Operating a business and managing employees in multiple jurisdictions can be challenging. Whilst this is likely a sign your business is doing well, you may wonder how best to comply with your legal obligations. Fortunately, Australian employment law — specifically, the Fair Work Act 2009, the National Employment Standards and modern awards — is federal (national) law. This article will outline certain legal considerations to bear in mind when managing employees across Australia. Specifically, it will set out how to best protect your business through well-drafted employment agreements and employee policies. Further, it will offer some helpful guidance on state and territory law that is relevant to your employees and provide some helpful tips on best practices.
Can I Use the Same Employment Agreement for Employees Across Australia?
The most effective tool you can use to manage employees is a well-drafted employment agreement. With some careful drafting, you can certainly use the same employment agreement for your employees across Australia. Critically, your employment contracts should include (among other things) clauses dealing with:
- pay and entitlements;
- intellectual property assignment; and (in some cases)
- restraints of trade provisions.
By developing an effective employment agreement, you will decrease the administrative burden that comes with onboarding new employees. An employment lawyer can assist you with drafting or reviewing employment agreements for your casual, permanent and temporary staff.
Tip: To ensure your employment agreement is suitable for use across Australia, it should also include a boilerplate governing law clause. This will ensure there is certainty about each party's obligations and entitlements under the contract.
Implementing Workplace Policies
You should also consider implementing workplace policies when managing employees across Australia. Workplace policies operate to mitigate legal risk for your business, set clear expectations for employees regarding behaviour standards. They are also useful tools for outlining internal operational procedures to employees across the country.
Critically, company-wide workplace policies can be utilised to direct employees' day-to-day operations, regardless of their location. This will ensure consistency across the board when it comes to matters including:
- leave procedures; and
- accessing company benefits.
As with your employment agreements, an employment lawyer can assist you in drafting and reviewing your workplace policies. We recommend that you implement at least three legal policies across the business. These are:
- a work health and safety policy;
- an anti-discrimination, harassment and bullying policy; and an
- information technology policy.
State and Territory Legislation
You may be wondering how to navigate your obligations as an employee under state and territory-based laws. Thankfully, most of your obligations as an employer are derived from federal (Australia-wide) law. Specifically, they arise under the Fair Work Act. This means that disputes that arise on termination of employment, or issues relating to pay and entitlements are, in most cases, dealt with by federal bodies called the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman, not separate state-based bodies.
However, you must be aware that your employees have some rights and entitlements that are unique to where they work. For example, there is unique state and territory legislation dealing with:
- long service leave;
- workplace surveillance;
- workers compensation; and
- workplace health and safety compliance.
For this reason, you should consult with an employment lawyer about your obligations, and how to ensure they are appropriately reflected in your employment agreements and workplace policies.
Well-drafted legal documents are paramount in managing employees across Australia. You will also need to navigate practical considerations. If you have employees in different physical locations, the most obvious issue you may face is day-to-day management and human resources capacity. Some practical tips for managing employees across Australia include:
- hiring an internal human resources manager or team;
- outsourcing your human resources;
- engaging a team of employment lawyers;
- utilising online accounting and payroll software; and
- hiring managerial staff that you trust and can delegate to.
Managing employees across Australia can be both challenging and rewarding. However, you must be aware of your obligations under federal and state law. There may be many practical difficulties that can be overcome with well-drafted employment agreements and workplace policies.
If you need assistance managing employees across Australia, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents.