When we think of an ‘award’ most people will automatically think of a certificate or trophy received for doing well in an event or competition of some kind. Unfortunately, it is still frequently the case that a considerable proportion of SME’s think the same thing.
Of course, when it comes to employment, I am talking ‘Industrial Awards’. Documents that prescribe the pay rates and employment conditions for staff in all industries and occupations whether State or Federal. But a very recent phone call with a small employer led to the same response when I enquired as to which ‘Award’ they referred to for the pay rates and entitlements for their staff.
After a reasonable pause in the conversation during which they informed me that ‘Joe Blow around the corner pays his guys $X so we pay the same wasn’t that OK?’ I then had to spend some 15 minutes telling them about the Award system – which in their case was the State system as their business was a partnership.
Apart from the fact that you might have thought I was trying to sell ‘Snake Oil’ to a group of suspicious audience members it was a complete revelation that there were documents of this kind or indeed that they were required to abide by the terms and conditions that they specified.
How is it even possible that employers in this day and age could be so naively ignorant of these industrial instruments?
Well, if you have the answer please let me know. Regrettably it is all too frequent an occurrence. Conversely, I have come across small employers who, whilst they actually know that Awards exist have never actually taken the time to read them. I fondly recall one employer telling me that they didn’t have time for that ‘BS’, they were far too busy trying to run their business. I would love to be a fly on the wall when they use that excuse with the Department of Commerce or the Fair Work Ombudsman when they get hauled up for underpayments and the like. The distant sound of a cash register you can hear are the potential fines for underpayments and Award breaches mounting up.
Yes, I know that as an employer you are busy. Yes, I know that the Awards can be difficult to interpret and take time to absorb and yes, I also agree that it’s just another layer of ‘red tape’ that you have to deal with BUT it is the law and ignorance of the law is no defence.
As a colleague of mine says rather pointedly and quite correctly, ‘….the day you engage your first employee is the day that your business becomes someone else’s workplace.’ Please take the time to get to know your obligations. My knowledge and expertise and that of practitioners like me can save you a lot of heartache and protect your hip pocket nerve. Contact me for a free no obligation chat, it may actually be the best 20 minutes you spend as an employer.