Human resources consultant Michael Cosgrove looks at why it's essential that every business familiarise itself with its HR and IR resposibilities if it wants to avoid costly legal battles further down the line.
When starting any business, or indeed building an existing business, most employers focus on what they think are the important factors. Marketing, product development, logistics, equipment, staff... But how many employers can truly say that labour laws are the last thought on their minds? Penalty rates, leave entitlements, unions wanting to make agreements, performance management, unfair dismissal, the list goes on...
For any business to function it needs employees. Those employees have rights and entitlements that are enshrined in legislation. Overlook that, miscalculate, or fail to budget or prepare, and your business is as good as dead in the water.
Now some businesses have dedicated Human Resource departments and Industrial Relations professionals at their disposal. Others are members of Industry Associations. Others have the ability to access professional consultants. While Fair Work Australia provides basic information to employers on their responsibilities, they will never commit in writing when answering your calls for help, but make no mistake, they will prosecute you if you get it wrong. Doesn't seem 'Fair' does it?
Now although I advocate for all businesses to seek the assistance of Professional IR consultants, Fair Work Australia does offer a range of free tools that can assist you. Although not comprehensive, and in no way able to cover the full range of HR and IR functions, they are nonetheless free and easy to use.
A good HR and IR tool kit should at the very least contain:
The applicable awards for your business and employees.
Comprehensive Code of Conduct, Performance Management and Workplace Health and Safety Policies.
Quick reference guide to the NES.
Now while this is most certainly not an exhaustive list of what a business needs in an HR and IR Tool Kit, for those employers who are just starting out, getting the basics worong could prove extremely costly in the future.