'Publicity and image' keep big firms away from  		WorkChoices, says lawyer

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'Publicity and image' keep big firms away from WorkChoices, says lawyer

Some large retailers and other big companies have not moved to use AWAs to cut entitlements for their employers because they care about 'publicity and image', a Sydney employment lawyer believes.

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Some large retailers and other big companies have not moved to use AWAs to cut entitlements for their employers because they care about 'publicity and image', a Sydney employment lawyer believes.

Daniel Sleeman, an employment lawyer at Swaab Attorneys, also said that companies who expect people to 'stack shelves at 3am' had to pay penalty rates or they would get no workers.

'Big companies care about publicity and image,' he he told WorkplaceInfo. 'They don't want to be seen as exploiters; they know people can develop perceptions of a company.'

Sleeman said people in the big supermarkets work for penalty rates - 'that is why they work there'.

Penalty rates

'You would have to be crazy if you expected someone to stack shelves at 3am without being paid penalty rates,' he said.

Sleeman said big companies have IR arrangements at the moment which works.

'They have budgets for law firms; they expect to spend a certain amount of money a year on running industrial cases,' he said.

Sleeman, who mainly advises smaller employers and franchise arrangements, said a lot of middle sized companies with 50 to 100 employers are moving to AWAs, 'but doing it quietly'.

He said one of the problems with WorkChoices is that it is so complex that 'HR professionals are petrified their CEO will ask them "come and explain it to the board"'.

Relevance to business

He said employer organisations and law firms who produce documents called 'The 10 things you need to know about WorkChoices' are not doing what employers want or need.

'How could a lawyer know what someone he or she has never met needs to understand about WorkChoices,' he said. 'You need to look at its relevance to their business.

'What if they don't work at weekends? What if they don't pay penalty rates? You need to cut it down to five or six key points that are relevant to their business and then give them a strategy related to the outcomes they want.

'Employers can't afford the time and HR people don't have the time, to look at all of WorkChoices. WorkChoices is just one thing they deal with.'

Common law damages

Sleeman forecast that in the future there would be a lot more common law claims for damages resulting from the misapplication of company policies and procedures.

He referred to the recent Goldman Sachs case where the company had to pay a total of $515,869 in damages for breach of contract because it had not followed the policies and procedures in its 119 page 'Working With Us' document that it sent to a new employee along with his letter of offer of employment. (See link below)

'It used to be the smaller companies which were vulnerable because they didn't understand the award,' Sleeman said. 'Now it is the bigger companies with their Mission Statements and policies and procedures who are under threat.

'If you want policies and procedures make sure you can live up to them,' he said. 'What others may see as "motherhood statements" can be taken by courts to actually mean something and involve obligations on both sides.'

Related

Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) and WorkChoices

Policies in HR manual - part of contract
 


  

 

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