Welfare change creates worker surge… HR ‘lip-service’ wording trips employer… Market dives on back of US wobbles… Tax agent bill needs work… Refinancing warning… High EQ helps


New worker surge set to hit market

More than 100,000 new potential employees are hitting the job market as Federal Government laws, designed to push parents receiving welfare payments to enter the workforce once their children reach school age, start to take effect.

More than 230,000 parents on welfare with kids at school are being contacted by Centrelink and told they need to take on at least 15 hours of part-time work a week.

Of these, approximately 110,000 are not currently meeting the work requirement and will be entering the job market over the next few months, a spokeswoman for Workforce Participation Minister Sharman Stone says.

Who will benefit most from this influx of new workers into the parched job market? Past experience with similar welfare to work programs suggests the property and business services sector will benefit the most by hiring around 25% of the new workers, with retail, manufacturing and health and community services the next biggest winners with about 10% each.

As parents, many of the new job market entrants will require some flexibility in the work arrangements, but there could be substantial pay-offs for employers able to accommodate them. “A lot of these people have good life experience and maturity, they tend to be more loyal and prioritise job security,” the Minister’s spokeswoman says.

According to John Banks, a director with HR consultancy Talent2, there will be many employers keen to snap up parents newly entering or returning to the workforce.

“There should be a lot of available work, a lot of businesses – especially in fast food, services and manufacturing – would be very open to hiring people on flexible conditions because they can’t find people. Many businesses have always had a 10% to 15% vacancy rate and they would love to get their hands on some these people,” Banks says.

He says many employers are already benefiting from employing parents to work during school hours or semi-retired baby boomers who want to work for a couple of days per week.

“Business should consider if flexible working arrangements can work for them, whether it’s working one or two days at the office, each day during school hours or perhaps 10 to 4 in the office and then some work from home in the evening. There are just about endless options that can work,” Banks says.

Mike Preston


Don’t get caught by your own HR policies

Be careful what you put in your human resources policies – they can come back to bite you.

In a landmark case this week, the Federal Court has upheld an employee’s claim that his employer, investment bank Goldman Sachs JB Were, breached his employment contract when it failed to maintain health and safety standards set down in its human resources policies.

The Court majority rejected the bank’s argument that its HR policies were merely “aspirational,” saying the wording of the policy and the context in which it was communicated to employees meant that it was legally binding.

Rejecting Goldman Sachs JB Were’s argument, Justice Marshall said: “This is tantamount to saying that the statements by Goldman were not intended to be taken seriously – then why commit them to paper and parade them as Goldman’s way?”.

Minter Ellison Lawyers human resources and industrial relations partner Caroline Ishkan says there are steps employers can take to minimise the risks presented by the case.

“If employers do not intend their employment policies to have contractual effect, they need to tightly word their employment contracts as well as their policies to reflect that intention,” Ishkan says.

Mike Preston


Market dives on back of US wobbles

The Australian sharemarket has dropped a massive 2.9% of its value in trading this morning, following big falls on overseas markets over night.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 2.8% and the S&P 500 fell 3%, their worst declines since a 27 February this year on continuing concerns about hedge fund exposure to the sub-prime mortgage market.

In Australia, Macquarie Bank has led the losses, shares in the investment bank down 5.04% to $72.49 at midday today. Macquarie last week revealed that its investment funds could lose up to 25% of their value because of the upheaval in credit markets.

The Australian dollar has followed the market dive this morning after a few days of resurgence. At 12.25pm it was down to US84.73c, more than a cent below yesterday’s US86.20c close.

Mike Preston


Big three accounting bodies call for tax bill changes

Australia’s big three accounting bodies have called for substantial changes to proposed laws to radically change the way accountants and bookkeepers are regulated.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, CPA Australia and the National Institute of Accountants have joined forces to call on the Federal Treasury to improve the laws, which are criticised for being unclear and imposing significant new liabilities on accountants and bookkeepers.

A key change called for in the submission is reform of the code of conduct that would be introduced with the laws to make it clear that tax agents are not obliged to audit all information provided to them by a client, a requirement the submission says would put an “unduly excessive burden on tax agents”.

A legal “safe harbour” should also be created to protect tax agents from being liable for errors made by service providers who prepare BAS statements on a contract basis.

The centrepiece of the new legislation, the proposed “national tax practitioners board”, also needs significant reform to ensure its independence from the tax office, according to the submission. “It is imperative the board’s compositions and secretarial support are structured so they are fully independent of the ATO,” the submission says.

The consultation period on the draft Tax Agent (Services) Bill was due to close today, but the volume of recommendations contained in the submission suggests significant further talk with industry bodies may be required.

Mike Preston


Rogues prey on desperate borrowers

Business owners who refinance their homes because of financial difficulty should beware. A submission to corporate watchdog ASIC by the NSW Consumer Credit Legal Centre, says a small group of lenders, brokers, accountants and solicitors offer expensive loans to vulnerable borrowers who have little hope of repaying the debt with a view to recovering the loan and considerable fees and charges from the security property.

The Victorian Consumer Action Law Centre adds that refinancing efforts often do not prevent the loss of the home but consumers lose more equity when they refinance. The submission backs calls for more regulatory intervention to address such conduct by lenders and brokers, reports The Australian Financial Review.


Bosses with high EQ do better

Bosses with high EQ (emotional quotient, or intelligence) handle stress better, which assists them to create a better working environment for staff, according to a new report.

According to a recent study by Multi-Health Systems and reported by Inc.com, shows the higher your EQ – the ability to effectively identify, interpret, and react to others’ emotions – the better your ability to deal with the stress that is the source of most workplace troubles.

The survey of 1014 employees found that 53% of workers felt stress hurts their relationships with co-workers, while 47% say stress often affects their ability to make decisions in the workplace.

One in three respondents said that stress prevented them from being recognised for their contributions at work, and 27% believe that stress has prevented them from advancing in their career.

Business owners can play a role in improving the emotional well-being of their employees, the survey found. Business owners who encourage a more social atmosphere in the workplace have happier and more productive employees. Employers with a high EQ are better at seeing if they are placing unreasonable expectations on employees, which causes stress.


SmartCompany quote of the day

“It isn’t what they say about you, it is what they whisper”
Errol Flynn



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