General Retail Industry Award Update

In a recent and significant decision for retailers and employers captured by the General Retail Industry Award 2010, the Fair Work Commission has handed down its decision following the 4 yearly review of the Award and has determined to increase penalty rates for casual retail employees on Saturdays and weeknights after  6:00pm.  In addition, the Commission has also determined to reduce the Sunday shiftwork penalty rate for both permanent and casual employees.

Does your business conduct criminal record checks?

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) recently found that Suncorp discriminated against a job applicant on the basis of his criminal record.  In that case, Suncorp withdrew a conditional offer of employment after routine background checks revealed the job applicant had convictions for child pornography offences.  Suncorp said it withdrew the offer because it had “serious concerns” about whether the applicant was able to perform the inherent requirements of the position and because an internal candidate had been appointed to the role.

Discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of an irrelevant criminal record and/or spent convictions is unlawful in some Australian states, although the laws vary from state to state.  At the federal level, discrimination in employment on the basis of criminal record and/or spent convictions is not unlawful, however the AHRC has the power to investigate complaints and may conduct a conciliation to resolve a complaint.  If the AHRC makes a finding of discrimination and the matter cannot be resolved through conciliation, it may prepare a report for the federal Attorney-General, which must be tabled in Parliament.  This is what occurred in the Suncorp matter.

Charging for unpaid internships?

There have been stories in the media recently about employers charging students and graduates for the privilege of participating in an unpaid internship.  Setting aside whether an internship is a necessary step to build a career or exploitation of a vulnerable group, employers engaging interns should take note. The law around offering work experience and internships is clear and the penalties for getting it wrong can be significant.