and a necessary element to business success. If you’re facing financial difficulty or need to keep your costs down, look at altering your HR function, not getting rid of it. If you have any questions regarding the tips I’ve mentioned or you’d like to discuss how you might be able to virtualise your human resources, get in touch. We can certainly look at custom HR packages to suit your business and budget.

Australia’s workplace laws are usually set in stone. However, as the coronavirus crisis cuts through Australia’s economy, the government has had to reconsider what workplace laws look like. Are they even relevant now when so many businesses have been affected by COVID-19?  The Government has propped the economy up by implementing the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which you might be taking advantage of. As always when there are workplace changes like JobKeeper payments, it’s worth considering the impacts, particularly from an HR perspective. In our latest article, we explore what you can or can’t do as a business owner during the current crisis.

How has HR laws changed exactly?

As a result of COVID-19 and in response to the JobKeeper stimulus package the government has temporarily provided a whole new section to the Fair Work Act 2009. These rules have expanded an employer’s rights to alter an employee’s conditions in some circumstances.

Under the ‘JobKeeper Enabling Directions’, you may be able to:

– change your employees’ duties

– change their work location

– stand them down or reduce their hours or days of work.

These new rules apply if your business receives JobKeeker payments on behalf of the employee.

How to reduce an employee’s hours due to COVID-19

If you’re receiving JobKeeper payments for an employee and you choose to reduce their hours, here’s what to do. You must provide them with their wages or the equivalent of the JobKeeper payment, whichever is more. For instance, say you have a full-time employee on $60,000 a year, you reduce their hours to four days a week and their pay to 80% or $48,000 ($1,846 a fortnight). You’ll need to pay them the $1,500 a fortnight from the JobKeeper subsidy plus $346 a fortnight from your funds. If, however, your business suffers another downturn and you cut your employee’s hours to 2.5 days a week and their pay to $30,000, this would equate to only $1,154 a fortnight. In that case, you’d have to provide them with the full $1,500 a fortnight JobSeeker payment.

Directing an employee to take leave

Under the changes to the law, you can direct an employee receiving JobKeeper payments to take their annual leave entitlements. Providing they are left with a balance of at least two weeks’ leave. When this happens, you must pay them either their leave entitlements or the JobKeeper payment, whichever is highest. This means if their normal rate is below the JobKeeper threshold, their leave payment needs increasing to $1,500 a fortnight. They’ll keep accruing new leave entitlements at their normal rate during this time. You can also ask an employee to take their leave for twice as long at half the rate of pay.

Minimum conditions still apply

The minimum conditions in the National Employment Standards and awards and agreements still apply, even when you’re changing an employee’s conditions of employment. That means you can’t reduce someone’s pay below the base rate to which they’re entitled. It also means if you change their duties so they’re performing a new role, you must pay them the higher of the salary for their current or previous role.

Changing working hours

On the flip side, you can ask someone to work longer hours, so long as it’s reasonable to do so and you pay them at the correct rate, including any overtime allowance. Whether or not is a request is reasonable depends on a number of factors, including there being no threat to workplace health and safety and no clash with the employee’s personal situation.

You can read more about what constitutes reasonable overtime on the FairWork website.

What if you don’t qualify for JobKeeper payments?

For employees who aren’t part of the JobKeeper scheme, the usual human resources rules and employment laws apply. This means you’re still bound by the provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009, as well as other employment laws, so there’s less flexibility. For instance, sections 524 of the Fair Work Act needs to be used carefully as it ostensibly only lets you stand down an employee in some limited circumstances, such as:

– disrupting of a workplace through industrial action,
– machinery breaks down, or
– there’s some other form of stop-work that isn’t your fault.

We will get through these uncertain times

While Australia’s human resources and employment laws are usually set in stone, the coronavirus is allowing the government to introduce some flexibility. Especially for businesses receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy. If you’d like to know more about how HR and employment laws have changed as a result of COVID-19 or have any questions regarding the JobKeeper payments, get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team today.

Even before COVID-19 became a feature of our lives, working from home was starting to become the norm for many workplaces. But given what’s happened with the coronavirus outbreak, working from home has become an imperative. During times like this, it’s important to keep your people healthy, happy and engaged. But how do you keep up morale and maintain workplace culture when your team is working remotely?

The importance of workplace culture

Before we get into the specifics of how to make sure your workplace culture survives remote working it’s probably worth reflecting on why having a workplace culture is so important in the first place. According to Forbes Magazine, that really comes down to three key things:

Identity – culture will help set the values and identity of a company. For instance, if your culture is one in which setting and meeting goals is valued and encouraged, this can help keep employees directed without too much intervention.

Retention – strong company culture attracts and retains better talent. People feel like they belong and are more inclined to stick it out for the long-term.

Image – a good culture where people enjoy themselves and work hard shows in the marketplace – this, in turn, helps build loyal customers or clients.

In short, when culture is right, the rest tends to flow naturally. From an HR perspective, employees are more productive, efficient and engaged. This mindset will give your business the best possible chance of succeeding. But how do you encourage this, particularly when everyone is working remotely? How do you keep employees happy, engaged and productive simultaneously when they’re not in front of you?

Tips for keeping workplace culture alive when people are at home

I’ve been working in human resources for many years and I understand what drives people to work harder and what can turn them off. Ensuring people are engaged and feel a sense of worth and belonging is critical. So when employees are forced to work from home, here are my seven tips to keeping that workplace culture alive.

1. Have written policies ready

In the coming weeks as people settle in and iron out the bugs of working from home this will be an important factor. Having well-written HR policies in place that you can stick to is extremely important. Even more so when people are working remotely – let everyone know what you expect of them when they’re working from home. When do they need to check in with you? What hours do you expect them to work? What should they do if they’ve finished the tasks they’re assigned. Getting this right from the get-go will have a big impact on whether remote working works or fails. And remember there is a WHS requirement to WFH so don’t skip over the logistical requirements or you may have a Workcover claim!

2. Use software and apps to communicate

Don’t rely on email as your main form of conversation. It can be isolating, overtly formal and information can get lost in a sea of inboxes. These days, it’s not hard to find software or apps to keep your workplace humming along. As a minimum, you should make sure you have a good video chat and instant messenger app that everyone knows about and knows how to use. Something as simple as Teams, Slack and Google Hangouts often does the trick. Oh and my big tip? Make sure everyone on a video call actually has their video on! They will get past the awkwardness, trust me. But beware – anything that could and should be formally within your information systems should be kept securely in that environment – so don’t get too trigger happy with cutting off your email system.

3. Set up groups

In any workplace, you’d usually have times where everyone is together in the same room – it might be for brainstorming sessions, meetings or just a general get-together. There’s no reason you can’t do this virtually. Again, you can do this with Teams, Zoom, Google apps. Alternatively, an-all-in one online tool such as Slack can work here, letting you set up groups, chat and host video calls all from the one platform. Equally you may want to set up smaller sub-groups – based on teams, client groups, managers etc – anyone who communicates together on a regular basis. What you are wanting to do is replicate the way you might gather and communicate in your workplace, only now it’s virtual.And again, video on!

4. Check-in with your employees regularly

If everyone goes off and does their own thing, you’ll find that communication channels will break down. Sure, you don’t want to chain people to their remote desks but at the same time, regular catch-ups at the same time each day – like a virtual ‘stand up’ meeting – can help keep everyone on the same page. Put that 9:30 am invite in people’s calendars and make sure people are present online. A lot of businesses are also checking in at lunchtime and at the end of the day too to make sure people are feeling connected at those times when they would ordinarily huddle and chat.

5. Use face-to-face

As I have mentioned above, when you have these regular catch-ups use face-to-face software. Don’t let people dial in on the phone. Seeing each other visually contributes so much to the sense of belonging, it’s much more natural and it can go a long way to keeping up morale. I know some people will complain they are still in their PJs, or they haven’t done their hair – but hang on a minute, aren’t you at work?? Just because your team is working from home doesn’t mean they can be invisible, and giving people the incentive to be dressed for the day and in a workplace frame-of-mind is probably what they should be doing to remain focussed anyway.

6. Give remote working a trial run first

It’s hard to believe there would still be an organisation that hasn’t adopted working from home by now but if your workplace hasn’t gone 100% remote just yet, choose a day to trial and ensure your systems all work. Then it’s about keeping up the pace. Normal workplaces thrive on constant communication so remember in remote workplaces it becomes even more important. If you’re the business owner, the manager or team leader don’t drop the ball and take the easy path of not checking in – even for a day. Keep up the chat, keep those groups active and keep everyone together with a common purpose in mind.They will all be looking to you to set the tone.

7. Recreate your office vibe whenever you can

Ok so it’s never going to be the same as Friday night drinks but remember there are parts of work that are actually fun. The socialising, the banter, the catching up about the weekend. Some people can forget about this when they work from home. Far from slacking off, they begin dedicating even more of their time to work and less to the fun they have, and they struggle with separating their worlds. Have a bit of fun during video calls – play trivia or host a virtual team lunch. Enjoy yourself and do what you can to encourage others to enjoy themselves too. Honestly, this is probably the single most important thing you can do to keep the workplace culture alive.

Keep the workplace culture alive

Given the current climate, remote working will be the norm for a while. So it’s important that you get everything set up correctly from the get-go. Maintaining morale and happiness in the key to success when it comes to working from home. If you have any questions or concerns or if you’d like some assistance in setting up some virtual HR systems, then reach out to the Catalina Consultants team today, we’d love to assist.

With the impact of COVID-19 now a stark reality in Australia, tough economic times have hit many businesses already, with more hardship expected in the coming months. The grim reality for majority of businesses is financial pain and pressure. This could mean potentially shedding staff despite the best intentions of the JobKeeper scheme. So what strategies can you try before you make that tough call to cut staff?

HR Option 1: Let staff take leave

Assuming cashflow isn’t your main concern (and let’s face it for most it is) if people have accrued leave, now’s the time to see if they’re willing to take it. Ask people with long-service leave or annual leave to consider taking it now for the greater good of the company. After all, this is a liability you were going to have to pay anyway. So it’s better you pay it out now if it means people can keep their jobs during this crisis. And to make this process easier most awards have been updated to allow people to take annual leave and LSL in more flexible ways – with a week’s notice.

HR Option 2: Move to a reduced-hours week

During the GFC, I saw plenty of companies shift to a three or four-day week with a positive effect. Employees were prepared to take a 20-40 per cent pay cut if it resulted in reduced hours, especially if it avoided redundancies. They were also more willing to consider a shorter working week if they saw their managers making this shift as well. The temporary JobKeeper legislation allows employers to make these changes systematically and fairly when underpinned by the wage subsidy benefits.

HR Option 3: Work shorter days

A variation of the above theme is to work shorter days. Reducing employees hours by two hours, especially in stand-alone roles where the business doesn’t need someone all day. During these times, some employees will appreciate finishing earlier, particularly if their partner is working and children are at home. Remember though, if you’re asking your team to go down this path you must be prepared to do it yourself.

HR Option 4: Jobshare

Often you’ll have more than one person performing the same role. For instance, you might have three salespeople where, due to a downturn, you may only need two. Rather than making one of these roles redundant you might consider job-sharing. Plenty of businesses I witnessed during the GFC worked out job-sharing arrangements. This meant two people would work 2.5 days a week as an alternative option, giving the business coverage.

HR Option 5: Tap into the flexibility of casuals

In the past few months many businesses have needed to stand down their casuals. However, the JobKeeper scheme provides the opportunity to re-engage with many of your long-term casuals. Taking a strategic approach to your workforce planning during COVID-19 and re-mobilising your casuals could result in a huge saving. Especially if you combine your planning with the options outlined above.

It’s all about being prepared

The most important thing to remember when you take any of these actions is to keep everything legal and above board. After all, when you change someone’s role outside of the JobKeeper legislation you may possibly trigger a redundancy. There are also leave accrual rules and notice period complexities to consider, so take care.

Where I’ve seen these approaches work best is in dynamic businesses with collaborative cultures and strong leadership. Usually there’s a strong sense of collegiality and people are prepared to save each other’s jobs as well as their own. There also needs to be a strong element of trust in the company’s leadership and it certainly helps if there’s a timeframe around any arrangements so that people have some level of certainty, even if its tough financially. At this stage JobKeeper will run until 27 September but if you’re not eligible for the subsidies then try and create some level of certainty for your people, even if it is just a commitment to review at a point in time.

If you have any questions regarding staff management during the current COVID-19 crisis, the JobKeeper scheme or you’d like some help with your strategic workforce planning at this time, then feel free to reach out to the Catalina Consultants team today.

At Catalina Consultants we take the health and wellbeing of our people, our clients and the broader community seriously. At present we have no plans to formally close our office and we are monitoring this daily in line with best practice and official directives.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, we have implemented various safeguards that meet Australian Government COVID-19 guidelines. Our firm will take whatever steps necessary to minimise any risk of infection, spread and impact. We’re regularly discussing any updates or changes as they occur and we will adapt our approach appropriately.

Supporting clients through COVID-19

We have all necessary resources to continue supporting all our clients. The nature of our service is that the team are able to work wherever they needed. We can access emails and files easily from remote locations (we don’t have to be in the office), and our phone system ensures that all calls are responded to in a timely manner. We’re encouraging clients and contacts to replace face to face meetings with video conferencing and phone calls wherever possible to limit meetings to essential-only circumstances. The Catalina Consultants team will guide you through these situations as and when they arise.

Containing risk

We’ve cancelled any scheduled domestic and international work travel for the present time and we’ll continue to monitor the wellness of our people, uphold the highest of hygiene standards and maximise social distancing wherever possible. Again, we’ll continue to monitor the daily changing landscape and act accordingly.

In response, we are also well-placed to assist you as you navigate these concerns within your own business. Please reach out if you require any assistance.

As business owners and managers, we avoid making goals as we tend to have a bias towards ‘being busy’. So long as we’re doing something, we’re not just happy, we feel useful and productive. But by taking this approach it can be easy to end up down the wrong path, simply working for the sake of it and never really achieving what we set out to achieve in the first place.

As a business owner myself, I know there’s a great advantage in sitting back and taking some time out to analyse where we’re headed – particularly at this time of year. As the year draws to a close, I thought I’d share with you how to set your goals.

1. Set aside some time

The first thing to do is to block our time for reflection – preferably half a day or even a day. It’s your choice whether you want to do this alone or reflect as part of a team (there are merits in both approaches).

I also think it’s important to put some distance between yourself and the office and go offsite. This doesn’t mean you have to be extravagant, but  I feel that it’s a good idea to clear the mind and spend some time in a neutral location, where the energy and stresses of the workplace are left behind. If you’re taking people along for your reflection session, it’s also more likely that a change of scenery will make people feel more comfortable about speaking openly.

2. Start with the positives

As business owners and managers, we’re usually the problem solvers, meaning we can look through the negative scope. I think it can be useful to begin by looking at what went right over the past 12 months. Call out your wins from the year and have a think about why they were so successful. Was it your processes? The talent of individual team members? Or even the type of work or project you undertook?

3. Consider what didn’t work

Only once you’ve looked at the positives, then it’s appropriate to analyse those things that didn’t quite go to plan. It’s important to note that it’s not about pinning blame on people or looking for excuses, it’s about analysing your mistakes and what you can learn from them.

If you’re undergoing this task as a team, let people have their say on why they think someone might’ve worked and why something didn’t. Here, it’s important not to be too quick to judge but to let them speak freely and openly. That way you may find you have competing narratives that can help you uncover the real truth.

4. Apply the lessons you’ve learned

Next up, it’s time to think about how these lessons can apply to the next 12 months and beyond. Are there any trends you spotted or problems that keep arising? Do you need to change your processes? Perhaps you need to hire new staff or juggle people around? You might need to institute a new workplace policy or undertake some training. Whilst there’s no need to commit to anything right now, just having the ideas and allowing them to turn over in your mind is great exercise.

5. Set your goals for next year

The main reasons you shouldn’t commit is because the next thing you need to do is to set your goals for the next 12 months. These shouldn’t be mere resolutions such as “make more money” but concrete objectives such as “increase revenue by $150,000 by gaining two new clients in x sector”. Some of these goals are likely to come about as a direct result of your reflection in steps 1 to 4.

But, perhaps even more importantly, your reflection on last year’s successes and challenges can help you devise how you’re going to achieve the goals you’ve set. For instance, if you’ve identified a mistake in the way you worked last year, your planned improvements can be worked into your roadmap for achieving that target.

6. Don’t overwhelm yourself

Finally, it’s important to remember that you can’t do everything at once. As they say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. Choose two-to-four goals that really matter to you, your employees and your business. Make sure that these goals can propel you towards your end target and have the best possible outcome for everyone involved. By doing so, you’ll be giving yourself a better chance of succeeding and that means you’re also giving yourself a better chance of getting to where you ultimately want to be.

If you’re a business owner feel free to reach out to me if you want to discuss goal setting, planning for 2020 or if you need any human resources advice.

Otherwise, have a wonderful holiday break and see you all in 2020.

The office Christmas party is an important event for any workplace. And, from a human resources perspective, it can boost morale and encourage teamwork. It’s a chance for colleagues to let their hair down together, celebrate the year and socialise in a different setting. It’s an opportunity for you, as an employer, to show your appreciation and recognition for all the employee’s hard work. But get the staff party wrong, and it can leave you out of pocket, with a potentially damaged workplace culture.

With that in mind, here are five mistakes we see employers commit when it comes to the office Christmas party. Not only will we go through them, but also compare these mistakes to a real-life case study – Drake & Bird v BHP.

HR Mistake 1: Not communicating expectations

If you’re an employer or manager, you won’t want to come across as the ‘fun police’. However, you do need to remind employees they’ll be representing the organisation. Even when it’s party time, when it’s offsite and if they organise the party themselves.

That’s what the Fair Work Commission (FWC) found in Drake & Bird v BHP, in which two BHP workers were sacked over their behaviour at their workplace Christmas party. In Drake & Bird v BHP, the workers argued that because they organised the event and not management – and because it was held at the local bowling club open to the general public – it wasn’t a BHP function so the company code of conduct didn’t apply. However, the FWC wasn’t convinced. It found that because the co-worker’s behaviour was inappropriate, and BHP’s reputation was at stake, the party counted as work.

HR Mistake 2: Serving unlimited alcohol

It’s a simple fact that almost every office Christmas party that can end in disaster begins with alcohol. That’s what happened in Drake & Bird v BHP, where both workers – as well as the supervisor they allegedly assaulted – were all heavily under the influence of alcohol.

If you’re offering an open bar, this needs to be monitored. For example, have an open bar for just a set period of time or give employees redeemable tickets.

HR Mistake 3: Having no social media policy

Unfortunately, ‘what happens at the office Christmas party’ often ‘doesn’t stay at the office Christmas party’. Social media has made it even more accessible for people to capture what’s happening there and then. In doing so, there’s the potential to damage the reputation of your employees and your business.

It’s imperative, from a human resources perspective, that you let employees know your expectations of them. To be frank, it’s worth considering a social media blanket ban. Otherwise, go old school and have an official photographer. Then limit your social media posts to these pictures.

Interestingly, while social media didn’t play any part in the Drake & Bird decision, the FWC was critical of one employee’s decision to take ‘selfies’ of the supervisor’s injuries rather than using the ‘old school’ method of taking him to a doctor for assessment – another symptom of the digital age.

HR Dilemma 4: Becoming too involved

With the music blaring and the drinks flowing, it’s all too easy to kick back and relax too much. All too often, in casual environments like office parties, employees and management can let their guard down.

In the Drake & Bird case, for instance, the two workers sacked for fighting, had used the occasion to tell the supervisor – who was part of another team – that he didn’t belong at the event, using inappropriate language in the process. It pays to remember that ultimately office parties are still a professional event. Keep it that way by staying professional yourself and don’t get involved in office gossip.

HR Dilemma 5: Assuming they’re protected

Based on what you’ve read so far you’d probably think it’s safe to assume that the usual workplace rules apply at the office Christmas party and if someone chooses to behave in an inappropriate manner, then you’re in a position to exercise your power and potentially dismiss them. But in truth, you can’t. In fact, it can be murky waters to navigate.

In Drake & Bird, the FWC concluded that BHP was fine to dismiss one of the two men but it found that the other shouldn’t have been sacked. It noted that his action – an intoxicated verbal stoush in front of 90 people and a scuffle – was worthy of sanction but there was no valid reason to actually terminate his employment. In particular, there was no concrete evidence that he was violent.

In another recent decision, the FWC also ruled that construction giant Boral, acted wrongly when it decided to sack an employee who misbehaved at an office Christmas party. The accused employee allegedly propositioned colleagues and behaved inappropriately throughout the course of the evening. However, the FWC found that the worker should have been counselled and that terminating his employment, was a step too far. One factor that weighed in the employee’s favour was that Boral had provided a free and open bar and that the accused gentleman had committed most of his indiscretions once he’d left the office Christmas party.

Party appropriately, don’t party hard

In short, the office Christmas party can become an HR grey area when not managed properly. And, if mismanaged, can land you in hot water, leaving you open for liability and damaging both morale and reputation. If you’d like advice around this, then reach out to the Catalina Consultants team today.

Thinking of selling your business? Your Human Resources (HR) policies, processes and practices are all likely to have an impact on the price you receive. 

We explore what you need to do to get your business HR ready for sale so that you secure top dollar when it comes time to sell.  

1. Have the right HR policies in place

First and foremost, any potential buyer will usually want to know how your business functions from an HR perspective. Even more importantly, that your HR policies will continue to function when the buyer takes over. They’ll also want to know that you have established HR customs and procedures that don’t conflict too much with their own. 

This means always taking the time to document and write down your HR policies and procedures before your business goes to market. This means everything from employee leave and flexible working hours through to termination and redundancy.

2. Understand your HR liabilities

The other key concern most buyers will have is your HR liabilities. They’ll usually go through a due diligence process to uncover these (or at least their lawyers will). When they do, they’ll notice things like “golden parachutes” for managers, massive redundancy entitlements, large looming bonuses and, most importantly, excessive leave liabilities. 

To get the best price, you’ll need to keep these to a minimum. If a member of staff has accrued more than eight weeks’ annual leave, you may be within your rights to ask them to use some of it. You should also be prudent when it comes to agreeing on severance terms with senior staff.  

3. Do what you can to retain key staff

One of the most challenging things to do will be convincing your employees to stay on after the sale. Some buyers will stipulate as a condition of sale that your key employees stay. This is especially true of any businesses that rely specifically on the skill of the staff to make money (ie professional services), as well as for relationships-based businesses. 

Key employee retention is also important when the sale doesn’t involve a merger or acquisition by a similar business. That’s because the buyer won’t have existing employees to take over that workload.  

Losing key staff in the run-up to a sale is also likely to diminish your business’s value. Reassuring them about their value is obviously a start, but sometimes it takes offering them incentives for them to stay. You may find you need to offer loyalty bonuses in this regard.

4. Keep up employee morale

A buyer is able to see a workplace with poor employee morale or a toxic workplace culture. They will notice workers who are disengaged and productivity that is slipping. To get the best value of your sale, you need to prevent this from happening. That involves communication.

It’s only natural employees will be worried, and let’s face it, perhaps some staff have every right to be. But you also need to let employees know the positives that new owners will bring. Will there be increased opportunities? A new direction? The chance to play out on a bigger stage? Just be sure that you’re realistic about what the future brings as promising the world is likely to have the reverse effect.

Also, keep your door open and let people come to you with their fears. Staying open and honest is vital. 

5. Make sure you’re compliant

Finally, one of the main HR-related exposures any business buyer can face is inheriting non-compliance with a law, regulation, award or agreement. Here, it’s your responsibility to make sure the buyer won’t uncover any major surprises in their due diligence. 

The way to do that is to audit your HR policies and practices. You need to find out where your exposures lie. Then you can make them right and make an educated decision on how to best approach things. 

Uncovering a major breach of law can make a buyer nervous and leave them wondering what other exposures they may be facing. 

Are your HR policies ready for sale?

Selling a business can be a long and drawn-out process. Any serious buyer is going to take time going through every detail to make certain they know what they’re buying. By identifying and correcting any HR-related issues, you’ll be in a much stronger negotiating position and more likely to get the best price. 

If you’d like to get your business and HR policies ready for sale, speak to the Catalina Consultants team.

Building a positive workplace culture is no easy task. It requires vision, organisation, patience and persistence. These elements are difficult enough to bring together even when you do everything right. But when you start getting things wrong they become almost impossible.

So, what common mistakes are businesses making and how can you avoid creating toxic work culture?

Workplace culture mistake one: being too simplistic

A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review based on extensive Gartner research found that many businesses are too simple when it comes to describing their workplace culture.

Managers tend to resort to a generic and overused set of adjectives to describe their workplace culture. These include high-performing, collaborative, innovative, customer-focused, entrepreneurial, results-oriented, transparent, and trusting. 

The problem with this approach is that the buzzword chosen often doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the day-to-day operations of the company. 

According to the same article, this leads to a “say/do” gap which employees see as hypocritical. The result is a loss of moral rather than a boost to it.

How to avoid

It can be easy to describe your workplace culture using buzzwords. But if they don’t reflect reality, you’re doing more harm than good. Speak to the tension between where you would be in an ideal world and the reality of what needs to happen on the ground. 

Instead of professing a “culture of innovation”, try “we support a culture of innovation while continuing to seek growth and profits from legacy businesses.” 

Workplace culture mistake two: letting the data speak for itself

Many companies rely solely on employee surveys to measure how their workplace culture is performing. Relying on data like this can be very misleading. As workers fear reprisals, feedback is usually sanitised so that it doesn’t tell the real story. Businesses end up relying on meaningless or inaccurate feedback that never provides a true picture of the business culture.

How to avoid

Look to close the gap between survey results and the reality of what’s happening in your workplace. The best thing you can do in this regard is create an atmosphere of trust, where employees feel confident speaking up about issues without fear of reprisals. 

Then, when you do undertake a survey you’re likely to see what’s really happening and not a sugar-coated response. 

Workplace culture mistake three: not aligning your policies with your cultural goals

Sometimes company’s policies fail to support what they’re trying to achieve in their work culture. For example, a company says it believes in collaboration but pits employees against each other by staging performance reviews where only a certain number of employees can get top marks and a full bonus. Another example is where the business says it’s customer-centric but then penny-pinches. Both result in businesses failing to provide the tools to let employees do their job properly. 

How to avoid

This really is one of the most fundamental mistake anyone can make when it comes to creative positive workplace culture. If you’re not giving your business what it needs to provide the culture you’re striving for, how can you expect to achieve it? 

The only way you can ever overcome this one is to set up the structures, processes and incentives you need. That means properly investing in your employee culture rather than expecting people to achieve cultural goals without any support.    

Workplace culture mistake four: poor communication

Poor communication is an issue when a business wants to foster a certain workplace or employee culture but they fail to properly communicate what that looks like. 

You see this when a manager wants a creative workplace but fails to tell employees they want them to work together. Conversely, it happens when a business says it wants to be flexible but never articulates properly what that means. 

How to avoid

Don’t just tell employees what your cultural goals are – show them what it looks like and how they can contribute to it on a personal level. If you expect them to be in the office on certain days or at certain times, let them know. If they’re expected to behave a certain way or to do certain things, let them know that too. The more honest and specific you are, the smaller the gap between theory and reality will be.  

Create your positive workplace culture

These mistakes all include a gap between cultural ambition and the culture that’s playing out on the ground. 

Actually practising what you preach and clearly outlining the culture you want to create will help it to take hold and thrive. 

If you’d like to build a genuinely high performing and positive workplace culture get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team.

The lead up to Christmas may be a magical time of year for some. But for many of us, it’s much more about increased workloads, stress and trying to stay organised. In some cases, the anxiety that this time of year induces can lead to a full-blown burnout. So, what can you do to avoid suffering that fate in this year’s Christmas busy period?   

Am I suffering from employee burnout?

We all experience a lack of energy from time-to-time. However, in most cases, a bit of relaxation or time away from work can fix it. However, burnout is a kind of lethargy that isn’t cured by a meditation session or a weekend in Byron Bay.

Have you ever become so exhausted or demotivated that you forget what you’re doing or what you’re saying? Are your enthusiasm levels plummeting to where you can’t face getting out of bed in the morning? Maybe you’re feeling angry and frustrated or you’re eating or drinking way more than normal? Now you know what a burnout feels like.

“Burnout can be defined as the loss of meaning in one’s work, coupled with mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion as the result of long term, unresolved stress,” is how one US-based mental health expert puts it. 

If you’re an employee, entrepreneur, business owner or manager, and your work no longer has meaning, that’s a serious issue. So, if you find yourself afflicted by these feelings at Christmas time, what can you do? We’ve got some helpful HR strategies you can implement in the countdown to the holidays.

Be realistic about what you can achieve at work

Although positive workplace culture can increase at Christmas, as business owners and busy managers, we still tend to burn out. That can sometimes be a good thing – it’s probably part of what got you where you are. But it’s a very bad thing at this time of year. Especially when work starts piling up and the deadline of Christmas is in front of you.

The first step in avoiding burnout is to be realistic about workload between now and when you take leave. This means working normal days, not 18-hour ones.  

To do this, write down everything you have to do or goals to achieve by the end of the year. Then work out what really, absolutely needs to be done by then and what can wait until 2020. Even split your tasks or goals into ‘essential’, ‘nice to have ticked off’ and ‘not necessary’. Then tell yourself it really is only the essentials that need to be completed. 

Limiting what you need to achieve this way can help clear the mind and immediately start the process of de-stressing you.

Clean up your office space

Now that you know exactly what needs to be achieved by Christmas, it’s time to organise yourself and your work area towards achieving it. 

Go through your files, your emails and all the paper on your desk and organise everything in line with what you intend to accomplish by the end of 2019.

If something isn’t needed, get rid of it. When something needs to be acted on to complete your essential work, put it in your ‘to do’ bucket. If something is in the ‘nice to have ticked off’ or ‘unnecessary’ bucket, put it to the side. And, file what you can away. If someone else can do it, delegate it. 

And if something can be knocked over right now, clear your mind by acting on it.

By getting everything cleaned up and out of the way, you’ll help limit the intrusions and hopefully become better focused on doing just what needs to be done by the holidays.

Stop saying yes to more work

With Christmas coming up, you’re likely to start getting more requests than normal – whether that’s from customers or clients who want their work finished by the end of the year, or staff or managers pressing you to complete it. But if you want to keep your mental health in check and avoid a burnout, you’re going to have to start saying no. 

After all, you’ve seen your list of what needs to get done and you’re focused on achieving it. Do you really have time to take on any more? 

Set realistic deadlines

For anything you can’t get done in the lead up to Christmas, tell people when they can expect you to deliver. That shouldn’t be your first week back at the desk after holidays either. Otherwise, you’ll just be deferring your burnout until January when you arrive back with a mountain of work on your desk. Tell them to expect it in February if you can. 

If that sounds uncomfortable, remember that under promising and over-delivering is always a better strategy than over promising and then damaging your health to deliver it. 

Leave your work at work

One of the hardest things for any business owner or manager to do is to actually leave the business. But again, if you want to get a proper break and avoid burnout both in the lead-up to Christmas and when you come back to the office, you’re really going to have to.

So, go on, write that out of office message and activate it on your email account before you go on leave. Change the voicemail message on your phone and stop picking up calls from work-related numbers or numbers you don’t recognise. Let them leave a voicemail. 

If you must check-in with work over your break, limit it to a certain time each day and let people know when that will be.  

Prevent your burnout

There’s little doubt you’ll need to work hard in the lead up to the holidays – and chances are you may have to work much harder than normal. But that hard work shouldn’t come at the expense of your health.  

By setting parameters, you’ll be in a much better position to stay energised and focused in 2020.   

If you’d like to discuss strategies for de-stressing your workplace in the lead up to Christmas and avoid a burnout, get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team. 

As someone who is both a woman and working in HR the issue of pay, particularly for women, is something that we deal with regularly. Women are still paid significantly less than their male counterparts for performing the same work. Perhaps even more disturbingly, the main reason could be classified as out-and-out discrimination. That’s what a recent joint KPMG and Diversity Council report into the gender pay gap, the unfortunately named, She’s Price(d)less, found.

How big is the gender pay gap?

According to the report, the hourly pay gap between men and women in 2017 was $2.43 or 7.8 per cent. The good news is that this gap has fallen from 10.2 per cent in 2014. However, what is most interesting is that it has actually risen over the past decade. In 2007, the gender pay gap stood at 6.7 per cent; 1.1 per cent lower than the most recent figures.

When you look at the weekly gender wage gap, the situation becomes more pronounced. Here, women earn an average of 14 per cent less than their male counterparts for doing the same work.

Why are women paid less?

The report found that discrimination alone accounted for a whopping 39 per cent of the reason women are paid less. In other words, many employers still treat men and women differently – whether consciously or unconsciously.

The other significant factor was that women still perform more of the carer and family responsibilities than men. This means they’re more inclined to work part-time or just fewer hours. This accounted for another 39 per cent.

Finally, industrial and occupational segregation was responsible for 17 per cent of the gap. This is partly down to women being overrepresented in low paying sectors and roles, such as childcare, cleaning and administrative jobs. Unfortunately, they also are often still less likely to be in leadership positions regardless of the sector in which they work.

Does the gender pay gap exist in your workplace?

The gender pay gap is a reality in many workplaces – often even without the business owners and managers knowing anything about it.

If you want to find out whether you’re one of the businesses unwittingly perpetuating this problem, the report recommends that an important first step you can take is to do a wage audit. This involves working out exactly what everyone is paid in your organisation and comparing the salary of people performing similar roles at a similar level.

It also recommends introducing greater transparency around pay – something gaining increasing popularity with employers around the world. That way you can compare like for like and everyone can see exactly where they stand.

What can you do to reduce the pay gap?

Beyond this, the report has a number of recommendations on what employers can do. These include:

And what should we be doing more generally?

The report also suggests that government and society more generally both have key roles to play in overcoming the gender pay gap. This includes:

The economic benefit in overcoming the gender pay gap

The report concludes that, if we can overcome the gender pay gap, there should also be tangible economic benefits. In fact, the pay off to the Australian economy could be as large as $60 billion by 2038. And the flow-on effects could deliver a $140 billion lift to our living standards.

In other words, overcoming unequal pay won’t just be better for women, it will be better for business, better for our standard of living and ultimately better for everyone.

Want more?

If you’d like to perform your own pay gap audit or discuss HR strategies for overcoming the pay gap in your workplace get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team.

What is an HR audit?

An HR audit is a systematic review of all your human resources processes. Carried out by an independent HR expert, it’s intended to identify exactly how healthy your human resources function is right now, as well as analysing what you need to do to get better. You can use an HR audit to identify any non-compliance, highlight any HR related risks and see how you stack up against best practice. That means it should serve as one of the foundations on which you can build your future HR and business plans and strategy. Here’s our guide to using an HR audit to make sure your human resources function is as healthy as it can be.

What’s included in an HR audit?

You can make an HR audit as narrow or as broad as you like. But the more comprehensive it is, the more effective it’s also likely to be.

That said, we understand that time and money won’t always allow you to do everything you’d like. There are, however, two main sources you should review in detail in any HR audit.

This isn’t as simple as just checking your written policies. Policies and procedures can also be informal too. All those unspoken rules and customs that have built up over time in the workplace culture will also count. Working out exactly what these are, though, is not always straightforward at all.

What to do with this information once you have it?

Once you’ve identified all of your policies and procedures, it’s time to measure how you compare. Generally, I recommend using it for one or more of three separate measures.

Legal and regulatory compliance

The most obvious thing to look for is whether you’re complying with the rules and regulations that apply. Again, this isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem.

For instance, if you’re like many employers – especially smaller ones – you’re probably using the same contract for all staff, regardless of their role or seniority. And yet, for many of your employees, the contract of employment is just the beginning. There are also the 10 National Minimum Employment Standards, which you can’t contract out of.

Beyond that, however, there are Awards, which are likely to provide for different terms and conditions of employment depending on the role employees perform. This can range from pay rates to dispute resolution procedures and pretty much everything in between. Not being across each of these Awards can leave your company exposed.

On top of this, the regulations frequently change and new laws are introduced. For instance, the rules and regulations on whistleblowers, flexible working and personal and carer’s leave entitlements have all changed or been clarified recently. Failing to keep up with these changes could land you in serious hot water.

Best practice

Complying with the law may be the first step in getting things right, but what about finding out how you compare to your competitors?
After all, if your rivals operate more efficiently than you do or if they’re offering different terms and conditions to their staff, their HR practices could be giving them a competitive advantage over you.

By incorporating HR best practices into your HR audit, you can see how your human resources policies stack up to your peers and work out where you’re deficient and what you can do to improve. That way, you can use your HR to help get to the top of the pack and stay ahead.


The third and final way you can use the information you’ve gathered is to evaluate whether or not it’s helping you achieve your business goals. Human resources doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a vital part of your operations and it should be used to support and achieve your strategic vision. This often gets lost in the day-to-day of doing business.

For instance, are you really promoting a positive workplace culture? Are you recruiting the right people? Do your employees feel energised and motivated? Do your KPIs and incentive schemes drive the right kind of behaviour?

By going back to your strategy and comparing how your HR processes help effect this, you can often make the tweaks and adjustments you need to get to where you want to be.

In short…

Our human resources policies can either hold our business back or propel it forward. By performing an effective HR audit you can give your human resources practices a real health check and give yourself a starting point for refining or even recalibrating your people-related policies.

Don’t have HR issues, have HR solutions. If you’d like to discuss how we could help your business with an HR audit, get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team today.

When you engage an HR consultant, you expect them to take your human resources headaches and challenges off your hands. In the process, an ideal HR expert will help take your business to the next level. But what are the qualities they need to do this?

We’ve identified six key characteristics we think an outsourced HR consultancy should always have.

HR quality 1: Commerciality

Probably the most important characteristic of any HR consultant is commerciality. In business, time and money are everything. Your HR consultant needs to be able to assess risks, limit costs and make accurate calls quickly and decisively. They need to be able to understand your bottom line so they use their judgement to make effective commercial decisions. That never means acting unethically or breaching the law. Even putting the morality of this aside, the commercial risk of doing so is far too great. But it does mean being able to weigh up the pros and cons of different HR strategies and then having the judgement to choose the one that delivers the best long-term financial outcome.

HR quality 2: Leverage

An effective HR consultancy isn’t just one person. Nor is it simply a group of senior human resources practitioners who charge high rates and only want to be involved in the strategic decisions your business make. I think a good HR consultancy should consist of a team of HR professionals who operate across all levels of the business. They should have the capacity to perform every one of the HR functions you don’t have in-house – from the strategic to the administrative and from the day-to-day to the once-off projects. I say this because every business has different human resource needs. In fact, even the same business’ HR needs will change from time-to-time. Any HR consultancy you engage should be able to account for this and should have the in-house skills, expertise and experience to deliver what’s in your best interests, no matter what they are or how they evolve.

HR quality 3: The human touch

Believe it or not, the clue is the name: human resources is about humans, not just numbers. Every HR decision you make will directly impact on people in your workplace. In that sense, it’s unlike any other of your commercial functions. I think that means your HR consultants should be human too. They should understand the workplace culture, and know how to treat people tactfully, sensitively and with empathy. They should have the experience and astuteness to know what makes people tick and what they need to do to motivate them or change their behaviour. And they should be able to bring people into their confidence without ever being unprofessional.These are qualities you simply can’t – and won’t – get from off-the-shelf and highly automated HR solutions and one of the reasons why it’s always worth paying for a professional HR consultancy.

HR quality 4: Flexibility

The one constant about business is that there are no constants: your strategy and ambitions get modified, customers or clients come and go, staff turn over, new markets open up, new roles are created and the opportunities and risks vary and evolve. An effective HR consultant knows this and can change and grow with your business.I think the best way they can achieve this is by choosing an HR consultant that’s neither too small to cope with change nor too large to be nimble. Putting it another way, they should be small enough to know your business intimately but large enough to have all the skills and knowledge they need to serve you as you change.

HR quality 5: Curiosity

Speaking of which, I think a good HR consultant should be staffed by a team of forward-looking, curious and engaged people who are genuinely interested in and motivated by what they do and are prepared to keep learning. The field of HR changes all the time and your advisers need to be the ones who keep up with it.
But I think their curiosity should extend beyond just their individual area of expertise. They should also be curious about both business and the world around us more generally. That way they’ll be able to frame any advice they give in a broader context rather than solely within the confines of human resources.

HR quality 6: Collaboration

The final vital skill your HR consultant should have is the ability to collaborate. They should act as a true business partner – someone who gets where you’re coming from and helps you achieve it. This means understanding your vision for the business and working out what they can do to make sure it happens. It also means listening to your concerns and challenges and responding to help you overcome them. But as a true partner, your HR consultant should also be thinking about what they can do to proactively help your business, whether that’s in introducing new efficiencies, helping you stay on top of risks or being one step ahead of the changing regulatory landscape. In short, it means seeing themselves as an integral part of your team and understanding that your future and their future are intertwined.

Are you ready to find your HR consultant?

If your HR partner has these six qualities, they can help drive your business forward so that your staff are productive, your risks are managed, your costs are kept down and your goals are met. Catalina Consulting is a professional HR Consulting firm, offering a wide range of services including custom HR solutions. If you would like to know how we can help you take your business to the next level, get in touch today.

Companies that fall foul of the new whistleblower laws risk seriously heavy fines. So what should your business and your HR department be doing to comply? Employers who fall on the wrong side of these new whistleblower policies, risk the prospect of being fined up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover. This new whistleblower protection regime came into effect on 1 July 2019.

Which whistleblower protections have changed?

The key changes introduced on 1 July, that affect your HR policies are set out below.

The federal government introduced the changes by amending the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth). Together, these Acts regulate almost all companies, including foreign corporations, trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, ADIs, NOHCs, super funds, and insurers.

What penalties apply if your business breaches the new whistleblower laws?

Courts can make orders against a company if they fail in their duty of care to protect a whistleblowing employee. The maximum civil penalties for breaching the confidentiality of an eligible whistleblower’s identity or causing or threatening harm include:

Three actions your company needs to do to comply with the new whistleblower laws

To make sure your company stays on the right side of these laws, we believe there are three things your business should be doing.

Implementing a whistleblower policy

From 1 January 2020, some companies will be required to have a whistleblower policy that complies with the new section 1317AI of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) or face a $12,600 fine. This can be drawn up by your Human Resources department.

This includes:

To comply with section 1317AI, the policy must contain:

What if you don’t fall under these rules?

Although only certain companies are required to have a whistleblower policy, we strongly recommend all companies create or update their whistleblower policy. We also recommend that your policy includes a scope to conduct investigations internally and externally, and addresses client legal privilege. Your policies should also set out a cohesive process to work through situations where a person subject to disclosure is also authorised to receive it. Finally, as part of these new policies and procedures, we suggest you have a process for determining whether eligible whistleblower consent to be identified during an investigation.

And for listed companies?

ASX-listed companies should also take account of the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations, which further recommends that policies:

Assessing your current whistleblower procedures

The new regime requires employers and HR departments to analyse and strategise any existing whistleblower procedures they have in place and to rework or replace them where necessary. Further, to protect whistleblowers from harm, ensure any whistleblowers’ information is stored securely in confidentiality and that what you’re doing complies with privacy laws.

Training all your staff in whistleblowing protections

Given these significant changes, we recommend employers provide two types of tailored HR training. The first training program should be for ‘eligible recipients’. This is eligible to members part of the sector such as senior managers, officers, and anyone else authorised to receive disclosures from whistleblowers, including compliance officers. This training should cover the process set out in the company’s whistleblower policy to respond to disclosures. Pay special attention to the importance of protecting the whistleblower’s right to anonymity during the investigation, unless they consent to being identified. Remember you auditors, actuaries, tax agents and BAS agents are also ‘eligible recipients’. Although it isn’t expected fo you to train these people, we recommend you inform them of their new obligations.

The second training program should be for all staff, including all Human Resource employees. This should set out how the whistleblower regime works and how your whistleblower policy provides a process for disclosing and investigating certain matters. It should also be used to provide details of the protections that will be provided to eligible whistleblowers.

What do you need to do right now?

Employers should respond to the new whistleblower regime now to make sure they comply with new laws and that they’re not exposed to the potential of exceptionally high fines. After all, a fine of 10% of annual turnover is high enough to cripple most companies. Don’t have HR issues, have HR solutions. If you’d like to know more about your own company’s circumstances, introducing these policies into your organisation or what practical steps you can take, get in touch.

There’s been an update to leave.

On 21 August 2019, the Full Federal Court of Australia handed down a decision in Mondelez Australia Pty Ltd v AMWU [2019] FCAFC 138 – a decision that has far-reaching implications for all employers.

The decision deals with the method of accruing and taking paid personal/carer’s leave for the purposes of the National Employment Standards under the Fair Work Act 2009. On the back of this decision, the Fair Work Ombudsman has announced it is reviewing and updating its advice. Although the decision may be appealed to the High Court if any special application is made and granted, the Full Federal Court’s decision clarifies the current state of the law which is:

– Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to 10 working days of paid personal/carer’s leave for each year of employment.

– This protects those employees’ income when they are entitled to be absent from work due to illness or injury (or providing care or support to a family or household member who is ill, injured or suffering from an unexpected emergency).

– The leave must be calculated in working days, not hours. A working day is the portion of a 24 hour period that an employee would otherwise be working.

– An employee’s entitlement is expressly based upon the time working for the employer and is expressly calculated in days. For example, every 5.2 weeks, an employee accrues an entitlement to another full day of time off.

– For every day of personal/carer’s leave taken, an employer deducts a day from the employee’s accrued leave balance. If an employee takes a part-day instead, then an equivalent part-day is deducted from the employee’s accrued leave balance.

What does this mean for employers?

Employers need to review their payroll systems to ensure they are accruing personal/carer’s leave at the correct rate. There could also be implications for part-time employment contracts and leave policies.

We recommend you review these systems and documents and contact the Catalina Consultant team if you require any assistance.

Working from home has become commonplace. But is it really an encouraging workplace solution? How does it impact your overall human resources? We explore when it works, when it doesn’t and how to ensure it delivers positive benefits to your organisation. Should you really let that employee work from home? Is this key to performance management? More and more employers seem to be answering this question in the affirmative. After all, it is the age of flexible working, so allowing them to stay away from the office when they’re not needed is just what you have to do, right?

Besides, doesn’t letting your employees work from home produce a focused, happy and productive work culture? A HR win right?

The real benefits of working from home

The truth is, there can be real advantages in allowing employees to work from home – both for employers, employees and your human resources department. When Microsoft organised its own study into the topic and surveyed 4,000 IT workers in the manufacturing, financial services, professional services and retail/hospitality industries, it was found that there were immediate benefits. The Microsoft study also revealed that 45% of workers overall and 71% of information workers in retail/hospitality thought their productivity was higher when working remotely. Due to fewer distractions and a generally quieter atmosphere, this in part allowed them to get their daily tasks done.

Microsoft’s findings have been supported by other studies undertaken around the world. For instance in 2014, a Chinese-based NASDAQ listed company, randomly choose half of its 16,000 call centres workers to work from home while the other half stayed in the office. A nine month academic study into the impact of this experiment found that those who worked from home were 13% more productive – largely because they took more calls per minute and fewer breaks and sick days. How about that for HR strategies?

HR strategy or mistake? Common hesitations about allowing employees to work from home

That said, many employers are understandably still concerned about letting employees work from home – much of this concern centres on the loss of control. Potentially rising HR issues and lack of employee engagement. Who knows how hard your employees will work when there’s no one watching over them? What’s to stop them from going off-task or just completing the bare minimum? Isn’t it better to have them in the workplace and under a watchful eye?

Another common hesitation employers have is around whether workers can actually perform their role according to HR policies and procedures, especially when they’re not in the workplace. And there are obvious times this is true – a customer-facing hospitality employee can’t always meet and greet people from their living room; nor can a courier deliver parcels from a home office. 

But there are also many situations that are a little more complex – such as the creative team who must accumulate ideas together, the consultants who need to collaborate to solve a clients’ problem, or the manager who really needs to be accessible to team members, consulting them on their roles and overseeing their work. 

Finally, some employers are concerned about potential security breaches – especially in industries that rely on a high degree of confidential information and data such as professional and financial services. What happens if the employee compromises our systems or introduces a virus to our network from their own device? This could put your human resources department into meltdown. 

Getting around these hesitations: is it worth it?

My industry work with clients has shown that sometimes employers’ fears are well-founded. Some employees won’t do the right thing and shouldn’t be granted such deep trust; sometimes work is best completed in the office where employees can consult face-to-face and bounce ideas off each other, as a supportive team.

However, placing a blanket ban on working remotely can have a negative impact on morale and ultimately affect your business. Instead, for employee management and development I prefer to look at each scenario on a case-by-case basis. Starting with a written policy that states exactly what the rules are around working from home – who’s allowed to do it, when and for what reason.

Beyond that, I also think there are a few key initiatives every employer should do to ensure working from home works for everyone – not just the employee.

How to get working from home right in your workplace

If you’re struggling coming to terms with challenges of working from home, here are key measures every business should consider.

1. Analyse what can be done from home.

In conjunction with your employees, decide which tasks can be performed at home and which are best for the office. Restrict remote time to the days when only those non-office tasks need to be done.

2. Set measurable goals.

HR management is all about setting goals. If someone is working from home, make a list of achievable expectations. Write down what you expect them to achieve while they’re away from the office. If incomplete, their remotely working status should be reviewed.

3. Communicate.

Successful managers constantly let people know where they stand – what they’re doing well and where they need to improve. Unfortunately, when someone works from home it can be “out of sight, out of mind” on this front.

4. Bring people back into the office.

There are benefits of working face-to-face too – both from a social and productive standpoint. By making sure your team come into the office from time-to-time, a noticeable beneficial outcome will show for the business. For instance, set a compulsory weekly or fortnightly team meeting that can’t be missed without a valid excuse.

5. Keep connected.

These days apps such as Slack and Google Hangouts let you stay in constant communication with your team members. Take advantage of these (resist temptation of checking on employees) it may just help with employee engagement.

6. Put the right tech in place.

If you’re worried about your systems being compromised, speak to your IT members. Discuss ways to avoid this and have a written protocol on what’s allowed and what’s not.

And finally…

Real benefits can come from working at home. However, the reality is leadership and management needs to be planted and in some cases, the answer will have to be no. Be prepared for these instances and have a solid, logical reason for why you would deny some employees access to it – and communicate this clearly. By being consistent and transparent, you’ll get the respect from your employees, while helping create a happier, healthier and more productive workplace. If you have any questions regarding flexible working conditions and working from home, speak with the Catalina Consultants team today.

Welcome back to our two-part blog around best HR practice when it comes to hiring and recruiting employees. If you missed our first part, you can read it here.

We’ll pick up where we left off – what happens once you’re ready to actually ready to hire someone?

4. The employment contract

If you’re satisfied with the reference checks, make a formal offer. Once it’s accepted be sure to let other unsuccessful candidates know why they missed out.

Beyond that, it’s time to draft your employment contract. It almost always pays to have this done professionally by an expert – especially as it will always be read in conjunction with laws and regulations governing the employment relationship, as well as any relevant modern awards.

5. Your employment and HR policies

Once you have recruited your employees, you should also have standard HR policies and procedures ready to implement. Consider this your bible for your day-to-day business operations, setting out expectations when it comes to workplace behaviour and something you can refer back to when it comes to keeping employees accountable.

As you’ll rely on these policies to regulate your workplace and uphold standards, it’s important that you communicate them to your teams. And, as your business will no doubt grow and evolve, it’s also important that you keep them flexible and review them regularly.

6. Improving performance and terminating employment

Perhaps no aspect of running a business is more fraught and less understood than performance management and termination. But, given the very real prospect of unfair dismissal and unlawful termination action, every employer should understand this area. It’s human resources 101.

Here’s what you should be across:

– Every employee has a ‘qualifying period’ – here you can terminate an employee and request they part with the company. If you’re a small employer (under 15 employees) the good news is that this qualifying period runs for 12 months. For larger employers, it’s just six.
– You should give warnings for underperformance – before you dismiss any worker. Warn them that they are not performing and provide them with a chance to improve. Do this both in a private face-to-face meeting and in writing. Let them have a support person present and give them a reasonable period to improve. Record keeping here is vital.
– You don’t have to give notice or warnings for misconduct. If someone is guilty of serious misconduct, you can terminate their employment summarily. Examples of serious misconduct include theft, fraud, threatening behaviour and a serious breach of your policies.
– Everyone else is entitled to a notice period – this ranges from one week to employees who’ve given you less than 12 months service to four weeks for employees who’ve been with you for more than five years. If a worker is over 45 and has served more than two years, they’re entitled to another two weeks. You can make a payment in lieu of this notice period.
– Redundant employees are entitled to an extra payment, but only if you are over 15 people. Again, this is based on age and length of service.
– Employees have 21 days to bring an unfair dismissal claim – if you get payments or procedure wrong, they may be entitled to compensation and potentially even reinstatement.
– You can never terminate an employee for a prescribed reason – this includes on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or union membership. If you do, you’re likely to be penalised under the unlawful termination provisions, which are separate to unfair dismissal.

Are you ready to embrace the hiring process?

I hope you found our two-part blog helpful – these are the basics of recruitment that I feel that every business owner should know needs. But remember, these really are just the ‘basics’ – human resources can be complex, challenging and there are some areas which are more likely to be grey than black and white. If you find yourself in a situation that could lead to serious exposure for your business, you should always pay for an employment lawyer or HR professional. Otherwise, you risk suffering far greater long-term damage both to your reputation and your bottom line. If you’d like an independent review of your HR processes or are keen to revamp the way you hire in your organisation, then speak with us today. We’d love to help.

How would you rate your hiring skills? Many small business owners give significant thought to who it might be that can help drive business professionally and creatively. However, they can give little thought to the technicalities of actually employing staff – including making sure they’re employed correctly, managed effectively and if required, terminations take place correction. With that in mind, here is part one of my two-part guide to making sure you get the fundamentals of human resources right when it comes to hiring in small business, even when you may not have a specialist HR function.

There are some important factors you’ll need to get when it comes to hiring a new employee including:

1. Recruiting a new staff member

Generally, there are two aspects to this – attracting the attention of the right people and reviewing their applications to make sure they have the right temperament, skillset and outlook your business needs.

The job advertisement:

For me, the first step comes down nailing your job advertisement. Here, I always advise:

– Stating your top three selling points – consider why someone would want to work for you and get this down succinctly and powerfully.
– Keeping your company details short and sharp – don’t try to cram in every single detail of your business, refer them to your website instead.
– Outlining the specific duties – this isn’t a time to be vague or elusive. If you expect someone to do a lot of admin, tell them that upfront.
– Using bullet points – see how much information can be conveyed quickly when you do?
– Making the application process seamless – the more hoops, the fewer people will jump through them.
– Using action words – compel people to act now.

Hot Tip: Always advertise on Monday, not a Friday – that’s when people are most likely to think about leaving their current role.

When the applications and CVs start to come in, it can seem a little overwhelming. Here I recommend:

– Looking at the way it’s presented – remember it’s not the only thing.
– Drilling down to the experience – if you’re going to spend a lot of time anywhere on CVs, make it here.
– Picking up the phone – if anyone piques your interest, jump on the phone and do a quick interview. Always clarify location and salary expectations and ask them about any notice period they’d need to give their current employer.
– Emailing any interview details – let them know in writing so that there’s no ambiguity.

2. Interviewing properly

The next step is interviewing the candidates – this is your chance to engage with them, sell your business and culture and start to get a sense if they’re going to be right for your organisation. After all, good candidates need a reason to work for you.

However, there are certain things you should be doing in the interview process that can give you a better idea of picking the right candidate. For example, ask the right questions – most employers fail at this stage because the interview becomes just another ‘meet and greet’. Instead, focus on getting to the bottom of four key areas:

– Work history – find out what they’ve achieved and why they want to move on.
– Aspirations – it’s vital you know that they’re outlook is compatible with yours.
– Key skills and attributes – get them to explain why they’re suited to the role and your business.
– Behavioural-based questions – how do they react in certain situations, what makes them tick and what’s their working style like?

I also suggest using a structured interview guide. This should include:

– A welcome – thank them for coming, introduce yourself and your business and tell them why they’re here.
– Asking every question – avoid skipping questions if you’re pressed for time.
– Giving them the chance to ask questions – find out how curious they are about what their role might entail and where their career might lead.
– Keeping it clean – avoid talking about the candidate’s personal life and never ask questions about age, disability, religion or intentions when it comes to children.
– Closing the interview – tell them the next steps and what they should expect from you.

3. Interview warnings – the 411

When you interview candidates, don’t fall into these common traps as many employers do:

– Talking too much – you’re here to find out about them, so let the candidate do the majority of the talking.
– Making a decision too early – it’s a big call, so take plenty of time to go through all prospective candidates.
– Asking leading questions – let the candidate explain don’t give them the answer you want to hear.
– Use a stress interview – don’t try to forcefully fluster someone as you’ll come off looking worse for it, not them.
– Failing to call referees – these are possibly your most valuable point of information after the interviewing process, so use them wisely.

Your goal should be to make everyone you interview, ultimately want to join your business regardless of whether they’re appropriate. If you make the interview experience enjoyable for everyone, and they’ll be brand advocates for you and your organisation – trust me!

I’ll be releasing part two of my ultimate guide to hiring in the next week or so. If you have any questions regarding the hiring process or might be ready to consider outsourcing your organisation’s recruitment, then speak with me today.

Unlimited leave has come out of Silicon Valley and is starting to infiltrate Australia’s workplaces, particularly in the tech sector. But is it something that would work for your business? Or should you settle for the ‘old school’ approach of four weeks?

Are you ready to embrace the ultimate flexible working policy?

IIn the world of human resources, we know how important it is to manage annual leave. Leave makes employees happy and when employees are happy, they’re also more productive. So, just by keeping their spirits up, means you’ll have both a more efficient team and a more profitable business.  This is the main thinking behind unlimited leave. And it’s not even the only reason to consider introducing it.

Unlimited leave as a recruitment and retention tool

Proponents of unlimited leave argue it can be a great retention and recruitment tool. After all, the war for talent is very real in a range of industries. As an employer, there’s only so much salary you can use as a bargaining chip. By offering unlimited leave, you are setting yourself apart from other employers, giving staff something beyond salary to lure them. At the same time, your employees who grow accustomed to having no check on the amount of leave they can take may find it particularly hard reverting back to the traditional ways.

So, what are the downsides?

Before you introduce unlimited leave in your business, it’s worth considering how much you trust your employees. What is the likelihood of them abusing the policy?  There’s a good chance that there might someone in the organisation who will stretch it to its maximum (although, conversely, many employers may be surprised by how trustworthy their staff really are when given greater responsibility and freedom).
Then you need to flip it on its head – what if your employees take even less leave than they’re supposed to? This could leave staff burnout, ironically something an unlimited leave policy is trying to counter.

Where can unlimited leave assist businesses?

Unlimited leave tends to work well where employees are highly engaged, self-motivated and can take a long-term view of their role and career. It also works well in businesses where there could be periods of intense activity, followed by periods of downtime e.g. businesses that are seasonally focused. However, unlimited leave won’t work if the organisation is a hyper-competitive one. In these sorts of environments, taking leave can be seen as an impediment to their career progression. What you’ll tend to find, is employees avoiding taking leave and facing greater levels of stress, anxiety and ultimately burn out.

How to implement an effective unlimited leave policy

Implementing any kind of leave policy begins by setting the example yourself. You, as the business owner or manager, have to be prepared to be flexible and take time off. This seems difficult when you’ve got a business too run but if you don’t, no one else will take leave. However, you have to make it clear and explain that an unlimited leave policy doesn’t mean not showing up. There will still be processes people need to follow and should have to give you reasonable notice of their intention to take leave. Finally, you may need to tell your team that they need to be reasonable. They can’t necessarily take time off when they’re needed in the office. For instance, if you know that a particular month or week is going to be busy, you should make sure your staff are aware they need to be around.

And remember, keep a record

Even though you might not be counting your employees’ annual leave days for your own records, for legal and compliance reasons you’ll still need to be taking notes. After all, the 10 National Minimum Employment Standards, entitle every worker to four weeks of annual leave. These will still accrue this no matter what your employment contract with them says. If they take less than four weeks a year, you may find you owe them when they leave employment with you.

Are you ready to go unlimited?

An unlimited leave policy can work in the right circumstances. But knowing when and how to implement one is a challenge. If you’d like to find out whether your workplace could benefit from one and, if so, what it should look like, get in touch with Catalina Consultants team today

Many, if not, most employment contracts contain a probationary period during which the employer can terminate the worker’s employment without having to go through all the usual processes. But when should you invoke its terms? This is a human resources dilemma that many business owners can face.

Why do probationary periods exist in the first place?

Let’s face it, even with the very best hiring and HR processes, you can sometimes get it wrong. For example, there can be flaws that start to emerge which might’ve not been obvious in the interviews or reference checks. Now you’re lumped with an underperformer and the worker who you thought would propel your business to new heights, is actually having a negative effect on operations. How long should probationary periods be? As a rule of thumb, for most workplaces, they can be anywhere between three and six months long. The whole idea of a probationary period, means you have ample time to assess whether an employee is really right for the role. And, if they’re not, their employment can be terminated without the same legal ramifications you’d be faced with long-term employees.

What are employees entitled to when you terminate their contract during probation?

They’re entitled to the 10 National Employment Standards and some of the protections contained in the Fair Work Act 2009. For instance, you’ll have to provide them with a week’s notice of termination (or at least payment in lieu of this notice period). They’ll also be entitled to be paid for any annual leave they’ve accrued.  However, they won’t be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission. Under the Fair Work Act, employees can’t bring an unfair dismissal for the first six months of their employment anyway – or 12 months when the employer has less than 15 employees.

So why invoke the probationary period’s termination provision?

Hiring and firing employees can be expensive for organisations. One US study found that the cost of losing a staff member and re-hiring generally equates to around a third of their income. In other words, if you need to fire and re-hire someone on a salary of $60,000, expect it to set your business back $20,000. Therefore terminating someone’s employment – even when they’re on probation – isn’t something you choose to do lightly. If they genuinely are lacking the skills or aptitude for the position, then terminating their contact could save you a large headache down the track. The ongoing cost of having an underperforming employee will be a drain on your business and sometimes, it’s simply best to cut your losses. But how do you know if you’ve reached that point? After all, almost every employee will face some teething problems. Are they really dismissal worthy?

How do you run an effective probation period?

Give your employee every chance to prove themselves and do what you can to help them get there. Here’s how I suggest you do this:

So I need to terminate their contract, what now?

When you do decide to terminate a worker’s employment on probation, act decisively. There’s no legal reason you need to wait until the end of the probationary period. My view is that, if you’ve reached the point of no return, act as quickly as possible. However, if you reach the end of the probationary period and you’re undecided, use probationary as the reason. It’s in the employment contract after all. Remember – the employee will have access to the Fair Work Commission’s unfair dismissal jurisdiction. So, be aware if you extend the probationary period beyond that six month period – or 12 months for small businesses. Probation doesn’t give you carte blanche to dismiss an employee for any reason – they’ll be entitled to access unlawful termination remedies. You should never terminate anyone’s employment for temporary absence from work, union membership, making a complaint or based off race, gender or pregnancy.

Catalina Consultants is here if you need

We understand that terminating a worker’s employment can be a complex and confusing HR process – even when they’re on probation. If you’re needing some expert advice or assistance regarding terminations and probationary periods, then please get in touch with my team today.

Are you considering outsourced or virtual HR services for your business? We’ve put together seven things that you should be considering when choosing a virtual HR solution for your business:

1. Do they offer bespoke HR services?

The best outsourced human resources companies don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to HR. Look for a solution that can offer custom HR or bespoke HR services. For instance, your businesses may need an HR partner who can help them with strategy over administration. For others, it might the reverse. Some businesses need all aspects of human resources looked after. For others, it may be just one part of it, such as HR policies and procedures, or help with leadership development.

Whatever your reason, if you are considering outsourced or virtual HR, ensure they have the flexibility and resources to meet your needs.

2. Broad human resources experience

Just as no two businesses are the same, no two HR companies are the same either. All come with different specialisations, as well as different backgrounds and experience. And yet, being able to respond to all people-related issues effectively means having the breadth and depth of experience. That’s why when considering an outsourced or virtual HR provider, they come with the right credentials for your business.

3. Experience in your industry or sector

It also often pays to choose a virtual or outsourced HR team with experience in your sector. For instance, retail and hospitality face HR-related issues associated with holiday and weekend work more so than other industries. Fashion and lifestyle businesses may need to foster a culture of creativity that sets them apart, which may mean enforcing policies differently in the way they would be in other sectors. Meanwhile, professional services businesses have an emphasis on ongoing education, quality of work and client relations that you won’t find elsewhere. It’s important your outsourced HR provider understands these nuances so that their advice is always relevant and reliable.

4. Experience with your type of business

That said, differences between businesses don’t just come about as a result of the industry they work in. They’re also a product of size and structure. For instance, a small partnership is likely to have very different human resources needs, capabilities and issues than a large corporate with offices around the world. Some virtual and outsourced HR companies tend to specialise in one type of business, others can work with a variety of business structures – just depends on what you’re looking for. Whether you’re an SME or a large multinational looking to open an Australian office, it’s vital you choose a provider who suits your needs.

5. The latest HR and business-focused software

The experience of the people you’ll be using may be crucial. However, the software they use is almost as important.The best HR companies out there will have access to the latest apps and software for payroll, recruiting, policies, scheduling and more. In other words, they’ll be leveraging technology to keep your costs down and make your experience as efficient and productive as possible.

6. Availability

One sad fact about human resources is that issues usually don’t strike when it’s convenient. They tend to happen when you’re working at full capacity or in holiday periods or when others aren’t at work. That’s why you should always look for a virtual HR company that doesn’t simply do the nine-to-five but is available whenever you need help. Only then can you be sure you be confident you’ll be resolving problems when they arise rather than waiting until it’s convenient for your provider.

7. A culture that matches yours

If you’re considering outsourcing your HR, it’s worth ensuring they have a culture that’s similar to your own – they go about their work in a comparable way and understand your business goals. For that reason, I recommend getting to know prospective outsourced any HR provider before you engage them. That way you can be more certain you’re on the same page and that they’ll be right for your organisation, your teams and your employees.

Are you ready to outsource your HR function?

Catalina Consultants are experts when it comes to virtual and outsourced HR solutions. We can tailor our services to suit the needs of your business. If you’d like to discuss how an outsourced HR function can help your organisation, then speak with us today.

An effective employee incentive program can motivate your employees so that they reach their potential and, in the process, so does your business. But getting to that point can be easier said than done. In this article, we show you four steps to create an employee incentive scheme that engages your staff, lifts performance and helps drive business reach.

Incentive tip 1: Start with your business goals

The foundation for any employee incentive scheme should always be your business goals. But unlike most strategy which involves looking at the far horizon, here what matters is your near-term financial goals – the ones you want to achieve in three, six or 12 months. That because, ultimately, it’s hitting these that will provide the funding for your incentive scheme. While that may sound obvious, starting with what you want to achieve is something that’s often overlooked when employers sit down to work out how they’ll compensate staff.

Incentive tip 2: Involve your employees

Once you know how much to spend, it’s time to involve your employees. After all, employee incentive schemes almost always work best when they’re collaborative rather than being handed down from on high. Employees almost always achieve more when they have some sense of ownership. For your incentive scheme, this should be done on two levels:

By aligning this with your own objectives from one above, you’ll now have the basis for your incentive scheme.

Incentive tip 3: Set targets

That means it’s now time to set both individual and group targets. When you do, make sure they’re concrete. That means, as much as possible, connecting them to revenue. It also means connecting them to something tangible in this regard rather than subjective.

When you’re coming up with targets, make sure they’re challenging ones. If you plan to incentivise people by asking them only to achieve what they’ve achieved so far, that’s what you’ll generally get – no or limited improvement. The whole point of an incentive scheme is to have people lift their productivity and thereby lift the business. But at the same time, targets shouldn’t be impossible. Setting a target no one can achieve is likely to have a demoralising impact on staff, not an inspiring one. Once your targets are written down, you should also work out a timeframe for achieving them.

Incentive tip 4: Set rewards

Now that you know exactly what you want people and your group to achieve, work out how they’ll be compensated. For most businesses, a sliding scale often works best because, the greater your profits, the more you’ll be able to share among employees. What I mean by this is that, say for instance your goal is to hit $50,000 in revenue and, after paying staff that leaves $5,000 profit, of which the business keeps $3,500 and you share $1,500 among staff. If you were to hit $60,000 in sales and your costs stayed the same, you’d have $15,000 profit, so you could easily provide a greater percentage to staff while still retaining a far greater profit for the company.

You’ll also need to work out when to pay rewards. Studies show that employees often respond best when they see their rewards paid regularly, rather than in one hit. Although, this may not always be possible.

Finally, think outside of cash payments too. It’s not just money that incentivises employees (although this should be a part of it). You could also think about things such as extra leave, a group dinner or event, or other non-cash incentives.

Ready to incentivise?

If you’d like to know how to build an effective employee incentive plan in your organisation get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team today.

FY20 is almost here and it’s bringing a range of human resources related changes. From updates to payroll and superannuation through to increases in the minimum wage, we explore what you need to know and what your business should be doing to prepare to be HR ready for the next financial year.

1. A minimum wage increase

A 3% minimum wage increase will apply from the first full pay period after 1 July 2019. This may sound insignificant but it is almost double the rate of inflation. The new national minimum wage $740.80 a week or $19.49 an hour.

What you need to do:
You need to make sure you pay all employees at least as much as the national minimum wage, even if they’re not covered by an Award or industrial instrument. Check out the Fair Work Commission website to work out how your wages compare to the minimum. If you’re having trouble navigating these tables, get in touch.

Red flag:
Do you have any interns or commission-based employees receiving less than the minimum wage? If so, call us to discuss your options.

2. The maximum Superannuation Guarantee (SG) contribution to rise

The maximum SG contribution base will increase to $55,270 a quarter, up from $54,030 a quarter. This is a salary of $221,080 a year.

What you need to do: 
If you have any employees who receive an annual base salary of more than $221,080, you’re limited to making a maximum SG Contribution on their behalf of $21,002.60 a year.

Red flag: 
If you offer ‘base plus super’ watch that you don’t inadvertently pay your employees over the maximum threshold unintentionally.

3. Concessional superannuation contribution caps to remain

Any of your employees can make a concessional (before-tax) super contribution of up to $25,000 each financial year. Typically, people do this by electing to salary sacrifice a regular or lump sum amount into their nominated superfund. Any SG contribution you make on their behalf will count towards this threshold.

The detail to remember:
If someone doesn’t use their annual concessional contributions cap of $25,000, they can carry forward the unused portion for up to five years, provided their total super balance is less than $500,000.

4. Another increase to the unfair dismissal threshold

The high-income threshold for unfair dismissal is likely to increase from 1 July 2019, although we’re not yet sure by how much. In FY2019, the threshold went up more than 3% to $145,200 (excluding super). Given this year’s minimum wage increase, we forecast a similar rise for FY2020. The high-income threshold is also used to estimate the maximum amount someone can potentially receive under a successful unfair dismissal claim.

What you need to do: 
Update your documentation to note that an employee earning over the high-income threshold, can’t usually bring an unfair dismissal application to the Fair Work Commission. There are some exceptions, such as if they‘re covered by an Award or EA that entitles them to access the FWC’s unfair dismissal jurisdiction.

5. Tax-free threshold for redundancy to rise

Any redundancy payment you make to an employee has a tax-free component. The amount of this component rises in line with how many years of service an employee has provided.

For FY20, the tax-free thresholds will be:
Base Limit: $10,638
For each complete year of service: $5,320

6. Single Touch Payroll (STP)

From 1 July 2018, businesses with 20 or more staff have needed to comply with Single Touch Payroll. From 1 July 2019, this will extend to businesses employing fewer than 20 staff.

What does this mean?
All employers now need to report to the ATO as each payroll is processed, not at the end of the financial year.

What you need to do: 

– Talk to your payroll software provider. Make sure they’re ready and can manage reportable fringe benefits and reportable super contributions also.
– Start acting now to make sure your processes comply. There are some limited exemptions but if you qualify you’ll need to apply immediately. No exemptions will be granted after the start of the financial year.
– Check the ATO’s website to make sure you’re prepared – they have a handy checklist to help you get ready.

7. Whistleblower legislation effective from 1 July 2019

The federal government has passed reforms providing greater protections to a wider range of whistleblowers. These will make it mandatory for organisations to have a whistleblower policy.

Most of the reforms included in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2018, will commence on 1 July 2019 and aim to encourage disclosure of crime and misconduct in the private sector.

What do you need to do?
Public companies must have a whistleblower policy in place by 1 January 2020. Private companies must have a whistleblower policy in place by 1 January 2021, if they employ more than 50 employees, and have $25m consolidated revenue per financial year, or $12.5m in assets. To comply with the new regime, your policy must explain:

– the protections available to whistleblowers
– who they can make disclosures to
– how they can make disclosures
– the organisation that will support them
– how it will investigate disclosures
– how it will ensure fair treatment of employees mentioned in disclosures, and
– the way the policy will be made available to employees.

There’s still time to get these policies in place but if you’d like some help please contact us.

8. Changes post-Federal election

Just prior to the May 2019 federal election, a series of employment-related proposals and bills stalled in the parliament. These covered areas such as converting casuals to full-time staff, sham contracting, superannuation and union regulation.

The return of the Coalition government in the next parliament sets expectations of issues re-igniting. So stay tuned.

Are you FY20 ready?

As FY20 begins, there’s plenty of HR related changes that businesses need to be on top of. If you still have any questions regarding the changes or are keen to find out how they may affect you or your business, then speak with one of the Catalina Consultant team members today.


While there may be common themes that successful businesses share, no two business were created exactly alike. With that in mind, we show you how to create a bespoke business strategy that suits your organisation’s needs alone.

1. Understand your bespoke business needs

The starting point for any human resources strategy should be what you want to achieve from your business. After all, the point of HR is to support your business goals, not to stand in the way. So any business looking to devise its HR strategy needs to work out where they want to be and then thinking about the people you’ll need to get you there. Who will you need to hire and at what point? By doing taking this step, you’ll have the basis for a recruitment plan. But you should be doing more than that too.

Turn your mind to the kind of culture you want to create in your organisation and write down what you come up with. This will help you understand both the kind of people you want to hire and the HR policies and procedures that will underpin your company both now and as you grow.

2. Understand your human resources obligations

Your business goals may be what inform your human resources strategy, but the HR laws and regulations will be the rules you’ll need to play by.

Too often, employers leave themselves exposed when it comes to HR law, not because they mean ill but because they don’t have the time or resources to keep up with the detail of what’s happening. For instance, they may miss the boat on the rules around flexible working, slip up on which Awards or Agreements apply or fail to understand where the law has moved when it comes to workplace bullying.

Being across these – and any changes to them – will save you time and money, protect your reputation and help you build rapport with staff and clients or customers alike. But more importantly, it will mean your HR function is built on the right foundations too.

3. Put HR policies and procedures in writing

That said, complying with the regulations is just a minimum requirement when it comes to HR. Of itself, the law won’t, and can’t, drive your business to the heights you’ll want to reach. For that, you’ll need HR policies and procedures. And you’ll need them in writing.

These policies and procedures should regulate what you expect from your employees and what they should expect from you in return. As a minimum, this should include the rules that govern the day-to-day working environment such as working hours and leave processes. It should also cover the things that will influence productivity such as social media (will you let people use it or not?), working from home (when can they do it?) and mental health.

After all, the right policies and procedures can energise and motivate your staff and give your business the edge. The wrong ones can lead to all kinds of problems.

4. Plan for the long term

Your business is unlikely to look the same five years from now as it does today, so one of the most important things you can do when it comes to your HR strategy is to make sure you have the flexibility to deal with that change. For instance, if you employ 10 people right now, could the same leave policies processes you use right now apply when you have 100 staff? How about your flexible working and remuneration policies?

Speaking of which, when it comes to HR planning for the future also means planning to do what you can to bring on the careers of your key staff while ensuring they work with you towards your goals. That means working out a training and education schedule. It can also mean putting in place the kind of incentivisation scheme that makes sure they’re motivated in the right direction.

5. Sort out your HR function

Finally, there’s no point having a human resources strategy at all without also having an HR function. It’s their role to make sure it plays out in your organisation the way you want it to so that the day-to-day practices of your business and your staff help you achieve all you can.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to run out and create an HR department. In fact, if you’re a small business you may not even need one dedicated HR person. Instead, you can spread HR responsibilities among your team. Alternatively, you could hire an outsourced human resources consultancy to help you stay on top of all things HR. Even if you’re a larger employer, an HR consultancy can help supplement your existing team so that you stay on track and reach your goals.

Are you ready for your bespoke HR strategy?

If you’re considering revisiting your HR policies or are going through major changes in your organisation, consider speaking with us today. At Catalina Consultants we specialise in developing bespoke and tailored HR strategies for our clients,

When you’re running a startup or small business, you probably won’t have the time or money to have a full-time dedicated HR function. In this article, we show you how you can run implement your HR processes on any budget.

Spread the HR function among your team

Even if you can’t have a full-time HR person, core HR tasks will need to be done. Ranging from the strategic such as planning hires right to the administrative, such as payroll and processing leave. You’ll need to find the right people within your organisation who can take these HR processes on. Usually, I’d recommend splitting this between at least three people. If you have someone already performing the administrative tasks, you could hand them the admin side of HR. If you have someone who has rapport across the organisation, then it would be appropriate put them in charge of counselling. And, if you have someone who’s good at process-driven tasks, you could place them in charge of the HR processes and policies. For example, working out the schedules for training programs and performance reviews. You could also choose to make supervisors into champions for each of these areas, so their voices are heard further up the chain of command within an organisation.

Get your policies and procedures right

The most important thing you can do is have solid HR policies and procedures in place. If you do have a HR budget allocated, even if it’s small, this is the first area to spend it.

Take time drawing up the HR frameworks and foundations that will cover everyone in your business. This includes having clear and concise employment contracts, transparent bonus schemes, as well as outlining all the appropriate HR policies and processes.

For my mind, any business’s HR framework should include a minimum of:

With these in place, your managers should at least have the tools they need when it comes to the day-to-day of managing their teams.

Take charge of your budget by taking charge of your own recruiting

One area you can save money is around recruiting. A recruiter can charge a fee of up to a quarter of that person’s salary. Whilst this fee may be worth it if you’re recruiting a high-level member of staff, it’s not always money well spent if you’re going to use a recruitment agency for all positions available in your organisation. At Catalina Consultants, we’ve developed our own six-step process for hiring staff.

This includes:

Our process also involves some solid reference checking where we ask former colleagues and bosses the hard questions. We find the process doesn’t just consistently deliver great staff, it also saves money which we can direct towards growing our business.

Use a virtual HR consultant

Where you’re most likely to need HR assistance, is when you’re faced with a challenging situation. For instance, what happens if you want to terminate someone’s employment. Worse still, what if you want to terminate their employment and they’ve made an allegation of bullying or harassment against you What if there has been a workplace incident which you can’t move beyond the “he said/she said”? Or what if an employee has a long history of calling in sick and you’re unsure what to do? Getting these kinds of situations wrong can cause long-standing reputational and financial damage.

The good news is that you don’t always need to pay someone full time. These days, a virtual HR consultant can be on call to deal with the difficult HR issues that business owners can face. And, at the same time, you can save money by keeping in-house the functions your people can perform in house.

It’s not always worth cutting corners

While it’s important for any small business to save money and follow a budget, cutting corners or failing to address HR issues properly is always likely to cost you more in the long run. If you’d like to know how an HR consultant can help your business, get in touch with the Catalina Consultant team today.

If you’re a small business or startup, there are a range of benefits engaging a HR team virtually. We explore five ways in which a virtual HR team can help you and your business.

1. Virtual HR teams are often more cost-effective

Having a fully functional HR team in-house can be an expensive outlay for any business. However, there’s always a range of HR-based tasks that are required in order for a business to operate. These range from the administrative including, payroll and leave processing right through to the strategic, including marrying together your business goals and recruitment policies.

If you were to try to perform each of these in-house, you would need to hire several people. However, when you use a virtual HR team, you’re working with a team with a wide variety of skill sets. Considered the service is outsourced, you won’t have to worry about expenses such as superannuation, leave, payroll tax or the cost of training staff. Outsourcing your HR function to a virtual team can certainly keep costs down for business owners.

2. Your HR department is always ‘virtually’ available

HR-based incidents don’t always happen at the most convenient of times. Employee misconduct can often be at work functions or during the holiday season. So what happens if you need immediate advice or intervention and no one on your regular team is available? The beauty of a virtual HR team is its capacity to be relatively accessible.

3. Superior knowledge

As an industry, HR is forever changing, with new laws and regulations coming into power frequently. Therefore anyone who works in HR requires ongoing training to keep up with the latest industry trends and developments. With a virtual HR team, you can be assured that your human resources department will be up-to-date, well-versed in best practice and bring a wealth of experience to your business.

4. Virtual HR teams often use the latest technology

The best virtual HR teams don’t only rely on people; they also invest the latest human resources-related technology. This often includes payroll, leave processing and other administrative related software, as well as important programs for managing and maximising staff performance. This means not only get access to the most efficient and effective tech support for your business, but it’ll be significantly more affordable for your business.

5. Virtual HR teams lead to more productive and happier employees

Utilising the services of a virtual HR team can lead to more engagement in the workplace. Happy and engaged employees are generally more productive.

A professional virtual HR team will outline to you the best methods for keeping your staff motivated at work. They know appropriate policies and procedures and know exactly how to carry out performance reviews to marry them to your business objectives. In addition, your virtual HR team understand the hiring process and what support and training staff need to help carry them to the next level. In short, a virtual HR team could be the missing link in helping you achieve your business goals.

Are you ready to go virtual?

If you’re considering updating your HR function or are trying to work out the best option, then speak with us today. A virtual HR team might be the perfect solution.


In the life of any business, there comes a time when a new HR policy needs to be introduced. This formal idea can scare a lot of business owners and managers. Those who worry that making a change could lead to a loss of morale or even resignations. If you’re concerned about a new HR policy, we’ve put together a guide on implementing change without impacting workplace culture.

Explain why the HR policy is necessary

Generally, most people like nothing less than change for change’s sake. And that’s compounded a million times over when change impacts them for the worse (or at least perceived as worse).  At the same time, people tend to respond quite well when they’re given context. So if you do intend to introduce a new HR policy, explain precisely why the introduction and the effects. When you do, it’s important that you’re delicate but also rational – point out the benefits of the new approach and deal in facts, not emotion. And, if you’re introducing the policy because of the actions of one person, or a few people, be sure not to point fingers.

Address the real source of the problem

That said, if you’re introducing organisational change on the back of the behaviour of one or two people, ask yourself is: it really necessary at all? If it’s not, you’re likely to save yourself a whole lot of trouble. For instance, if one person is abusing your annual leave policy, would you be better off taking the issue up with them in a one-on-one chat rather than developing and enforcing a new policy across your whole organisation? If you do choose the second path, you’re likely to be seen as “punishing all for the sins of the few” and this won’t go down well – for you, or for the offenders. So be proportionate and make sure any change is coming from the right place.

Take ownership

Again, employees never like it when bosses fail to take ownership of something they do. And, when it comes to a new HR policy, that can come in many forms. It could be leaving it to more junior staff members to announce and police the change. (Always do it yourself.) Or, it could be taking the approach of applying the policy to others but not to yourself. (For instance, if you restrict people’s ability to work from home, you really need to come into the office each day too.) Finally, it could be avoiding difficult situations or confrontation and just emailing a decision you’ve made out to everyone as a fait accompli. (Fortune almost always favours the brave.) Whatever you need to do, make sure the buck stops with you.

Communicate, communicate and communicate again

I firmly believe the key to most things in life is communication – and just as importantly, keeping the lines of communication open. One of the worst things you can ever do when introducing a new HR policy is to attempt to shut down discussion or fail to engage. Make sure people know your door is open if they want to talk it through. If they come to you with reasons why your new policy shouldn’t apply to them, be compassionate but stay firm. After all, inconsistency is always the enemy of sound HR practices. Only by applying a policy in a fair but uniform way will it ever become part of the fabric of your business.

Be prepared

Finally, be prepared for some blowback when the policy comes in. No doubt you’ll face pressure from employees to change your mind and maintain the status quo. However, if you want to maintain the respect of your workforce and keep the culture strong, it’s always vital you stay firm. Rehearse what the objections are likely to be, and what your response to these will be also. Make sure your managers and team leaders are aware of how to answer any questions too. By keeping the message consistent and being prepared to explain your reasoning, you’ll go some way to preventing the worst kind of fallout from happening.

Just remember

Implementing a new policy without ruining your culture may be difficult, but by following these four principles you’ll be on your way to making it happen. If you’d like some help implementing a new HR policy in your workplace, then please, get in touch.


The Fair Work Commission has confirmed an increase of 3% to minimum wage rates, which will apply from the first full pay period after 1 July 2019.

The Commission has noted the increase is lower than last year (3.5%) in response to low inflation and GDP decrease. However, with average wage growth hovering around 2.8% it’s still going to be a hefty increase for many businesses.

The new national minimum wage will be $19.49 per hour, up from $18.93 per hour. This equates to $21.60 more per week, or a weekly rate of $740.80 for full-time employees.

For employers with employees whose pay-rate is based on a Modern Award or an industrial instrument, or even for employees who aren’t bound by an Award or other instrument, now is the time to review your rates of pay. This ensure employees don’t slip below minimum wage when the increase takes effect.

This increase to the minimum wage rate will almost certainly translate into an increase to the high-income threshold for unfair dismissal claims. Last year the high-income threshold increased by around 2% to $142,000 (base salary); a similar increase is likely this year.

If you would like assistance in determining where your employees sit in relation to the new minimum rates, please contact us.

Performance management is one part of HR that’s not always well understood but at the same time, it’s fundamental to your HR practices and ultimately your business outcomes. In this article, we look at exactly what it is and when and how to use it in your workplace.

What is performance management?

Performance management is a process that involves a manager working with an employee, making sure their output supports the strategic objectives of the organisation.

In this sense, it is the practical application of the company’s overall business strategy between management and individual staff members.

Because each workplace is different and each leadership team has different ideas of what works best for their business, managing performance can include reviews, regular one-on-one check-ins, team meetings, discussions about performance improvement and behaviour management.

It can also include many policies and ideas, such as remuneration and incentivisation and workplace monitoring.

What performance management isn’t

To really get an understanding of performance management, it’s probably worth considering what it isn’t. You’ve probably heard the misguided term to ‘performance manage’ someone out of an organisation, or in other words, moving an employee on. What is important to note, is that it should not be used for dismissing employees. That said, dealing with underperformance is one small part of managing performance.

How to get your performance management right

For any organisation, getting performance management right means treating it as a comprehensive and well-planned system. In other words, don’t start and end with a once a year performance review. Instead, build it into everything you do and this involves three key things:

When should you implement a system to manage performance?

As soon as possible. Nothing will guarantee the success of your business more than high performing staff. So much so, some visionary startups are now building up their HR policies and performance management systems even before they’ve hired a single employee. Still, if you haven’t yet built your own, it’s not too late.

Talk to Catalina Consultants – we’re the experts

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you achieve your business goals by setting up a robust and powerful performance management system in your organisation, get in touch with the Catalina Consultant team today.

Wondering whether now is the right time to hire an HR consultant? In this article, we look at seven times you should consider engaging externally, including an outsourced or virtual HR team.

Hiring an HR consultant when you’re a new business

If you’re starting up a new business, a good HR consultant, virtual HR team or outsourced HR departments, will help with efficiency and cost-effectiveness. That’s because they can provide policies, procedures and processes you need. As well as people-support you’ll want without the same investment you’d need to make in a full-time member of staff. After all, when you’re just starting up your HR needs won’t usually be consistent. There are likely to be intense periods of HR-related activity, followed by periods where you don’t need support at all. Paying for an employee to sit around with little to do and then severely overwork others, doesn’t make economic sense.

Your business has an HR incident

A human resources consultant can help when there’s been a specific HR incident. In the case, when no one in-house has the specific skills or independent status to deal with it properly. Often that’s because the incident requires a workplace investigation where an unbiased, methodical and impartial point of view is needed. Other times, it’s because someone senior needs to be dismissed and there’s no internal employee who carries it out effectively. And other times still, it’s because you have a specific complicated issue such as work-related visas or technical resignation that requires specialist skill or knowledge. By engaging an HR specialist, you can often deal with a project in the most effective way while your staff continue doing what they do best.

You need strategic help with your human resources

An HR consultant can fill the gap when you need strategic human resources work done. After all, employing someone senior in-house to deal with your strategic HR issues is not a cheap exercise. A fully-qualified and experienced HR Director will expect a decent salary. On top of that, they’re likely to be a little over-qualified when it comes to performing many day-to-day tasks. By outsourcing your strategy to an HR consultant, you give yourself the opportunity to employ someone more junior, who’s happy performing the more administrative tasks associated with HR, such as payroll and leave processing. This can save you a lot of money while ensuring your staff stay happy and productive.

Hiring an HR consultant to outsource your admin

On the other hand, if you have senior people in your HR team and want to keep them engaged, you may consider outsourcing the administrative side of human resources to an HR consultant. That way your senior staff can focus on what they do best, keeping them happy and motivated at work.

You need new HR policies and procedures (or they need updating)

Sometimes the need for an HR consultant comes from having outdated, irrelevant or even non-existent policies. For instance, you may have designed them when you had 10 staff but now you have 100. You may be going through a major change that means you need a new framework to govern your workplace. You may want to take account of flexible working or social media. Or you may just want to have something formal for the very first time. Whatever the reason, engaging an outsourced HR consultant can mean you have access to the latest thinking. You should also get the knowledge you need to make sure your policies are compliant and in line with best practice, and that they propel your business forward.

You don’t want to hire someone new

Engaging an HR consultant can take away the inherent risk and cost that comes with hiring a new HR employee. Whenever you hire someone new, you’ll need to train them in your processes and worry about the extra costs such as leave, superannuation and the other expenses associated with employing new staff. By engaging an HR consultant, you can circumnavigate many of these – giving yourself the advantage of having proven HR expertise on tap without the commitment of taking on a staff member.

You’re expanding (or reducing) your operations

Finally, a human resources consultant can help when you’re expanding your operations. That’s because when you grow quickly, or when you acquire or merge with a new business there’s almost always an HR dimension to the change. That could include arranging a new remuneration or bonus structure, harmonising policies and procedures or otherwise just making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Alternatively, there are times your organisation may need to shed staff – whether that’s because of a shift in the market cycle or a change in direction. If you need to make employees redundant, an HR consultant can help you make informed decisions every step of the way, so that you meet your obligations and minimise risk and your business suffers a minimum of disruption.

Are you ready to talk with an HR consultant?

If you’re still wondering whether now is the right time to engage an HR consultant, why not get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team to find out how we can help.

One of the biggest HR dilemmas a business owner can face – one day an employee is working away in your business and the next day, they’re gone. What can you, as an employer or manager, do about it? Or, how do you know that someone has abandoned their employment?

Abandonment of employment is a HR grey area. It’s hard to tell what’s actually happening and whether the employee intends to return back to work. So, what do you need to be looking out for behaviourally? It often begins with a workplace incident or grievance, or a noticeable change in their attitude to work. Then there’s a series of vague phone or text messages about being sick. When you try to call back, there’s no response. When you leave a message asking for a doctor’s certificate to be forwarded, none is provided and when you contact their next of kin, there’s also no response. It’s like they’ve suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth. As a compassionate employer, this can be very troubling. How do you know if they’re even okay?

You need to be systematic

You’re right to call and you’re right to call more than once. In fact, I recommend telephoning the employee each day for three days straight. In addition to this, I recommend taking it further and communicate with the employee via email, just in case there is a reason why they may not be answering their phone.

What to say when you think someone may have abandoned their employment

Whenever you communicate, be concerned but concrete. Make sure they know you’re genuinely concerned for their welfare, as well as what may be required of them. If you are genuinely worried about what’s happened, I would even let them know you intend to call the police to report them missing. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend then writing a formal letter, detailing your attempts to contact them and what you intend to do. I would also advise letting them know that if they don’t respond by a certain date (usually two weeks after they were last in at work) you intend to treat the situation as one where they have chosen to abandon their employment so that the employment relationship will no longer stand. This is usually enough to get at least some kind of response.

And if they still don’t show

Follow through by contacting the police if you need to. Then, if you think they’re not actually missing, wait until your deadline has come and gone. If you haven’t heard from your employee, then it’s time to terminate. Send a letter via both email and post, advising them that their employment has ended. When you do, you will have to pay them for any outstanding annual or long-service leave entitlement. However, you’re not required to pay out any sick leave, nor are you required to pay any salary in lieu of notice. Their actions mean they were the ones who pulled the trigger and the day they left work they effectively resigned.

What do you do if you hear from them?

If your attempts to elicit a response actually prove fruitful, it can settle your mind that they’re okay. However, from an HR process perspective, it can still be complicated and problematic. For instance, the absence may be due to domestic violence, in which it’s your duty to support your staff member. Alternatively, you may have uncovered a serious physical or mental illness. In which case you may find the employee requires time off, or change their work pattern to varied hours. In this case, you really can’t – and shouldn’t – terminate their employment. Instead, look into a return to work plan, or a period of modified duties, to see how you can make it workable for them and for the business. Finally, you may find that the worker agrees to return but provides zero explanation for what they did and why they did it. When this occurs, you can give them a formal warning. You’re not usually obliged to pay them for time spent out of the office.

Always remember

As with all human resources issues, the two most important things to remember are, always to follow your written policies and to communicate clearly. If you need help formulating policies for your workplace, or you need assistance dealing with an employee who you think may have abandoned their employment, get in touch today.

Any business’s success will be dictated by the employees they hire. Yet, finding HR worthy employees is probably the single biggest HR challenge any business owner or manager faces. Our guide shows you where the best employees are likely to be hiding and how to capture their interest.

So your business is growing and you need a new employee fast to fill your next order. Or maybe your star performer has just handed in their notice and you don’t know what you’re going to do. You’ve already canvassed the idea of promoting or hiring internally but there’s no real contender in-house.

Finding decent people is an HR nightmare that almost every business owner or manager has experienced. After all, to paraphrase an 80s pop song, ‘a good employee these days is hard to find’. So where on earth are you going to get that person you need fast? Here’s are some of our HR tips to finding good people:

HR Tip 1: Good ol’ fashioned word of mouth

A surprising number of the very best employees come directly recommended by colleagues, clients and others.

All employers should be open to receiving good employees recommendations even – or especially – when they’re not directly looking for someone. And you should take more notice if the recommendation comes from someone who understands what you do. Including, the culture of your workplace and if they know someone they might consider a good fit.

When I’m interested in someone from a trusted referrer, I arrange to meet promptly for an informal chat. Then I keep them on file, checking in as often as possible. So I can get a feel for what they’re up to and whether they’ll be interested if an opportunity arises. Read more about how we hire here.

What I find, is that these staff members are often the best performers because they come vetted and prepared and can hit the ground running. And it can keep you from working too. Nothing in the world can beat that idea of having a book of reserves and potential star recruits in your back pocket ready to join the team at a moment’s notice.

HR Tip 2: Check in on social media

Most companies now have at least some kind of social media following. Depending on what line of business you’re in you may well have an engaged audience too. For instance, if you’re in fashion – like many of our clients – you’ll probably have some people who like your every post, comment on what you do and generally take a keen interest in what you’re doing. By absorbing what you do, these people often get a good feel for what you do and also for your workplace culture. That can make them perfect recruits. And, even if they don’t have the skills or experience you’re looking for, if they love your brand, they may well tell their friends who do.

When it comes to social media there’s both an informal and formal approach to finding people. Informally, it’s about putting out announcements that you’re looking to fill a role and keeping up a dialogue with interested parties. Formally, you may choose to use the paid services of LinkedIn or some other platform – although my experience is that your chances of success will depend on what industry you’re in and what role you’re looking to fill. LinkedIn tends to be much better for professional roles than it does for, say retail or manufacturing.

HR Tip 3: Check out job boards

There will come a time you may have to use job boards. Here again, you’ll have a choice – do you pay for the mass market ones such as SEEK or Indeed – or do you go more niche? The downside of using a job board is usually that you’ll be inundated with CVs, many of them low quality. This is especially true when you use one of the big ones. In an industry niche, you can alleviate some of this problem by targeting only those people interested enough in your industry that they’re looking for a job specifically within it. The downside, of course, is that you may have fewer people to choose from. But those you do receive are likely to be more universally interested in the type of work you do and know something about your line of work too.

HR Tip 4: Engage human resource professionals

Sometimes, however, there will still be no substitute for an HR professional, whether that’s an outsourced HR provider or recruiter. This is especially the case where a) a lot is at stake and hiring the right person matters, or b) you simply don’t have the time to hire yourself.

A good HR professional should have a handle on your business as well as the talent that’s on the market. They’ll be able to match the two quite quickly and introduce you to people who’ll be the right fit. Beyond that, they should also be able to notice red flags in the interviews, manage the interview process so that the right questions get asked and give you an honest view on who’s likely to be the best fit.

This professionalism will cost you in the short term. For instance, recruiters will generally put a premium of up to 30% on the new employee’s salary – at least for the first 12 months. But, in the long run, being certain you have the right employee is likely to save you money.

So, when it’s crucial you get the best employee – say for a c-suite role or a specialist position that you have little knowledge of – this path almost becomes essential.

Good luck on your employee seeking journey

There’s no one path to finding good employees. What works for you is likely to depend on the nature of your business, the role you’re looking to fill, the networks you have established and your own appetite for the hiring process.

Most importantly, is that you know what you’re looking for both in terms of the skills you need and the culture you’re looking to grow.

At Catalina Consultants, we’re recruiting experts and would love to assist you in sourcing new staff for your business. Feel free to reach out to us.

In 2019 every business needs to offer an employee assistance program, whether they’re a global conglomerate or an SME. It’s best HR practice. Here’s why, and how you can develop one for your business.

What is an employee assistance program?

An employee assistance program, or EAP, helps employees of that business deal with personal or work-related problems. This includes a range of things that may have an impact on their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. That could be anything from dealing with workplace bullying to a work-related trauma, or personal issues like depression.

Usually, an EAP itself is a series of short term counselling for employees on personal or professional issues. But it can take many forms.

The benefits of an EAP

From an HR perspective, EAPs are designed to help your employees stay healthy and happy. They also help employees manage personal and professional shifts and changes. This can obviously have a social impact. But it can have a massive economic one too.

Satisfied workers are more productive and less likely to be absent from work. They’re also far less likely to leave, meaning you’ll save money in staff turnover costs too.

Finally, a good EAP can be a cost-effective exercise in risk management. Studies show that they can help reduce workers compensation, unfair dismissal and ‘undesirable organisational outcomes’.

So, with benefits flowing both to your employees and to your business, what could possibly be holding you back?

How to choose the right EAP provider for your business

Most companies who set up an EAP use a specialised, external EAP provider. But, in our opinion, not all EAP providers were created equal. So if you’re considering this path, we suggest you choose your EAP provider by looking first at their services. These should include services for individual employees and management training, as well as a critical response service for when advice or intervention is needed quickly.

That said, when you’re choosing an EAP, it’s easy to get too caught up on the services you’re potentially accessing without considering what they mean for your business. An EAP provider should be in the business of workplace productivity, not just counselling.

With this in mind, one expert recommends asking potential providers about outcomes – get them to show you any data they’ve gathered and ask for proof, as far as possible, on how an EAP will impact on your bottom line.

Using your EAP to full effect

It’s one thing to have an EAP, it’s a whole other thing to get value from it. The means making sure you’re using it properly and your employees are using it properly too. Achieving this requires:

A good EAP can be a great tool for raising workplace productivity, increasing efficiency and making your business generally a better place to work. But without following the right HR processes to select a provider and implement your program, it can also be a waste of time and money. Make sure you engage a professional human resources specialist.

If you’d like more information on how to build and implement an EAP program for your workplace, speak to one of the Catalina Consultants team today.

Few issues are as hot in HR right now as workplace bullying. But working out whether you’re harbouring one can be difficult, especially between tough love and, well, outright bullying behaviour. With that in mind, we’ve created this guide to spot workplace bullies. We want help you avoid potential cost, embarrassment and damage to the victim and business.

What constitutes bullying?

The best place to start your search for bullies in your workplace is by looking at the words of the law about what constitutes bullying.

For the purposes of the Fair Work Act 2009, bullying happens when:

a) a person or group of persons repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards another person or group of people in the workplace, and
b) that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Based on this definition, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has found many different actions to be bullying at various times, such as:

finding fault where there was none (Lacey and Kandelaars v Murrays and Cullen)

repeatedly raising concerns about inconsequential issues (Kumar and Macquarie Partnership Lawyers)

making derogatory comments and unfounded allegations on social media (Bowker v DP World Melbourne)

swearing at and belittling someone (CF and NW)

excluding someone and putting them on inappropriate duties (Willett v State of Victoria)

The FWC has also found that bullying can be between colleagues, from superiors or even from subordinates. In short, it can be a whole range of behaviour from a whole range of people.

So perhaps what is just as important as understanding what potentially constitutes bullying, is also knowing:

What doesn’t constitute bullying from an HR perspective

The legislation is explicit in stating that “reasonable management action” won’t be classed as bullying. This includes taking performance management action against someone, taking disciplinary action against them or denying them a benefit – so long, of course, as these actions are undertaken in a reasonable manner.

The FWC has ruled that this doesn’t necessarily mean someone has to be polite towards everyone or has to conduct themselves in a particular way. There has to be something more to someone’s behaviour than that for it to be bullying.

Identifying bullies in your business

So now that you know what bullying behaviour looks like from the perspective of someone that works in HR, how do you identify specific bullies in your workplace?

Well, far from the stereotype of the dim-witted thug, studies have actually shown that bullies are often socially aware and intelligent people who can recognise vulnerable people to victimise.

They tend to upset their victims often – sometimes over events or situations or in ways that people with higher self-esteem wouldn’t think twice about. They also tend to lack empathy, failing to get excited when others get excited or frustrated when others do.

On a practical level, the bully will be the one initiating stories about a colleague or becoming belligerent towards someone, seemingly for no good reason. If they have power, they’ll often misuse it – preventing someone from achieving what they want, excluding them from a group or getting aggressive when someone pushes their buttons.

If you see this kind of behaviour happening those red flags should start waving and it’s time to act.

What to do when you identify a bully

If you notice a bully in your workplace or if someone complains about bullying, you must intervene. Doing nothing is simply not an option. After all, you have an obligation to protect the health and safety or your staff and you need to take that obligation seriously.

Generally, if you have a workplace bullying policy that should be your first port of call. (If you don’t have one, speak with an HR adviser, like us as soon as possible) This should set out exactly how your organisation will respond to any perceived bullying.

Regardless of what that says, though, the first thing you have to work out is whether you really have uncovered workplace bullying or whether it’s something or someone you should monitor.

If you think you may have uncovered instances of bullying, the next human resources step should always be to minimise any fallout – whether that’s simply a matter of reassigning workloads, moving an employee into another team or something more.

In the meantime, whatever you do, don’t jump to conclusions. Remain impartial and carry out a proper investigation. Make sure the victim of the bullying behaviour gets the assistance they need but don’t neglect the alleged perpetrator either – they too may need support.

If you’re convinced someone has engaged in bullying, take action but take it properly and follow the right procedures. Otherwise, you’re likely to find you have an unfair dismissal on your hands as well as bullying claim.

The good news is that the Fair Work Commission has its own video on how to deal with bullying behaviour. Alternatively, you can download the whole SafeWork Australia guide here.

There’s no place for bullying when it comes to HR

When it comes to bullying, prevention really is always the best cure. If you need help setting up the right processes in your organisation, or if you want an impartial and professional approach to dealing with an alleged workplace bully, then speak with the Catalina Consultant team today.

For many employers, terminating a worker’s employment always raises fears of a costly unfair dismissal claim. Looking at three misconduct decisions, impacting the HR industry, working out exactly what’s likely to lead to a tribunal appearance. Also, where the boundaries lie when it comes to dismissing a worker for bad behaviour.

HR Case 1: The stevedore who sent porn

In Colwell v Sydney International Container Terminals, a stevedore was on leave and spending the night drinking heavily when he decided to send a pornographic video to some of his colleagues via Facebook Messenger.

The following day he regretted his actions and posted an apology on Facebook. However, by then, the video was shared and the employer began an investigation into the worker’s behaviour. It formed the view he was guilty of misconduct and subsequently terminated his employment.

The worker claimed the matter was personal, not work related and his employer was invalid in dismissing him. The Fair Work Commission disagreed. Finding the colleagues who received the video were not friends with the worker but for a work colleague relationship. The Fair Work Commission found that it wasn’t relevant if the worker was at work when the video was sent. Nor that no formal complaint of harassment was made against the worker.

The HR lesson for employers: In the days of social media, conduct away from the workplace can still be work-related, so long as there’s a sufficient connection to employment.

HR Case 2: The manager (allegedly) behaving badly

In Ward v Reece Limited T/A Reece Group Pty Ltd, the Fair Work Commission ruled an employer had unfairly sacked a manager who had allegedly behaved in a racist and inappropriate way.

Reece alleged the manager had provoked and aggravated a Muslim customer. Encouraging one of his female staff to challenge him on his beliefs about the role of women. It also alleged he’d confiscated another of his subordinate’s mobile phones. Deleting their Facebook app and threatening to terminate another subordinate’s employment if they took annual leave.

The Fair Work Commission found that the allegations were unfounded and implausible, that a proper investigation was not carried out. The employer also should have considered his eight years of service to the company before taking the action. It ordered Reece to pay him $32,000 plus superannuation.

The HR lesson for employers: Always carry out a proper workplace investigation into any allegations against a worker. Especially before making a decision to terminate their employment. You should also consider whether the action you’re taking is appropriate given their service history and the issues at hand.

HR Case 3: The officer who got punchy

In McFarlane v Corrective Services NSW, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission found Corrective Services NSW was within its rights to dismiss a corrective services officer who attacked a colleague after a day at the races.

The officer and his colleague, who was also a family friend, had spent the day drinking. Their day together turned into a physical fight, and the colleague was badly injured as a result. The officer, who was heavily intoxicated at the time, was charged and convicted of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm.

Corrective Services NSW told the officer his employment would be terminated if he didn’t resign. He didn’t and instead presented his employer with a petition signed by more than 100 of his colleagues all of whom wanted him to keep his job.

When the officer was dismissed anyway, he claimed it was unfair and that Corrective Services NSW hadn’t properly considered all the factors including his 16 years of services, the financial impact of the termination, his age (he was 55) and his unblemished record of conduct.

The NSWIRC found that even when the factors were weighed up against the officer’s misconduct, Corrective Services NSW was justified in dismissing him. In reaching this conclusion, it also cited an express clause in the NSW Government Sector Employment Act, which expressly stated “misconduct” could include after-hours and off-duty conduct.

The HR lesson for employers: Even when you weigh up all the factors, there are still times misconduct will justify dismissal. Just make sure you always get proper advice before you go through with it.

Do you have a HR case that needs looking at?

Terminating a worker’s employment is always a serious decision for any employer. It also one fraught with risk, so it’s important to know exactly where you stand. If you’d like to discuss anything you read in here and how it affects you, get in touch with the Catalina Consultant’s team today.

The great ‘Aussie sickie’ is supposedly embedded in our work culture – and can be a frustrating problem for any HR department to manage. Research shows that even the very ‘best’ employees are occasionally guilty of ‘chucking a sickie’. If it’s a one-off ‘mental health day’, then generally this isn’t too problematic for businesses.

But it’s when employees start taking sick days as a matter of course – or see their sick leave as being part of their annual leave entitlement – it can lead to issues around lost morale, lost productivity and increased costs for your business.

How do you identify someone is abusing their sick leave entitlement? How many ‘sickies’ are simply too many? What should you do when someone’s suffering a genuine long-term illness or injury? And, what are your options if you suspect someone isn’t really sick?

The culture of chucking a sickie

A National Sickie Survey in 2018 by jobs website Adzuna, found that 2.3 million Australian workers have taken an illegitimate or ‘fake’ sick day over the past year, equating to 18.5 per cent of the entire working population. The worst part? The cost of fake sick days is estimated at $823 million. So, what are the most common reasons employees gave for taking a sickie? According to the survey, responses included being tired, being bored, attending a job interview for another job, using up sick leave and, unsurprisingly, recovering from a hangover.

Despite the apparent scale of the problem, a survey from rostering software provider Tanda found that there was good news – many employees are now opting to take annual leave instead of a ‘sickie’ for non-health-related leave requests, which in HR terms is the right thing to do. And at the end of the day, it is important to remember that most people are honest and use their entitlements correctly so this is not about setting up draconian rules to punish employees who are following the system correctly.

What’s a standard sick leave entitlement?

The National Employment Standards include both paid and unpaid entitlements to sick and carer’s leave. Employees can take time off for personal illness – including stress and pregnancy-related illness – as well as caring responsibilities for immediate family or household members and family emergencies.

The minimum sick and carer’s entitlement for a full-time employee is 10 days a year. Part-time employees receive a pro-rata entitlement to this depending on how often they work. This entitlement accumulates each year. For instance, if someone only uses two of their 10 sick days in the first year of service, the following year they’ll have an entitlement to 18 sick days.

Beyond that, they can take another two days’ unpaid carer’s leave, while there is no real limit on how much sick leave they can take.

How do you know if someone’s faking it?

Generally, if an employee keeps taking a Monday off, you’re probably right to start suspecting there’s something going on. Similarly, if you start to see a pattern of behaviour – like mystery illnesses that spring up every time there’s a major sporting event – it could be worth investigating further.

However, in our experience, it’s often not obvious. And, if you do find someone has a pattern of absenting themselves for work, it could be for legitimate reasons. These might include mental health, domestic violence situations or bullying.

When it comes to appropriate HR practice, it’s best to not jump to conclusions. Your first reaction should be one of genuine concern. You should also get on the front foot and begin talking to an employee who’s taking a lot of sick leave, rather than letting things continue to drag on.

How to talk to your employees about their sick leave

The simplest and most constructive way to approach your employee is to see if you can be of any assistance. If an employee is genuinely sick, they’ll usually appreciate that you’re taking it seriously and willing to help. Often this is all an employee needs to open up and let you know what’s really going on.

Consider people that might be suffering from chronic illnesses or medical situations that require intensive treatment. For many employees, these types of situations are difficult for people to bring up. However, if you are aware, you can implement appropriate systems to support your employee – including identifying who takes over their work when they do fall ill.

If the sick leave is being used to avoid coming to work as they may not be enjoying their job, you implement a plan to support them too.

At Catalina Consultants, in our experience, the people least inclined to talk, are usually the ones who aren’t using the leave genuinely. However, when it comes to bringing sick leave up with an employee, the trick is to tread carefully. For example, people who are facing domestic violence or a bullying situation may also be less inclined to talk, so it’s important they know that a door is always open and that your position is one of genuine concern.

Let people know where you stand

In a situation where you’ve been genuinely concerned and the employee says they’re fine, it’s the appropriate time to let them know that once their sick leave entitlement has gone, they’ll be moving to unpaid leave.

We know many employers here will default, letting people take annual leave as an alternative. When it comes to appropriate HR practice, this can be fine, but dependant on circumstance. If someone has a mindset of taking excessive days off, allowing them to access annual leave won’t be enough to dissuade them and, you’re unlikely to see any patterns change in the future. Unpaid leave often has a more immediate and positive response.

Another thing to consider in these types of situations is implementing a workplace policy, requesting proof of sickness. It’s common HR practice to have a policy, requesting a medical certificate or statutory declaration, when taking sick leave. For repeat offenders, it’s advisable that you request this every single time they are sick. Stick to your policy and make sure everyone understands and adheres to it.

Dealing with a prolonged illness

When someone is suffering with a chronic illness, they’ll naturally fall into the realm of unpaid leave. And, when that happens, employers need to be mindful of two things.

Firstly, if an employee takes more than three months of sick leave over a 12 month period, they may cease to be protected from dismissal. If you do choose to go down the path of terminating employment, you still need to follow standard HR procedures and in particular, engaging in consultation with the employee. Terminating someone’s employment when they’re genuinely ill isn’t something an employer should rush into. You should always seek proper HR advice before commencing down this route.

Secondly, anyone dealing with a prolonged illness generally needs to keep paying their bills when they’re sick (or often, especially when they’re sick). If they’re unfit for work and only have the capacity to take unpaid leave, this can become a serious problem. You might find employees attempting to work when they really shouldn’t be. Again, these types of situations require careful navigation by you as the employer. Check all rules around requesting medical reports and doctors opinions.

Above all, remember you have a duty of care to provide a workplace that is safe. If someone is genuinely unfit for work, it’s imperative that it’s dealt with effectively and empathetically.

It’s for this reason, that we at Catalina Consultants recommend income protection insurance for employees. Some of the best employers that we work with take out a group policy for all employees to deal with financial conundrums and medical situations discussed above.

Finally, be mindful of mental health

It’s important to note that mental illness can be the cause of many long-term workplace absences. Employers need to be mindful and considerate of the complexities that lie with mental illness. Particularly, before taking action against any employee. Websites and support from organisations like Beyond Blue can help as a starting point. Alternatively, you can speak with one the team members from Catalina Consultants – we’re always happy to provide appropriate HR advice.

Welcome to 2019 – we hope you’ve managed to recharge and refresh, and like us, you’re ready for another great year. Like many businesses, you may be hiring. You could be doing this in-house or through an HR company. Either way, few things are harder for any business than finding good people. So if you’re worried about how you’re going to find and attract your next hire, we thought we’d share the six-step approach we use here at Catalina Consultants.

1. An informal chat

Often the very best people come to us through word of mouth. They also often first come to our attention when we don’t have a role to fill. So, whenever we’re interested in someone who’s been recommended to us, we always begin things with an informal chat. Usually, we’d do this in a cafe or somewhere neutral and comfortable for the person that we’re speaking to. We wouldn’t usually bring them into the office at this very preliminary stage.

At this meeting, we let the potential employee do most of the talking. We do this by asking general questions about the kind of work they’re doing, why they might want to leave, what they’re looking for in a new role and generally keep it big picture. If we think they’re a good match We can keep their details on file and check in with them regularly to ensure they are still potentially interested in working with us. Obviously, where we’re already looking to fill a role we would head straight to step two.

2. The hygiene call

So you’ve advertised a job and the CVs are starting to flood in. Now, once you’ve found someone you think could perform the role, it’s time for what we call ‘the hygiene call’ or phone screen. This is where you or your HR consultant can check the basics – whether they have the right to work, what kind of notice they have to give, what attracted them to the business and the role and what their salary expectations are. It’s also where you can tell them about business and the prospective role, the location and in broad terms what your business might be looking for.

At Catalina Consultants, it’s one of our senior consultants usually makes this call. They’ll be listening intently to the candidate’s responses to make sure their communication skills are up to scratch and that what they said in their application checks out. It’s also a good opportunity to align salary expectations at the outset. For some, this will be where the journey ends but if we like what we hear, we’ll invite them in for a formal interview.

3. The first round interview

Again, it’s generally our senior consultants who’ll conduct the first round interviews.

The first round interview is probably the single most challenging part of the hiring process and also the stage more employers get wrong than any other. Often interviewers do too much of the talking and not enough listening and observing.

The first round interview should always be face-to-face if possible. Ideally, when it comes to best HR practice, have two people in the interview as well: one as the primary interviewer and the other taking notes. The interviewer should be listening intently and asking follow up questions to make sure that the candidate gives comprehensive answers. The note taker should be doing just that – making sure they get everything down and have the best notes possible. They should also be watching out for things like body language, interest and engagement.

At Catalina Consultants, we generally feel that the first interview is focused on behavioural and competency-based questions for around 70 per cent of the time, with 20 per cent focused around explaining the business and the remaining 10 per cent allocated for questions from the candidate. We’d generally allow 45 minutes to run the first interview. If we’re interviewing multiple candidates we often try to run interviews one after the other on the hour. This gives us around 15 minutes to discuss our impressions before the next candidate arrives.

4. The second round interview

Once we’ve narrowed the field down to just a few candidates, we’ll have a second round hiring interview. It’s usually where someone like myself might come back into the picture and run this important step. It’s here that we want to make sure that the person who fills the role, will not only be capable of performing the role, but they’ll get along with our team. Additionally, we ideally want someone that people are going to like working with or for. In short, we’re striving for competency and rapport.

It’s here where we can check if the person is genuinely interested in the job. Are they curious about what they’ll be doing? Are they intrigued where our business is headed? Finally, we would ask some pointed follow-up questions based on the notes from the first round interview too.

If we’re hiring for a senior position, we may follow this up with a short third round interview, so that the senior team get the opportunity to meet the person before we make a decision. But, if we go down this path, make sure it’s done shortly after the second round. Quality candidates often receive multiple offers and if you procrastinate at this stage, you’re likely to find the person you want is no longer available.

5. Psychometric testing

We never hire anyone without a psychometric test, no matter how senior or junior the role. For administrative staff, this may just be a simple personality test (I like the 16PF here) but for more senior hires, we go further.

A psychometric test can uncover things that may not be apparent in an interview. For instance, the introvert who’s super intelligent and diligent but doesn’t like blowing their own trumpet or the candidate who communicates brilliantly but never turns up on time.

Beyond that, they can give an indication of workstyle and preferences – whether they’re self-starters who can work autonomously, how they deal with stress and whether there are any red flags in their work style. It’s certainly not the be-all but it’s another piece of information gathering to help us make the best decision.

6. Reference checking

Finally, we always check in with at least two referees and we put these people under the microscope too. We ask them about any niggling doubts we still might have and we’ll get specific. It won’t be a general, ‘he was a great bloke and worked hard’ kind of chat.

We’ll also always make sure that the people we were speaking to worked closely with the candidate and that they had a direct supervisory role with the candidate. A current or recent boss is significantly more valuable than someone five years ago. So if we can’t speak to someone who’s known them lately, this could raise concerns and we’ll want to know why.

And finally…

Always remember when hiring a new team member, those good candidates won’t hang around waiting. Even with a six-step process like this, we usually manage to go from advertising to hiring in a matter of weeks. So you might be thinking, what’s our strike rate? Well, honestly we’ve made a hiring mistake here and there, but we would say that Catalina Consultants is one of the best HR consultants in Sydney – not biased at all!

If you’re ready to hire someone new in 2019 or think we can help with your recruitment processes, please get in touch.

In HR, we all know the importance of engaged employees. Positive feedback, regular recognition and rewards are a great way to boost morale and increase motivation. If your business is looking to incentivise your staff, the first port of call may be to offer more money. But studies show most people are motivated by some things more than the size of their pay packet.

Here are five ways that will help get more out of your team without having to reach into your pocket:

A sense of purpose for employees

The main motivator is a sense of purpose – or feeling like you’re making a difference to others’ lives. As The Guardian puts it, “employees who feel like their work creates positive impact are more likely to feel fulfilled, promote their company and stay on the job longer.”

So how do you help your employees achieve that?

First, purpose comes from context, so let them in on the bigger picture. Meaning, helping them understand why you exist, your aims and how their role fits into helping the business make achievements. Allow interactions with clients or customers, so they know the people using your product or service and how it helps. And, most importantly, you should try to understand their career objectives. How can you make sure their role gives them the skills and experience they need to achieve them. That way they can see how their role also has a purpose in their personal ambitions as well as in broader ones.


Few things motivate us more than receiving proper recognition for our work.

We’ve all been in the situation where someone else has taken credit for what we’ve done (or conversely has lumped us with the fault for something that was a joint effort), so we also know how it feels not to receive our proper due.

Recognising the good work your employees do and the contribution they make to your success should be a matter of course. And it should be shared publicly so that everyone in the business knows the stellar contributions your people make.

It’s long been understood that recognition is one of the real keys to staff retention. But giving proper recognition won’t just make your employees more likely to hang around. One study showed 78% of employees were prepared to work harder for someone who recognised their work.


When you’re a business owner or senior manager, your livelihood depends on your employees doing a good job. So sometimes it can be hard to let go and let people get on with their work.

Of course, you need to check in on people and make sure they’re doing a good job. But not many people respond well to micromanaging – they prefer to be trusted.

If you have good staff you want to keep without paying them more, why not consider loosening the strings and giving them a little more autonomy? Employees with higher degrees of autonomy in the way they do their work also report higher levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction.


Linked closely to autonomy is flexibility. Many employees now have a legal right to request flexible working but I think to hold onto your best staff and keep them engaged and happy you should be doing more than just the legal minimum and opening up flexible working to all staff where you can.

Does it really matter where your employees’ work is done, so long as it’s done well? (I know the answer will be ‘yes’ for some employers but not for most.) Does it matter if your employees start their day at 6 am instead of 9 am or leave early one day to coach their kid’s sporting team or attend that class they’d always wanted to go to?

For employers looking to motivate staff without paying more, a little bit of flexibility can go a long way: a recent study on flexible working in a Fortune 500 company found that flexible workers achieved more, were sick less often, worked longer hours and were much happier in their roles than their peers.

A good culture

Just as crucial as an employee’s internal motivators are the external ones. And, for an employer, nothing is more important than culture. The atmosphere you foster and encourage – whether deliberate or not – will go a long way to determining just how motivated your staff really are.

However, as the Harvard Business Review notes, building a high performing culture with engaged staff is no easy task. It requires encouraging your team leaders to lead in highly motivating ways by training them correctly. Reinforcing what you do with regular huddles. Infusing a sense of play into what you do and making work pleasurable. And it means explaining the ‘why’ on every single project or piece of work people do.

If that seems like a lot of work, it usually is. But the good news is that if you can get culture right, the other keys to staff motivation often fall into place.

After all, you’ll attract the right kind of people and they, in turn, will attract more of the right kind of people. This virtuous cycle should mean you have to be less active in motivating staff as time goes on.

Ready to motivate your employees?

At Catalina Consultants, we can work alongside you to develop ways in which you can keep your workforce happy, engaged and motivated. If you’re ready to start brainstorming, then reach out to us.

We discuss an HR dilemma. Any employer looking to fill a senior role has choices in terms of hiring – promote internally or bring someone new. But which is best?

The truth is that both can work well in different instances. From a HR point of view, promoting an existing staff member saves time and money, meaning your business keeps momentum. However, there’s no substitute for the fresh approach and ideas that come from hiring from outside.

We look into HR pros and cons and list questions to ask, which will assist in making the right decision.

The HR pros and cons of promoting within

Promoting an existing staff member brings many advantages. To an extent, you know what you’re getting, you’ll help grow their careers, and spend less in training. Also, they’ll already be stepped in your company culture. Just as importantly, they’ll be known throughout the business and should have forged many relationships needed to succeed.

But familiarity is a double-edged sword. Promoting a staff member can breed resentment, as colleagues find someone who was once ‘one of them’, now their superior. It can be especially hard to take for people who were passed over for the same role – this can lead to a loss of morale and productivity or even resignations. By promoting someone you’ll also have to fill their role, which can be tough if they were a star performer.

The HR pros and cons of hiring externally

When you bring someone in from outside, you can overcome some of these internal politics. But not all. Your current staff will still be on high alert, weighing up what they think of their new boss, even if you won’t be faced with the awkward prospect of a newly promoted worker now giving orders to their former peers.

The reality is that you won’t always have all the skills you need in-house and you may have to import them from time-to-time. This is especially true for expanding businesses where your growth means you’ll need to acquire whole new functions and specialties and the only way to get them is from outside.

An external hire can also bring new ideas and new ways of doing things. They’ll have hopefully seen how other successful organisations work and can bring some of that experience to play in your business. This perspective can also make external hires great mentors for more junior staff.

But what do the studies show?

There has been surprisingly little academic analysis about which approach is likely to work best. However, one study by Wharton Business School concluded that external hires generally performed worse, were more likely to leave and were paid more than their internally promoted counterparts – at least for the first two years.

After two years, however, the situation reversed. External hires were then usually more competent and tended to be promoted more rapidly to even higher positions within the organisation.

What this reflects, is that hiring externally is a greater risk and one that involves some serious time and effort in helping someone come up to speed. That’s something most employers are usually prepared to accept with junior staff but they often think twice when it comes to employees higher up the ladder.

It’s about the HR processes

The truth is both hiring and promoting can work. What’s most important is that you gear your business up so that it’s possible to use either depending on the circumstances.

What this means is that you provide proper HR, training and experience so that employees are encouraged to grow their skills to the point where they could step into a role if you need them to. You should also consider a formal leadership development program, where you identify talented staff members and groom them to take over the running of the show.

At the same time, you should also make sure your HR department have fine-tuned your recruitment and are ready to go whenever an external hire is required.

Here’s your hiring versus promoting checklist:

Once you have your HR systems in place, you can then ask yourself a series of questions to work out which approach is likely to yield the best results for you. As professional HR consultants, we’ve carefully put these together.

If you’re still unsure, engage an HR consultant

At Catalina Consultants, we’re the experts when it comes to the hiring process. If you have a potential new opening in your business and need some advice from an HR consultant, then speak with us today.

If you’re an employer, your HR obligations have changed in nine important ways already over Financial Year 2019. Being HR consultants, we’ve taken a look at each of them to help you understand everything you need to know.

1. National minimum wage increases by 3.5%

On 1 July 2019, Australia’s minimum wage went up by 3.5%. The national minimum wage is now $712.90 for a 38-hour week: an increase of $24.30 a week from FY2018. This equates to $18.93 an hour. For employers, this is the lowest wage your workers can be paid. Although, if your staff are covered by an Award or Agreement, you’re likely to have to pay more.

2. Single Touch Payroll introduced

The ATO kicked of FY2019 by introducing real-time digital reporting of detailed payroll information for all employers. “Substantial” employers – those with more than 20 staff – had been doing this since April. This means you no longer have to provide employees with a payment summary – they can instead get this automatically from the mygov website. Find out more about what this means for you at the ATO website.

3. Unpaid family and domestic violence leave comes into force

Award-covered employees now have the right to take up to five days unpaid leave each year to deal with instances of family and domestic violence. Read more about this new entitlement on the FairWork website.

4. Casuals can request permanent employment

One change that has really shaken up the HR industry, is that any casual employee covered by an Award who has worked regular hours for a year (that’s 38 hours a week for 12 months) can now ask their employer if they can be transferred to a permanent member of staff. What’s more, as an employer you can only refuse the request on reasonable grounds. This could severe implications if you work in a casual-intensive industry such as retail, so make sure you’re across the changes, speak with your HR consultant and know where you stand with each employee.

5. Casuals and part-timers also have a new minimum engagement

The same Fair Work Commission decision that allows casuals to request permanent status, also grants them a new minimum engagement of two hours each time they’re called in. In HR terms, if you call someone in twice in one day, you’ll need to pay them a minimum of four hours, not the current two hours.

6. Abolition of 457 Visas and changes to other visa requirements

The section 457 Visa is gone, replaced with the Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) Visa. There have also been changes to Australia’s skilled migration program, which has seen the points threshold lifted from 60 to 65. These changes make it harder for employers to rely on overseas-sourced talent, so be sure to look into the requirements if you intend to hire non-Australian staff.

7. Penalty rates change in retail

Penalty rate changes have been a hot topic in the HR industry, since the FWC cut them back in 2017. Now the FWC has made another change – this time affecting only employers and employees covered by the General Retail Industry Award. These changes include:

Employers who fall foul of these provisions, face severe fines. So speak with your HR consultant and make sure you know exactly where you stand.

8. Just a week to make termination payments

Another recent FWC determination affects the termination clause in a number of modern Awards. It requires employers to pay any wages or other amounts owning within seven days of employment ending. You can read about which Awards the termination clause changes apply to here.

9. Long Service Leave changes for Victorian employees

From 1 November 2018, Victorian employees can access long service leave entitlements after seven years of continuous employment instead of the previous 10 years. An employee can now count periods of parental leave towards their continuous service, so long as they don’t exceed 12 months. This is great news for Victoria’s employees but it’s a whole new liability for the State’s employers which you’ll need to take into account, so make sure you speak with your HR consultant.

Major shake up of the HR industry

What do you think of these changes? Does this affect your HR department? They could be having a real impact on your business and employees. If you would like us to discuss these changes further, then speak with one of the Catalina Consultant team today.

There’s been an update in the human resources world – new flexible work arrangement terms. It’s important to note that employees covered by an award also have extra rights when asking for flexible working arrangements. The announcement means all employers must undertake the following before formally responding to flexible work arrangement request from an employee:

1. Discuss the request further with the employee, and

2. Genuinely try to reach an agreement that will reasonably accommodate the employee’s circumstances and personal situation.

A refusal of a request must be provided in writing and must outline a detailed reason for the refusal. An employer has 21 days to respond.

These changes to flexible work arrangement terms are far-reaching and as with any breach of the Fair Work Australia terms, can carry serious penalties. However, by following practical guidelines and implementing useful protocols, we believe this new work arrangement can be managed efficiently and effectively.

If you’re a business owner or manager, this might be new to you. Do you have any questions regarding flexible working arrangements? If so, speak to us if you require further information on the matter, wish to access our Flexible Working Toolkit or to discuss any other HR-related issues.

Looking to sell, list or merge your business? Your HR strategy – or lack thereof – can make a big difference to your value.

If you’re selling, merging or listing your business, your current human resources strategy will play some part in determining how exactly how much it’s worth. From nailing down your policies to making sure your remuneration policies are transparent, we look at everything you need to know about using HR to maximise your sale price.

What a buyer wants from your human resources: certainty

Almost all potential buyers will want to know as much as possible about the human resources practices business they’re acquiring: where the opportunities lie, what liabilities they face and where there might be potential risks. And, when it comes to HR, there’s a lot to take into account – payroll, processes, potential claims, awards, agreements and more.

The first step in maximising your business’s value is to understand what you’re dealing with in the first place. And the only way you can really do that is to carry out your own HR audit or health check.

To do this, you’ll need to examine all people-related parts of your business, including:

In short, take the magnifying glass to every one of your human resources policies and processes from hiring to firing and everything in between.

Document what you can

Chances are you’ll find that what you’re dealing with isn’t as exact as you’d thought and there may be some degree of uncertainty. For instance, your policies may not be documented or formal but may have simply come about organically. Perhaps your leave isn’t being recorded properly or performance reviews aren’t being carried out systematically.

Well now is the time to change all of that and to nail everything down in writing.

For instance, if you have no flexible working or leave policy or if you don’t have employment contracts for your managers – address that immediately. If your employees are Award-covered make sure you know what you’re dealing with (the Fair Work Ombudsman can help here).

This is the time to tidy up your processes and make sure they’re documented for the world to see. (Just make sure they also reflect reality.)

Look for any non-compliance

Now that you know what you’re dealing with, part of maximising your value means working out if you’re getting anything wrong. For example, are your policies and procedures at least in line with the National Employment Standards? Are you not complying with an award that applies to some of your workers? Are you failing making the correct super contributions? If so, you’re not just shortchanging your most important people you’re also opening yourself up to exposure to a claim.

Any buyer carrying out their own due diligence on business will uncover this and adjust their price accordingly. Too much potential exposure may even lead them to pull out altogether.

Look for anything that stands out

It’s not just your risk of a claim that a potential buyer will look for, they’ll also be looking at what’s on your books – particularly when it comes to money. For instance, are you paying way over award rates to your workers? Do any of your executives have golden handshakes or golden parachutes written into their contracts?

You can be sure any serious buyer will notice this and downgrade what they’ll pay accordingly.

If employees have masses of leave banked up they’ll probably mark your business down for this too. So if you’re in this boat do what you can to have staff take leave now, if possible.

In fact, if employees aren’t taking leave this could serve as a warning to any potential purchaser, showing that you’re reliant on existing staff and that no one can step in to do their job while they’re away. The more “turnkey” a business is, and the less it relies on key personnel, the more valuable it is also.

Look for savings

Put simply, the less money going out of a business the more profit there will be. And the more profit there is, the more that business will be worth. That means part of priming your HR strategy for sale is also looking for savings.

A lot of businesses are affected by duplication, especially when it comes to administrative roles. This can be amplified in a merger situation, where two back offices will need to come together.

If you need to get your house in order, now is the time for a restructure. If that sounds harsh, remember this – if it doesn’t happen now, it will almost certainly happen on acquisition. When it does, your staff will be dealt with on someone else’s terms, not yours.

So get in first and do it correctly and fairly.

Put your business in the driver’s seat

Finally, when two businesses come together through a merger or acquisition, they rarely come together as equals. It’s also worth remembering that every business only needs one set of HR policies and procedures. Part of making your business valuable (and making sure your staff stay happy) means also making sure your HR practices and strategy are the ones that prevail.

The only way you can do this is by going into any merger, sale or listing with strong, clear and transparent human resources policies and procedures. Without them, your business will be swallowed and consumed rather than seen as something valuable that should be preserved and enhanced.

We can help

If you’re looking to sell, list or merge your business, then speak with us first. At Catalina Consultants, we can assist you in making sure that your HR strategy is up to scratch. Speak with us today.

We all know bullying is bad news for business. But just what risks are there?

Bullying is bad news for business on so many levels. From potential legal action to a bad workplace culture and from lost productivity to a bad reputation, it has the potential to impact any business’s culture, people and bottom line. In this blog, we explore the most common risks and how your business can avoid them.

1. Legal risk

There are now many legal risks associated with bullying. These include:

2. Reputational risk

Legal risk really is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bullying. Even more damaging can be the risk to your reputation both as an employer and as a business. A company with a strong reputation attracts the best people, more investment, more sales and ultimately more profit. Get a reputation for bullying and the opposite is often true. .

Would a quality worker really work in a place where there’s a risk of being bullied when there are other offers on the table? Probably not. And that means you have to reduce the quality of employee you’re willing to take on or offer more money (or both).

At the same time, people are less inclined to do business with a bully. If word spreads to customers and consumers, you may even see a drop in sales.

3. Cultural risk

When bullying is tolerated in a workplace it can infect the entire culture – especially if someone in management is being seen to get away with it. That can lead to productivity sagging with less motivated staff working fewer hours, taking more sick days and generally not putting in their very best effort.

Worse still, workers tend to adopt the behaviour of their bosses. In other words, bullies beget bullies. So pretty soon one case of bullying can lead to another, and another, and another… Eventually, bullying becomes the standard way of relating to people and getting things done.

4. Financial risk

When you take potential lawsuits, lost sales, less productive staff and lower profits into account, it all adds up. In fact, one Productivity Commission report found that bullying cost Australia’s economy somewhere between $6 billion and $36 billion a year. Can your business really afford to be part of that figure?

5. Personal risk

Finally, and most devastatingly, workplace bullying can take an enormous personal toll. Bullying victims are more likely  to suffer from mental health problems, including depression, stress and anxiety. They’re also more likely to commit suicide.

Are you concerned about bullying in your workplace?

In short, by tolerating bullying in your workplace, you’re not just letting your business suffer you’re potentially also impacting someone’s wellbeing. You owe it to your business and your employees to stamp bullying out. If you’re worried about the potential risks in your workplace, then speak with one of the Catalina Consultants team members today.

If you’re like most SME (Small to medium sized enterprises) owners, you probably don’t have a lot of time to devote to implementing a bespoke HR strategy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get it right.

Running and growing any business takes serious time and effort. And very often so much of that time and effort is spent keeping customers or clients happy that you have very little chance to get around to anything else, especially your HR.

But if you leave your human resource strategy to chance, you shortchange yourself and your business. You’ll end up hiring the wrong people for wrong roles, acting reactively to staff issues and leaving yourself exposed to claims of bullying or wrongful dismissal. When that happens you ultimately end up damaging everything you’ve worked so hard to build.

So if you’re a busy business owner without the time to develop an effective HR strategy, here’s a seven-point plan for getting it right.

1. Do your own HR audit

HR is a wide-reaching term that covers so many functions. These can range from recruiting to people strategy and from payroll to performance management. So before you do anything, examine your business and work out what HR tasks and functions actually need doing. It’s here that you can really start to customise your HR strategy. These should include your hiring and firing, your policies and procedures and payroll. Now, write these down and look at who currently performs them — if anyone does — so that you at least know your starting point.

2. Appoint someone to act as HR custodian

Next, put someone in charge of your HR strategy overall. This doesn’t mean they should perform all these functions. In fact, they probably shouldn’t (see 3. below). It also doesn’t necessarily mean you need a full-time HR person (see 5. below). But it does, at least, mean the HR buck will stop somewhere.

Usually, most SMEs have one person who’s actually interested in human resources and who can take the lead here. But don’t just default to the person who gets along with everyone best. While being a good human resources practitioner requires solid people and communication skills there’s more to it than that. Sure, a good HR person needs to be able to listen. However, they also need to be able to break bad news and make tough calls, which could even include sacking people from time to time.

3. Divvy up the roles

HR tasks range from the administrative to the strategic, and it’s unlikely you’ll find one person with the skills or the capacity to do everything. So now that you know what needs to be done, work out who’s going to what.

Chances are you could move some of the administrative tasks to people already performing admin, while your HR and recruitment strategy could be assigned to your HR custodian.

4. Train your people properly

People will only be effective in any role if they know what they’re doing. If you expect someone to develop a HR strategy, make sure you’ve trained them in how to do it.

Like any discipline, there’s a lot of theory behind human resources. So, if you have an HR custodian, they should understand a bit of the academic side, as well as the practical side. This could range from sending them on a specific AHRI course or another practical skill-based program, through to a full HR degree.

5. Outsource

Then again, you may find it easier and more cost-effective to outsource a lot of your HR tasks. Even if you have the skills to perform each of the jobs in-house, is it really the best use of their time? A virtual or outsourced HR provider can often develop a bespoke or custom HR strategy for you. They can perform each HR process more efficiently, more effectively and with more expertise than you could by using your existing staff. They can also step in and provide what you’re lacking whether that’s the strategy, the routine or the support in enforcing your policies or making the hard calls.

6. Invest in technology

There’s an app for that, Apple told us almost a decade ago. And never has that been truer than for the world of human resources. From payroll to performance and from on-boarding to e-learning, you can now find software that will help your HR function more systematically and smoothly. So make use of these and let them help standardise what you do. You’ll find that a lot of cloud-based software can make your life a lot easier for the cost of a small monthly subscription.

7. Hold people accountable

Like any aspect of your business, your HR function will only work if people are held accountable. So be sure that your management team understand what’s required of them and that anyone who has any HR duties also has these included in their KPIs.

Set aside some time each year where you review the direction your HR is taking and whether it still serves your purposes and aligns with your goals. After all, businesses and personnel change, our business direction changes, new rules and regulations get handed down and new HR products hit the market. It’s only by periodically reviewing these and staying up-to-date that you can be sure your HR function is still functioning at full capacity.

Want to improve your HR strategy?

At Catalina Consultants, developing bespoke and custom HR strategies for our clients is what we do best. Talk to us today.


The Royal Commission into Financial Services has been sending shockwaves through Australia’s banking and finance sector. But it’s not just bankers who can learn some valuable lessons from the stories that have been emerging. Some of the key takeaways are just as relevant for human resources (HR) and business owners and managers too.

How the Royal Commission affects HR

The Commission has been unveiling some jaw-dropping revelations about bad business practices and the unethical treatment of customers. This has thrust into the spotlight human resources staff working for banks, insurers, super funds and financial advisers. There’s been some seriously bad stuff going on, and the resulting public relations nightmare is also an HR nightmare.

Spotlighting on financial services, it’s easy seeing how any industry could be similarly affected by unethical or underhanded practices. Take, for instance, the recent media reports in the food industry over fake honey, or the fashion industry’s struggle with ethical manufacturing.

Here are three key lessons for people from any industry.

1. Communication

At its most basic level, HR is all about managing people – and wherever people are involved, the art of communication is key. What the Royal Commission shows above pretty much anything else is a failure of financial institutions to communicate effectively — whether that’s within their organisations, with their staff or externally with customers.

Internally, a lack of communication around accountability has resulted in compliance issues and cultural problems, including permissiveness when it comes to overcharging customers. Externally, a failure to communicate effectively meant customers often signed up for products without knowing any of the terms and conditions of what they’ve signed up for.

And that, in turn, led to unacceptable risk in a sector that was supposed to be all about stability, sobriety and sensibleness.

When mistakes happen — and, in the banks, it seems they were happening all the time — sweeping them under the carpet or failing to acknowledge them only compounds them over the long term. The right ethical approach — and the best business one — is to admit to them with effective, prompt, proactive and timely communication with customers.

2. Compliance

The shambolic state of compliance with many financial institutions has been another of the Royal Commission’s key themes. In short, many of the organisations under scrutiny preferred saving money or generating profits rather than following their obligations under the law.

From an HR perspective, nothing should be more important than operating on the right side of the rules and regulations. As a starting point, this means making sure those rules and regulations inform your organisation’s HR policies and procedures.

But it also means having gatekeepers who will actually enforce these HR policies and procedures too. That’s where the banks fell down. Too often their gatekeepers failed to raise red flags – or at least failed to wave them vigorously enough – when they saw bad things happening.

This is one of the more common issues we see among other businesses too. If your organisation has rules and regulations there needs to be accountability, escalation procedures and reporting around them. The buck has to stop somewhere. If it doesn’t you’re leaving yourself wide open to claims such as bullying, harassment, unfair dismissal and more. You’re also inviting, even courting, bad publicity. And that can hurt your bottom line more than any fine ever could.

3. Culture

Every business needs the right environment, or culture, for success. The Royal Commission has at times unveiled a culture of short-term gain – often at the customers’ expense – that’s deeply embedded within the culture and psyche of financial organisations.

Sometimes this culture has sprung up as a result of badly structured incentive schemes related to remuneration or performance; other times it has simply been a sales-driven, alpha culture that fails to place the customer first.

If your organisation doesn’t have the right culture right now to satisfy your customers and grow your business, what do you need to fix? Do your remuneration structures encourage a culture of risk-taking? Do they take into account the psychology behind your staff’s motivation and the long-term effect on your business? Are you in control of your workplace culture or is it controlling you? Do all your people engage wholeheartedly in what you do, and do it ethically and responsibly?

Remember, nothing is more important to your organisation’s success than its culture. And as an HR person or business owner/manager, you’re the one directly responsible for building it.

Want to build a healthier culture in your workplace?

If you’re looking to better your organisation, then speak with the team at Catalina Consultants. We’re the human resources experts and can put together a bespoke plan to improve your workplace’s culture. Talk to us today.

There’s been another update in the world of human resources and this time, it’s regarding terminated employees and their wages. The Fair Work Commission has handed down determinations and has made some changes to a number of modern awards including those of termination payments. This decision was made on 15 August 2018. The most recent announcement is in relation to the new Payment of Termination clauses which have been inserted in most awards.

So what does this mean for you, your HR department and your business?

If an employee has been terminated for whatever reason, employers must pay all wages and any other outstanding amounts due to the employee no later than seven days after the day of termination. You can view the schedule of determinations here.

When will the changes to termination payments be effective?

The changes will come into effect from the first full pay period on or after 1 November 2018.

If you’re concerned about how these changes might affect you, your HR department or business overall, then feel free to contact one of the Catalina Consultant team members. They’ll be able to assist you with any questions that you may have regarding these termination payment changes.

In the early stages of a business, most owners and managers focus on growth – almost to the exclusion of everything else. But by spending a little time on your human resources (HR) upfront, and then re-examining where you’re at along the way, you can save a lot of headaches and create a more dynamic, successful and profitable business.

There are many examples of startups where neglect for human resources, led to serious issues down the track. Some of the more high profile ones include Uber’s alleged sexist workplace culture to Twitter’s alleged lack of diversity. And these were startups that had already made it big. More common are the ones whose issues get in the way well ahead of that, hampering the business so that it never reaches its potential

It makes sense to make your HR a priority from day one: the first employees you hire are likely to be the most important ones you’ll ever employ. The culture you build together will be the one that permeates through the whole business and, if it’s the wrong one it can take seriously expensive surgery to fix it.

But it also makes sense to keep reviewing and making sure your people and your policies continue to serve your business the right way all the way through your journey.

With that in mind, here’s what I think you should be doing and when implementing your HR procedures:

1. When you’re starting out

When you’re starting out you’re usually looking for work, so it can be hard to envision the day you’ll be so busy with it that you won’t have time to scratch yourself. But, if you do things right, that’s exactly what will happen. And, if you haven’t put the fundamentals in place now, retrofitting them over an existing business will be trickier. That’s why, when you’re opening the doors, I think it pays to look at:

2. A year or two into your HR journey

Hopefully, now things are chugging along. And hopefully, also, those HR steps you took when you first started out have helped keep you on track. But you’ll probably be facing some practical issues that you never reckoned on: the employee who keeps calling in sick, the person whose skills aren’t what you thought they were or the star performer who ups and leaves.

Here’s what I think you should be doing about now:

3. Three-to-five years down the track

By now you’ve grown to the point where it’s simply impossible to be across all the detail for every employee. It’s also when people and culture issues really come home to bite. Here’s what you should be thinking of about now:

4. Once you’re big

It may be tempting to take a breather and sit back but I can tell you that now’s the time you’ll notice everything that didn’t go to plan. How nice it would have been to have had a crystal ball back at start.

This is often the point where businesses change direction, where experiments didn’t happen or when the ground shifts beneath their feet. So it’s also when you often have to start thinking about redundancies and letting people go, not just hiring them.

It’s also when you should probably invest in tech solutions that will help you make things more efficient – not just throwing people at every problem.

Finally, it’s when your core values start to shine through. These should now be the rudder that guides you through growth so go back and look at them. Make sure you still stand for what you said you were going to stand for. Ensure that your people and their metrics for success match these too.

Ultimately, that’s what business success should look like: doing the work you want to do for people you want to do it for without ever compromising what you stand for.

See how we might be able to advise you when it comes to your HR

No matter which stage of business you’re at, we’d love to see how we might be able to assist with your HR capabilities. Get in touch with us today.