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  • HR Heartbeat: National Reconciliation Week, gender pay equity, and...

HR Heartbeat: National Reconciliation Week, gender pay equity, and...

We’re talking about the context of NRW, the stage 2 report of the gender pay equity research by the FWC, and some lessons in compliance—as always.

First published on Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Last updated on Friday, May 24, 2024

6 min read

Have you heard the latest news?

Everything you need to know about the latest trends impacting employers all over Australia. Keep up to date with the HR Heartbeat.

Let’s get into the headlines.

National Reconciliation Week

May 27 marks the beginning of Australia’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW), which will end on June 3.

The significance of these dates are as follows:

  • May 27 is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum in which Australians voted to remove discriminatory clauses against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.
  • June 3 marks the 1992 Mabo decision when the High Court of Australia recognised that the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over their lands did survive British colonisation.

Every year, National Reconciliation Week is organised by an independent, not-for-profit organisation called Reconciliation Australia. It was established in 2000 to provide national leadership in reconciliation. But the very first NRW commemoration was held in 1996—launched by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

This year’s theme is ‘Now More Than Ever’, a reminder for Australians across the country to learn more about their shared histories and cultures. When things get divisive, it becomes more important than ever to protect and defend the rights of First Nations peoples. Engaging, connecting, and tackling reconciliation—the work continues.

Learn more by visiting the Reconciliation Australia website or by downloading the fact sheet.

Next stop: Gender pay equity

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has published the stage 2 report of the gender pay equity research examining the history of wage fixing and work value assessments in 12 selected awards.

This research will help them identify indications of gender undervaluation. Which will, in turn, help directly tackle the inadequate application of equal pay principles.

The report is hefty (at 282 pages) and packed with information. Here’s a peek at the titles of just a few sections:

  • History of wage-fixing and legislative change,
  • Gender assumptions systemic in the industrial relations system, and
  • Award histories.

There are also summaries of the key wage fixation and work value decisions, plus inquiries in the federal industrial relations system.

For example, under the key event, Fruit Pickers decision (1912) one of the Assumptions for setting wages reads ‘Where the gender was predominantly female, the basic wage was set based on the presumption that the worker had no dependents irrespective of their circumstances.’ Fascinating.

For more information, you can see the full report, here.

Compliance is a dish best served hot

A former restaurant in Western Sydney has learnt an expensive lesson in record-keeping and payroll when a penalty of $58,275 was imposed against them.

Why such a hefty penalty you may ask? Well, the restaurant operator:

  • Failed to issue pay slips
  • Failed to comply with a Compliance Notice that required them to calculate and back-pay entitlements to a former casual worker

The Judge determined that the former worker was underpaid $5,200 approximately, which led to her resignation as she wasn’t receiving proper payment. And on top of that the employee missed out on her back-paid entitlements for her underpayments.

With hefty penalties on the line, and wage theft laws coming into effect soon, business owners need to make sure their payroll is compliant with the law.

Our next free webcast will see our employment relations experts unpacking everything you need to know about the new wage laws. Register for a session here.

Penalty harvest almost $160,000

A farm business in Victoria was caught underpaying two of its employees to the tune of more than $28,000, faking records to hide those underpayments, and making unlawful deductions.

In response, the Fair Work Ombudsman secured court-ordered penalties of $159,793 against the business. The Ombudsman launched its investigation after requests for assistance from two former employees. Both former workers came from non-English speaking backgrounds and their allegations included illegally low flat hourly pay rates for their work as pickers and packers at the farm.

The penalties imposed by the Federal Circuit and Family Court were made up of $130,806 against the company and $28,987 against one of the company directors.

Accidentally underpaying employees is a breach of the law that many businesses unfortunately find themselves in. The fact that this is the second case that involves employee underpayment in this article alone proves that.

Making sure that you’re paying your employees correctly is a must for Australian businesses of all sizes. You can spot inconsistencies in your payroll by generating regular, custom payroll reports.

Plus, you can stay on top of your evolving obligations with our 24/7 employment relations BrightAdvice line.

That wraps up this edition of HR Heartbeat. Stay tuned for more headlines and all the latest updates that will keep you in the know with all the major employment changes coming your way.

If you’ve got questions about the top HR headlines from this week, ask Bright BrAInbox:

What is gender pay equity?

Workplaces achieve gender pay equity when all employees receive equal pay for work of equal or comparable value.

This means:

-employees doing the same work (or different work of equal or comparable value) get paid the same amount

-pay and conditions are assessed in a non-discriminatory way

– valuing skills, responsibilities and working conditions in each job

-organisational structures and processes provide all staff equal access to training, promotions or flexible working arrangements.

Do I need to give my employee their pay slip?

Pay slips are documents issued to employees which outline details about their pay, deductions, tax and superannuation contributions.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act), employers have a number of obligations regarding record keeping and pay slips.

Employers are required to issue a pay slip to each of its employees within one working day of payment, including when an employee is on a period of leave.

Pay slips are considered employee records and must be kept private and confidential. Pay slips must be retained for at least seven years.

When does the national minimum wage increase?

The increase to the National Minimum Wage comes into operation on 1 July of each year and generally applies to the employee's first full pay period on or after 1 July for the relevant year.

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