Within the last 6 months there have been a number of changes to laws that are relevant to small businesses. Whether you’re an owner looking to sell or a prospective buyer, it’s important to understand how these changes can affect you.
As the new year has rolled in, most business owners will be in the early stages of carrying out their strategic plans with hopes of a successful start to the new decade. As an owner, it’s natural to keep an eye out for anything that may get in the way of achieving your goals. Ever changing laws and regulations can often catch business owners off guard and halt long term plans and ambitions.
Within the last 6 months there have been a number of changes to laws that are relevant to small businesses. Whether you’re an owner looking to sell or a prospective buyer, it’s important to understand how these changes can affect you. Below is a summary of some of the legal and regulatory changes to be aware of.
Updates to Employee Awards
The most significant area of change arrives in the impending alterations to employee awards. The Fairwork Commission, as a result of a review, has decided that it will alter the provisions of 22 employee awards from March 1. The changes are primarily focused on the annualised salaries component of each award. Under the existing legislation of the Fair Work Act, businesses are required to pay full time employees an amount that reflects what they would receive under their award, inclusive of overtime and extra allowances. However, the grey area has always centred around the recording of hours worked. Given that it is rare for full time salaried employees to note their hours and days worked, it is difficult to determine entitlements owed.
With high profile corporations being exposed and scrutinised for long hours and potential wage theft, the government has responded with strict requirements. As the awards involved range from hospitality to finance and manufacturing, it is likely that you will be affected as a small business owner.
• Recording and Tracking Hours
The key takeaway from the changes to annualised salary provisions, is that you now must track and record the hours of salaried full-time employees. This means you will have to implement a system for the employees to submit all the hours they’ve worked and their breaks. Where an employee records hours outside of the limits under the awards, it is best to pay them for this at the relevant overtime or penalty rate.
• Notice of Annual Salary and Ordinary Hours
In addition to recording and tracking hours worked, employers must now provide written notice outlining an employee’s annual salary and the maximum hours they can work outside the 38-hour week. As an employer, you will be obliged to ensure that employees are paid at least the minimum wage for any hours worked after the 38-hour threshold.
Employee Superannuation Changes
As part of the changes to annualised salary provisions, there has been an effect on superannuation regulations. As of January 1, this year, salary sacrifices cannot be included as part of an employer’s mandatory superannuation contribution. Employers are now required to pay the 9.5% superannuation contribution on an employee’s gross pay including any salary sacrifice that has occurred.
As an employer, you should also be aware of the Superannuation Guarantee Amnesty bill which has just passed through parliament. This will essentially provide employers with a 6-month window of opportunity to correct any non-compliance with regards to superannuation payments. If an employer chooses not to act and is exposed after the amnesty period, significant penalties will apply.
Unfair Dismissal Threshold
Although this change did occur halfway through 2019, it is extremely relevant given the substantial reform to employment legislation that is currently occurring. The high-income threshold that excludes an individual from claims unfair dismissal was increased to $148,700 per year. Provided the other necessary provisions are satisfied, an employee under this threshold can apply for unfair dismissal after termination. This is likely to influence an increase in applications and is something you should keep in mind when terminating someone’s employment.
As stories of wage theft and mass underpayment continue to appear, it is clear that a crackdown has begun in 2020. With significant changes to employment awards and legislation, the Fair Work Commission has taken a stance to ensure the correct payment of employees. Significant penalties will be imposed for those who breach these new amendments. As a result, there is substantial risk for small business owners across the country, with non-compliance now a fatal move. Given that these updates can be complex and difficult to keep up with, the advice of an employment lawyer may be of use.
For more information, contact Christopher Tsiknas at Lawpath