Farms are dangerous places to work right? Animals are strong and unpredictable and machinery needs to be operated while vehicles are driven through rugged terrain. Incidents and accidents are just part of farm life.
But is it OK that our primary industries sector has the highest number of fatalities of any industry across Australia? 2015 has seen an increase nationally of workplace health and safety related prosecutions. According to Safe Work Australia (Traumatic Injury Fatalities database 2014), 25% of all workplace fatalities occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry with machinery operators and drivers representing 32% of the total occupations.
As HR professionals, we are often instructed to do things that do not always align with our legislative responsibilities or company policies and procedures. Therefore is it a sound defence to say that we were instructed to something that is incorrect and were only following orders? The answer is NO!
In August 2015, the Federal Circuit Court fined a construction company $25,000 for taking adverse action against a worker (FCCA 2129). On top of that, the Court imposed $7,000 in penalties against two HR Managers who were carrying out orders and failed to “exercise their choice” to refuse to comply. The Judge was very clear that the HR Managers “had a choice of not implementing the decision, but failed to exercise that choice”, which in turn counteracted “the mitigating factor that they did not originate the contravening conduct”.
After almost three years of employment, the owner of a thoroughbred stud provided his horse trainer with a letter of redundancy, providing three weeks’ payment in lieu of notice, plus entitlements. It was explained that the redundancy was not a reflection on the trainer’s performance but due to organisational requirements.
What could possibly go wrong? Apparently lots! It was unfortunate that the dismissal came two days after the trainer had provided his employer with a WorkCover certificate recommending office duties and stating he was unable to handle horses. The trainer argued the dismissal was not a genuine redundancy as it was caused by his injury and that new employees now performed some of his former duties.
In May 2015, the ABC Four Corners program ran “Slaving Away: The dirty secrets behind Australia’s fresh food”, a report into the exploitation of workers. The investigation uncovered gangs of black market workers run by unscrupulous labour hire contractors operating on farms and in factories around the country, likened to “slave labour”.
It was horrifying to watch when so many businesses strive to do the right thing. One of the companies named was a poultry processor providing chickens to major buyers such as Coles, Woolworths, KFC, Aldi and others who have now been investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). In a 33-page report the FWO re
There is a strong disinclination for Judges to make orders requiring individuals to provide security for costs but in August 2015 a Federal Circuit Court Judge did just that (FCCA 2094). So what led to the Judge making such a decision?
Well the story goes like this. A former public servant had signed an agreement waiving any rights to further action against his former employer and received a voluntary redundancy payment of more than $22,000. We all know how that goes.
According to John Green (FAICD), Australia has more laws than cicadas but at least the cicadas have the grace to die after they’ve done their duty. The same could not be said for the ever-increasing chasm of legislative compliance requirements bestowed up