A recent Geelong HR Roundtable prompted an in-depth discussion on challenges facing employers post-pandemic.

2020 presented unique challenges for employers. Employees were working remotely, many businesses experienced a downturn and flexible workplaces become the norm.

Coulter Roache’s  Tammy Lo, Special Counsel, and Cinzia Pietrolungo, Employment Lawyer, facilitated discussions on Workplace flexibility, Occupational Health & Safety and Redundancies.

The presentation was highly informative and the interaction and engagement from the Geelong HR Round Table guests was equally enlightening.

With representation from a variety of businesses in the region there was a quality mix of actions and views that that made for interesting conversation.

Attendees were curious as to what their legal rights were moving forward when we consider the year we have just endured and the fact that employees can now prove that productivity is achievable when they work from home.

The hybrid work life

There were discussions around an employer’s obligation to provide OH&S standard workstations when an employee may now spend part time in the office and the other part of their working week, working from home. There was much amusement of the not so distant memory of office chairs literally walking out of the workplace, monitors, stationary and basically anything the employee needed to be able to transition from the office to a home based work environment.

Now that we are embracing a hybrid work life, do employers need to supply two sets of office fit outs? One for the office and one from home?

  • How does this hybrid work life match up when we consider health and safety?
  • When considering OH&S, how do we understand what workers are enduring when they are away from the office and we don’t see them every day?
  • How do we determine if an employee is experiencing Mental Health issues when we don’t see them on a regular basis?
  • Then there’s the horrifying thought of domestic violence and the ramifications for people who may be under pressure in their personal lives.

Dismissals and discrimination

Tammy and Cinzia advised on the matters of unfair dismissal, general protections dismissal and discrimination was practically explained. Using key cases that have set precedents to illustrate the various obstacles that some employers have had to face gave attendees a descriptive visualisation of what can happen. To add to this Tammy and Cinzia both delivered exceptional theoretical data along with their own personal experience of what has been happening in the Workplace Relations legal space throughout and post pandemic.

Indeed, they did not have all the answers as this new way of working, new way of employing, and new matters that are going to appear in the courts are still unknown.

However, what they did show though was that in order to give your company the best chance at reducing any kind of litigation is to CONSULT with employees in the first instance. Be very clear with what is required if there is no Enterprise Agreement or Award.

Another key recommendation was to DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. If an employer finds themselves in a situation where they need to defend themselves against any kind of employee claim, it is extremely important to have all boxes ticked. Reasons for termination, any conversations had, as much information as you can record.

Where to from here?

If you are an employer or HR Manager, don’t miss our next informative Geelong HR Roundtable.  Click here to find out about joining the Geelong HR Nexus.

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