Dear Aunty B,
I work in a small fourth-generation family business, in regional Queensland. We have 25 employees, some of which work on a “piece-meal” rate, where they get paid per tonne of production.
The owner of the business pays these workers annual leave and superannuation, but when it comes to sick pay, she considers them to be “contractors” and will not pay their entitlements. Apparently, under WorkChoices, we have to spell out exactly what these employees are entitled to – and it looks like personal (sick)/carers leave is “set in stone”.
When I approached the boss and told her that we may be in breach of the legislation, she stated that because we are “in the bush” nobody will bother us and if we are caught doing something wrong, she will assume all responsibility for the breach.
However, I’m the one that processes the pays! All the other employees, who are on hourly rates, get all their entitlements such as reasonable time off to go to the doctors or stay in bed sick while 10 of our employees get “docked” if they have to look after sick kids or attend the funeral of an immediate family member (as has happened in the last month).
My boss is very dictatorial and is not even willing to try and clarify what our obligations under WorkChoices are. I’m seriously thinking of quitting and leaving them to it.
What should I do?
Pissed off with the boss,
Oh, charming. Now I am a help line for employees!
But Pissed off, I do feel sorry for you. It’s rare in the 21st century to find so many horrendous practices in so few sentences. Is your boss still looking for Lassetter’s Reef in her spare time? My advice to you would be to get some serious advice quick smart, and get out if your boss ignores it.
There has been plenty of news recently about people getting in trouble for calling other people contractors when those other people might really be employees. My legal adviser (Arnie B) tells me that it’s not simply a matter of calling it a rooster when it quacks like a duck.
Figuring out if there is truly a contractor relationship is not a simple exercise. If you have had access to any form of written or electronic communication recently, you may also have noticed that it is now compulsory to give all employees a Workplace Relations Fact sheet. Once you do this and employees get wind of their legal entitlements, my guess is that the rest of your boss’s “piece-meal” practices will rapidly crumble.
Aside from failing to give employees their minimum entitlements, your company may be exposed to breaches of anti-discrimination legislation in relation to people who are sick or who have family or carer responsibilities – and that’s where you come in! You might be personally liable for that discrimination too; otherwise you’ll just be the star witness for the prosecution.
They used to say “the bush has ears”. Now it also has fax machines and email and the Workplace Ombudsman. So, my friend, leave. Besides who wants to work for Dictatorial Boss?
What are you waiting for? Email your questions, problems and issues to [email protected] right now!