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Hands off: Internal investigation documents and freedom of information - May 2017

The Freedom of Information Act 1985 (Vic) (Act) and its interstate and Commonwealth equivalents provide a means to access public sector documents in the name of open and transparent government.  However a recent decision affirms that the exclusions under the Act extend to protecting operational employees’ testimony taken as part of investigations and ensuring future potential witnesses will contribute to internal investigations. The impact of Country Fire Authority v McGregor (Review of Regulation) [2017] VCAT 582 will impact organisations subject to the freedom of information framework.  While “employee records” exemptions exclude many private sector employers, public sector and volunteer workforces are within scope.
Hannah Linossier, Associate and John Evans, Lawyer discuss the important implications of this decision.

Ezy as 123? More like section 550! - May 2017

A recent Federal Circuit Court decision in which Judge O'Sullivan held that an accounting business which provided payroll services to an employer, was accessorily liable for the employer's contraventions of the Fair Work Act.  The case demonstrates the pitfalls of being wilfully blind to the contraventions of another person. Ben Motro, Senior Associate reviews this decision.

Piper Alderman reports its 3rd annual Employment Relations survey findings - May 2017


National law firm Piper Alderman has announced the results of its 3rd annual Employment Matters Survey, ‘What’s keeping you awake at night?’  The survey invited over 2,500 HR Managers, General Managers, COOs, CEOs and legal teams across all industry groups nationally to reflect on their experiences in dealing with employment and safety related matters over the 2015/2016 financial year. The survey also asked for their expectations for the 2016/2017 financial year.

Dishonesty or merely an incorrect explanation? The decision in Qantas Airways Limited v David Dawson [2017] FWCFB 1712 - May 2017

The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission has overturned Deputy President Lawrence’s decision handed down last year in which a flight attendant who stole bottles of alcohol and then lied about it, was awarded the maximum compensation available.

Tim Capelin, Partner, and Amrita Howell, Associate discuss the decision and the key take home points for employers. 

Application for an order to stop bullying used to halt disciplinary action - May 2017

A recent order made by the FWC, in Lynette Bayly [2017] FWC 1886, preventing an employer from taking action in relation to an employee’s alleged misconduct until that employee’s application for an order to stop bullying had been determined. Penny Brooke, Senior Associate discusses this decision and considers the ramifications of this case for employers. 

Workplace Health and Safety Penalties – Potential to Increase - Apr 2017

The Queensland District Court has this week found that a fine of $90,000 imposed by the Queensland Magistrates Court in Williamson v VH & MG Imports Pty Ltd [2017] QDC 56 was “clearly manifestly inadequate” when compared with fines imposed in other harmonised jurisdictions under the model Workplace Health and Safety laws. The ruling affirms the importance of national consistency in penalties, with the Queensland District Court accepting that its WHS Act permitted sentencing courts to consider comparable decisions from states and territories subject to the harmonised legislation. This decision sets a precedent which may see more lenient courts increasing penalties to the level set by courts nationally.

Tim Capelin, Partner and Emily Setter, Law Clerk discuss the important implications of this decision.

Worried about workers' compensation claims? High Court confirms directions to employees must be reasonable. - Mar 2017

The High Court has clarified the administrative action exclusion under the Commonwealth’s workers’ compensation laws. In Comcare v Martin [2016] HCA 43, the Court unanimously held that the approach to whether an employer or insurer can utilise the exclusion and protect itself from a workers’ compensation claim is to be based on causation. Under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth) (Act), it is now clear that the sole question to ask is whether the employee’s injury or aggravation would have occurred had the reasonable administrative action not been undertaken. John Evans, Lawyer, discusses the key take-home points from this decision.

Independent Umpires, Merits-Based Applications and the Disutility of Sunday Work– A Guide to the Penalty Rates Decision - Mar 2017

On 23 February 2017, the Fair Work Commission handed down its decision on applications by employer organisations to reduce Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in six modern awards in the hospitality and retail industries.  Since then, there have been a lot of misconceptions floating around about the decision.  In this article, Emily Haar, Associate, and Professor Andrew Stewart, Consultant, explain its scope and impact.

An update on the proposed changes to paid parental leave - Mar 2017

On 8 February 2017, the Government introduced legislation into the Federal Parliament which proposes changes to the national paid parental leave scheme. This is the Government’s third attempt in recent years to implement changes to the government paid parental leave scheme and the changes proposed are broadly similar to previous iterations, with only a few notable changes. Partner, Erin McCarthy and Law Graduate, Shauna Roeger discuss the changes contained in the Bill.

Beware of errant signposting - Feb 2017

The Fair Work Commission Full Bench’s decision Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union v Sparta Mining Services Pty Ltd [2016] FWCFB 7057 (CFMEU v Sparta) has cast doubt over whether a reference to external documents (e.g. workplace policies)  within an enterprise agreement is merely a ‘signpost’ or actually incorporates those documents. Erin McCarthy, Partner, discusses the implications of CFMEU v Sparta for employers generally and consider how the decision may make the road to enterprise agreement approval even rockier.

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