Wednesday, 18 July 2012 0 comments

When Do You Need Support with Workplace Law?

Businesses in Australia are facing one of the most complex and volatile times in workplace law and relations. From July 1 2010, 85% of Australia’s employers needed to increase minimum wages and comply with new allowances, loadings and penalties under new Modern Awards; this is just one example of many instances where a change in workplace law called for businesses to seek legal advice if they were to remain compliant.
A recent survey of 3000 businesses conducted by The EI Group, found that over 65% feel either confused or very confused about the effect of the new workplace laws on their business.
“Our workplace lawyers have been helping employers with workplace relations and employment law issues for 20 years and I cannot recall seeing people this confused before. I really feel that employers need more help than ever from workplace solicitors to understand these changes and find ways to stay compliant.” Ben Thompson, CEO, Employment Innovations.
Workplace lawyers can assist businesses in the following areas:
  National Employment Standards – Workplace lawyers can ensure your business is complaint with maximum hours, requests for flexible working conditions, parental leave and annual leave, personal and carer’s leave, community service leave, work on public holidays and notice of termination and redundancy obligations.

  Enterprise Agreement making – Workplace solicitors can draft and lodge Enterprise Agreements and appear before Fair Work Australia on related matters. Enterprise Agreements give you stability by allowing you to bed down the workplace conditions and wages for your employees for up to 4 years.
  Unfair dismissal and unlawful terminations – Getting good advice from workplace lawyers about relevant workplace law before terminating or making an employee redundant can save you having to defend a costly claim for unfair dismissal or unlawful termination. Workplace lawyers can give you advice and represent you in court.
 Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination – Workplace solicitors can assist with legal advice and legal representation relating to discrimination including disability discrimination, sexual harassment, age discrimination and racial discrimination. 

  Industrial Relations – Workplace solicitors can liaise with Fair Work Australia, give advice on good faith bargaining and protected industrial action.
 Drafting of Employment Contracts – Workplace lawyers can ensure that your employment contracts comply with the National Employment Standards and draft new agreements or revise existing agreements.
 Under Payment of Wages Claims – Workplace lawyers can give you advice and representation on any potential wages claim.
 Legal Representation – Workplace solicitors can represent you in court, or at a tribunal for any workplace related issue. They can provide you with information on your rights and obligations as an employer so that you remain compliant and use best practice.

During these volatile times in workplace relations and workplace law, informing yourself up front about your businesses’ legal rights, options and obligations can save you headache down the line. Employment Innovations can offer you and your business the support you need to stay compliant and have peace of mind. They also offer fully outsourced HR and payroll services, as well as other legal and migration services.

Thursday, 5 July 2012 0 comments

Employing Foreign Workers

So you have heard about Gina Rinehart’s deal to bring 1715 temporary foreign construction workers to her Roy Hill mine, but what do you know about your own ability to employ foreign workers?  You may be surprised to learn that you don’t need to be a mining magnate to access highly skilled foreign workers who are willing to live and work in Australia.

To be clear, Gina Rinehart’s enterprise migration deal is special. Enterprise Migration Agreements are specifically for large projects in the resource sector that require more than $2 billion capital investment and 1500 workers. They come with stringent requirements for training Australian workers and the foreign workers are protected under the Worker Protection Act 2009. Outside these mega projects businesses must go down the path of employer sponsored visas to employ non-Australians.

Until 30 June 2012 the two main types of employer sponsored visas are Long Stay Temporary Business visas (457) and Employer Nominated Scheme (EMS) visas (121 and 856). In addition there are Regional Skilled Migration schemes for regional employers. These schemes will continue after 1 July 2012 but with some changes to visa classes for permanent migration.

A 457 visa can operate for up to 4 years during which time the employee must work in the nominated occupation for the sponsor.  EMS visas allow an employer to permanently sponsor a foreign worker provided they are offering full-time work in a relevant occupation for at least 3 years. It is possible to convert a 457 visa to a permanent EMS visa with a formal skills assessment or after two years continuous work.

If you choose to sponsor a temporary foreign worker your business must meet the training eligibility benchmark. This means providing evidence that an amount equivalent to 1% of your total payroll is spent on training your employees who are Australian citizens or permanent residents. Alternatively you can pay an amount equivalent to 2% of total payroll to an industry training fund.

You must also meet strict criteria throughout the sponsorship including:

●        paying equivalent terms and conditions of employment
●        paying travel costs to enable the sponsored persons to leave Australia if requested
●        paying costs incurred by the Commonwealth to locate and remove an unlawful non-citizen
●        record keeping and provision of information to Immigration
●        not allowing the sponsored person to work in another occupation
●        not recovering costs (including migration agent fees and recruitment)

To be eligible for permanent sponsorship an employer must have a training strategy for existing Australian employees, demonstrate a legitimate need to sponsor a foreign worker and ensure that the position being filled is a highly skilled occupation on the Employer Nomination Scheme Occupation List (ENSOL).  The ongoing obligations for sponsoring a permanent worker are equivalent to employing an Australian citizen.

The application process for 457 visas follows these stages:

Step 1 the employer applies to be a sponsor
Step 2 the employer nominates a position 
Step 3 the employee applies for a visa

The application process for the employer nominated scheme is only two steps. First the employer nominates a position and second the employee applies for a visa.

Anybody concerned about Union claims that foreign workers are stealing jobs from Australian citizens should be reminded that the foreign worker visa program has built in protections for Australian jobs including training and development opportunities  to address skills gaps and making genuine attempts to fill positions locally before looking offshore.

There are significant changes to skilled migration from 1 July 2012. Now is a great time to look at your options or to review your existing arrangements.