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.


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 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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.