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Workplace Agreements are here to stay, in spite of the Labor Government

The ASGA (Australian Sign  Graphic Association) Queensland Branch held a very informative evening on the 6th February 2008 on the subject of Workplace Agreements where a working template was discussed by its author, Warwick Ryan of Central Coast Business Lawyers. The template is free of charge to all ASGA financial members.

Unfortunately the evening coincided with one of the worst storms the region had seen in years and consequently only half the expected delegates arrived to hear this fascinating presentation.

The ASGA had paid Warwick Ryan of Central Coast Business Lawyers to compile the Template in order that its members could access this vital information free of charge and simplify their agreements with their employees and not worry about the impact the new Labor Government may have on employer/employee relations in future years.

The Template is free of charge and available to members only from the General Manager, Michael Punch, michael_punch@signs.org.au. Non members will have to join ASGA in order to access this template. Normally a suitable lawyer would charge several thousand dollars to construct a similar template for a client.

Ryan stated that a Workplace Agreement would not be replaced or altered by the new Labor Government and he highlighted several key points of the template. 

  • workplace agreements allow the employer to consolidate the terms and conditions of employment so that it is necessary to refer to a single document, instead of a variety of awards and legislation.
  • subject to certain minimum entitlements (including compliance with the Fairness Test), employers can set conditions of employment which are appropriate to their particular workplace and largely circumvent the operation of the more intricate aspects of awards (such as allowances) by rolling them up in an hourly rate.
  • employers can include additional terms and conditions that may not be provided for by an award or legislation, such as post-employment restraints (which prevent ex-employees from poaching clients or referrers of work) and confidentiality clauses (which protect the business's confidential information, such as customer lists, price lists, etc.)

Ryan also highlighted  the difference between AWA's and Workplace Agreements: 

  • AWA's are between the company and each particular employee
  • Workplace Agreements are between the company and ALL employees

Ryan stressed that "Workplace Agreements" simplify your employment relationships and protect your business in the new Labor environment.

He added that the Agreement can detail rules regarding confidentiality, including restrictions on approaching clients and staff and protection of intellectual property. In other words, if you do not have and agreement in place, it is very easy for an employee to engage in conduct that may harm your business, such as utilising client lists upon leaving your employ or encouraging staff without suffering any adverse consequences.

If you are already paying above Award wages, even where the Fairness Test applies, you may not need to pay the full amounts for entitlements such as overtime, penalty rates, shift loadings, allowances and annual leave loading set by the relevant award because the over-award payments may be enough to cover these entitlements.

Ryan also gave a word of advice on matters of insurance when dealing with your company’s insurance. He strongly recommend that company owners check that when employing the services of a sub contractor to provide a service to a client, that the company’s insurance also covered the sub contractor in the event of a claim by the client.

He cited a case where somebody was killed due to negligence by a sub contractor in the course of their work for a company and the company  was sued as a result of the death.

Companies wishing to download the Template and other vital information are urged to join ASGA.

Michael Punch (ASGA GM) and Michael Blazek (Qld Chairman) also showed off another extremely valuable benefit to ASGA members, a free DVD on comprehensive OHS advice and government requirements  specifically created for the sign industry.