Part of this National Employment Standard only applies to casual employees, but the first information sheet applies to all so, relationship status is irrelevant. Everyone has had a job where they’re sat down on their first day, only to startle when a folder the size of a microwave lands on the desk. Arrival unannounced, most definitely making an entrance, The voice behind mutters:
Read that. I’ll be back at morning tea to see where you’re up to. Tea and coffee in the lunch room. Help yourself.
*walks away, pauses, looks back*
Oh, and don’t touch anything labelled ‘JANET – DON’T TOUCH’ or you won’t see the end of the day. She’s protective of her food, viciously so.
Here’s where we want to create our own word and use ‘jartle’ instead. It’s a mix of jump and startle but, we all know, when it comes to employment, you never jump or the boss will ask you how high. Eager to please, it being your first day and all, you jump high, even very high. You’re never allowed to go below that bar, ever again, even on the days you’re almost coming down with a cold, not quite. The Fair Work Information Statement is much the same. It is professionally crafted, makes strategic use of infographics and is easier to read than your microwave folder filled with internal policies and procedures.
Oh, and did you spot how you were manipulated and on your first day too? Nope. Let us step it out for you:
1️⃣ You’ve been allocated a task, but don’t know how much you’re required to complete, by when and what output, if any, is required. And what time is morning tea anyway? Is it like primary school and Little Lunch, which comes earlier for the second graders than it does the seventh graders? Maybe it’s a corporate thing and a bit more towards brunch?
We’re being a bit pedantic here but you can see how a few clarifying questions shifts the dynamic, shows initiative and can prevent future miscommunication.
2️⃣ There’s already an element of fear. Who is Janet? Will I meet her? If so, how will I know it’s her? Wait, why did he assume I’d take someone else’s food? Do I have a look about me that says:
Most likely to steal?
No. Janet is the one person in the workplace everyone is terrified of but is too scared to say so. Each person, scared of being the only one, stays silent. If only they spoke up. Rather than management pull Janet up for being overbearing, the new employee is already in a state of terror.
Wary of their next step, they tread carefully to collect a coffee cup. Is it Janet’s? How would I know? Are they allocated or can I use any? A woman enters the kitchen, grabs the first handle she can reach, turns and smiles. She begins to babble about the weather and long train ride in. Seeming lovely and open, you make a move:
Hi, I’m new here. My first day.
She stops, smiles and turns.
Oh, a newbie? I’m Janet. I thought you were a sales rep. Welcome. Oh, and don’t touch my food.
Off she stomps, clearly not interested in continuing the conversation. In shock, you scramble for any cup and make your way back to the folder. It has not been a good start but a solid hour of reading will make it right.
What Just Happened?
You were ower played. Janet is the type to be nice to people, if they’re outside of the organisation, but has no time for playing pretend with those who work in it. That’s Janet. We told you no one liked Janet. Now you know why. She’s terrifying.
As for the boss, the instruction was clear but had no real timeframes or expectations for output. A task so ambiguous is an anxiety-provoking task. As for asking follow up questions, we acknowledge excess questions can lead to frustration but trust your instincts and ask a few, if needed. Many businesses, small and large, are so used to their internal workings, they forget what it’s like for the newbies.
Meanwhile, you think the employer is great because a mere thirty minutes prior, you were in with Human Resources and both the Manager and Assistant were lovely. They even provided this easy to understand pack with a jazzy looking statement in it. So, let’s get to that statement and see what it has to share with us.
The reason why the Fair Work Information Statement is so effective is because it breaks down the key aspects of employment into the following:
🧱 Fair Work laws
🧱 Enterprise Agreements
The Fair Work laws include these National Employment standards and minimum entitlements. Remember, you can’t go below the National Employment Standards, but you can go above. Enter, stage left, the Awards. These are typically sector-based, can be cross-sector and apply to a large portion of Australian workers.
Example sectors include child care; contract cleaning; hospitality; retail; and the social and community sector, to name a few. You can find these on the Fair Work Ombudsman website. Keep in mind, some may be across two Awards. An optometrist and their assistant may both work for a large eyewear retail store but the optometrist falls under a ‘health professional’ but the assistant is more ‘retail.’ You can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for clarity, if unsure.
Now we’ve decided to go to the next level, we bail on the Awards and bring in our biggest competition – the Enterprise Agreement. The benefits of the Award system is they’re streamlined and similar. Once you know how to read your own Award, you learn how to navigate your friends as well. Enterprise Agreements (EAs) are an other level of beast. Also known as Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs), they tend to be organisational-based.
If we use the large telcos as an example, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone would each have their individual Enterprise Agreements. One has more personal leave, the other annual leave or bonus day off or access to more training and development. Each has ‘selling points’ that facilitate their ability to recruit staff. To see what the Fair Work Commission access point looks like, you can check out the link to the Vodafone Enterprise Agreement here. It is not top secret but, we will let you in on a little secret:
Information is power and knowing where to find information gives you power. Insecure employers will struggle with this.
One of the key principles of knowing your rights is this:
Knowing your rights at work does not mean others have to know you know.
In many cases it’s better to keep the information to yourself, until you need to use it, or find another who is in need of the knowledge. This takes us to a common source of confusion:
People hear they’re on a contract and assume it’s high level negotiations, Harvey Specter-style. Suits, power plays you can see, those you can’t and an outcome you never thought possible. Check out Katie below. She’s our legal assistant version of Suits. Boy, that is one long list! Let’s see why.
Employment contracts cannot go below the National Employment Standards or the relevant Award or the Enterprise Agreement. This is is they are individual or the same but apply to a group of individuals. It means you’re negotiating by yourself and you’re up against your employer. If you’re the head of a large corporation or it’s more of a ‘head hunted’ style of recruitment, no issue. You have a lot of bargaining power.
Most people aren’t in this position. That does not mean it is wrong, it means your it – the top dog – who needs to know what is in your employment contract before you sign it. To find out more about employment contracts, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
- Casual employees
There is a brief overview of this employment status next, with reference to the Casual Employment Information Statement, which can be found here.
Let’s Crunch Those Numbers
Next the Fair Work Information Statement outlines the base minimum wage, with a link to a calculator to help determine termination pay, amongst others.
Check Out Those Standards!
The eleven National Employment Standards are next, summarised in an easy to compare format to make it easier to assess across employment categories. Let’s just say, it’s much more succinct than what you see here. That’s great, especially if you’re new, already overloaded and reading a lot of text. Speaking of which, how is that microwave sized folder treating you? And Janet? We hope she’s steering clear of you, now you’re just like her but lower because your the newbie. Oh, Janet. There is one in every workplace.
Let’s Look At That Flexibility
Workplace flexibility is a given workplaces and, unless you’re part of a conveyer belt style setup, where production would stop without you, it shouldn’t be an issue to have an early start/leave here and there. Same goes for late arrival and departure. It’s called swings and roundabouts.
Most jobs are set up like this, unless they’re those of the automated start time variety. Examples include supermarkets, where the earliest you can scan on is five minutes prior, not a minute sooner, and are forced to face the shift supervisor if you clock on too late. This is different. A flexible working arrangement is a formal agreement based on specific needs such as a caring role (parents, grandparents, your parent of a person with a disability who you support). Some other examples include domestic and family violence or supporting someone who is dealing with domestic and family violence. The final, more common type of arrangement is those over the age of 55.
Next, the Fair Work Information Statement covers your get out of jail free card, termination of employment. But, if it is not of your choice, it also covers unfair dismissals. Remember, this category of employment law extends to instances where you’re forced to resign due to toxic workplace conditions, whatever they may be. This is referred to as a constructive dismissal. The calculator noted above also links to calculations for termination payments.
There are things you deserve to be safe from. One prime example would be an overzealous Janet.
Your Right To..
You have a right to the eleven National Employment Standards. You also have the right to be free from harassment (general and sexual); bullying and harassment; discrimination; and something known as adverse action. This is when you raise a concern, issue or matter and are treated differently for it. You can read more about your protections at work here on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
I Agree To Disagree
The final three sections of the Fair Work Information Statement relate more to higher level business matters such as negotiations for the Award, an Enterprise Agreement or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. It also covers Transfer of Business and right for external bodies, such as trade unions, to enter the employer’s pls review of business. Unless your employer sells the business to another or goes into receivership, you shouldn’t have to deal with these. The same applies for trade union-related activities.
Now that our day is done, we’ve made it through the eleven National Employment Standards and, hopefully, you’re home safe relaxing. Knowing the likes of Janet, she eyed you off on her way to collect her lunch and returned to her desk with a harrumph en route. Don’t worry, that’s just Janet. See, you’re already accepting inappropriate workplace conduct, known as micro aggressions. It’s all downhill from there, but that’s not your problem, it’s the employer’s matter to resolve.
Fair Work Information Statement & Casual Employment Information Sheet.NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS