Six-figure lesson in workplace relations rights and responsibilities: Does your company have its ducks in a row?
A recent Australian legal case has demonstrated the primary responsibility employers have in ensuring all staff-management protocols abide by workplace relations laws.
A former supermarket employee was awarded over $650,000 for debilitating back injuries sustained while at work. The presiding judge was unwilling to accept that the employee’s delay in filing a formal complaint could be taken as evidence against any claim of employer negligence.
The man was awarded the sum after the judge found the supermarket company had been negligent when carrying out a risk assessment on a piece of temporary workplace equipment, and failing to ensure that staff were properly trained in its use. The amount awarded included compensation for general physical and psychological damages incurred, and for income lost in the past and future due to the injuries.
The supermarket defended its actions by attempting to claim that the man’s injuries were probably caused by the unrelated use of a stepladder or subsequent work as a plumber. They also pointed out that the plaintiff did not report the injury to the company or a doctor for four and a half months.
Yet, the judge accepted the plaintiff’s claim that the injury and subsequent pain – exacerbated by use of a stepladder – was brought about by the initial improper use of workplace equipment.
Importantly, the judge also argued that the mere fact or absence of a formal complaint did not prove or disprove anything.
The judge’s ruling on this case demonstrates that the absence or presence of a formal employee complaint has no bearing on the legitimacy of a claim. The right and responsibilities employers and employees have to one another under the Fair Work Act stand irrespective of an employee’s initiative in filing a formal complaint. As the ruling illustrates, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employee’s rights are protected and maintained, not the employee’s.
A costly ruling such as this could have been avoided, had the company been aware of its responsibilities under the current Fair Work Act.
This case demonstrates that all employers are obliged to ensure they fully understand their responsibilities to their staff, and the practices and protocols designed in accordance with the Fair Work Act.
iHR Australia’s Employee Relations 101 training program provides a broad introduction to relevant workplace legislation, and associated practices and guiding principles in relation to staff management. This workshop seeks to explain to participants how to strike a balance between meeting business objectives, while ensuring proper employee relations are maintained. During this program, participants are also given the opportunity to practise newly acquired skills through interaction with the actors, building confidence and embedding learning.
This workshop will provide participants with comprehensive instruction in all aspects of workplace relations, including:
• The industrial relations landscape
• The Fair Work Act and the role of the Fair Work Commission
• The employee lifecycle
• Effective recruitment
• EEO and discrimination legislation
• Lawfully managing behaviour and conduct
• Performance management
• Managing termination
• Lawfully managing leave
• The role of HR
All iHR programs are based on adult learning principles and are designed to maximise learner engagement and transfer of learning. A signature feature of all iHR programs is the use of our unique training methodology Workplace Reality Theatre.