industrial relations

Seven employment myths bosses shouldn’t fall for

Kirsten Robb /

With a string of businesses recently hit with fines for underpaying or incorrectly paying staff, its important business owners know their rights and obligations when it comes to their staff.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recently launched an online learning course for young workers, with the course highlighting several employment myths to watch out for in the workplace. A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson told SmartCompany it was equally important employers are aware of common workplace myths.

“We find that the majority of non-compliance with workplace laws is the result of employers not being fully aware of the minimum entitlements their employees are entitled to,” says the spokesperson.

From March 2006 to the end of 2013, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered more than $200 million for more than 100,000 Australian workers who were underpaid.

SmartCompany has pulled together seven of the common myths employers often fall for, to help small businesses owners avoid being slapped with a breach.

Myth 1: You can make deductions from an employee’s wages to cover losses.

“Unauthorised deductions from an employee’s pay are unlawful,” says the FWO spokesperson.

Deductions can be made only in very limited circumstances and don’t include the cover of cash register discrepancies, breakages and customers who don’t pay.

Myth 2: You don’t need to provide employees payslips if they don’t want them.

Employers are required to give a pay slip to their employees within one working day of their pay day.

“An employer must provide a pay slip even if the employee is on leave or they haven’t specifically requested one,” says the spokesperson. “A pay slip can be issued electronically or on paper and must contain certain information.”

Myth 3: You can employ young workers as ‘trainees’ without lodging any formal paperwork.

Employers must negotiate and lodge a registered training contract for an employee in order to lawfully be able to pay trainee or apprentice rates.

“An employer cannot pay an employee trainee rates just because they are young or new to the job,” says the spokesperson.

Myth 4: Employees don’t need to be paid for time spent opening and closing a store.

Employees must be paid for all the time that they are required to work, including attending training and meetings outside normal work hours.

“For example, if an employee is required to be at work at 7.45am to prepare for an 8am store opening, they need to be paid from 7.45am,” says the spokesperson.  

Myth 5: An employee must work for 12 months before they can take annual leave or sick leave.

An employee can take annual leave and sick leave in the first 12 months of a job.

“Annual leave and paid sick leave accrue ‘progressively’,” says the spokesperson. “This means that an employee starts accruing leave as soon as they start work.”

The amount of leave an employee accrues is based on their ordinary hours of work. “Once an employee has built-up an amount of leave, they can apply to take the leave, even if they’ve worked for less than 12 months,” says the spokesperson.

Myth 6: A full-time employee can be fired without notice during their probation period.

Employees who have been working for less than 12 months should usually get at least 1 weeks’ written notice.

However, the spokesperson says certain types of employees are not entitled to notice, such as casuals, fixed term employees and employees who are terminated because of serious misconduct.

Myth 7: You can’t ask an employee for proof of being sick, such as medical certificate.

An employer can request evidence (such as a medical certificate or statutory declaration) for any absence on personal leave, even if it’s for one day.

“This is the case unless the modern award, agreement or employment contract says otherwise,” says the spokesperson.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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