Fewer employers now qualify for Small Business Fair Dismissal Code

With all the focus on the new Paid Parental Leave scheme that came into effect at the start of the year, many smaller businesses may have failed to note the important change to the definition of “small business” that occurred at the same time.

If you own or manage a “small business”, the new rules could very well affect you.

As of 1 January 2011, only businesses that employ fewer than 15 employees – by simple headcount – qualify as a small business when an employee makes an unfair dismissal claim.

Before the change, a small business was one that employed fewer than 15 full-time equivalent employees.

This is a very important distinction, especially if you employ a number of part-time staff, encourage job sharing and provide flexible working arrangements. Your employees may do the work of fewer than 15 full-time equivalent staff, but in themselves add up to more than 15 people.If this situation applies to your business, you will find that you’re no longer eligible for the special unfair dismissal arrangements that apply to small businesses.

These special arrangements include a minimum employment period of 12 months before employees can make an unfair dismissal claim, and a simple Fair Dismissal Code to help employers ensure dismissals are not unfair.

Fair Work help for small retailers

New resources developed by the Fair Work Ombudsman will help small businesses and their advisers, by allowing them to access industry-specific information on the Australian retail sector.

The new resources can be found on the Fair Work website and will provide:

  • tools to assist employers to calculate pay rates
  • information on modern awards and the National Employment Standards
  • example questions from employers
  • information on conditions for apprentices and trainees, employing workers part-time and dispute resolution

Michael Campbell, executive director, Fair Work Ombudsman, said, ‘the agency is devoting considerable resources to assist the retail industry.

‘Essentially, it’s a place for retail employers to access materials specifically designed for small-to-medium sized businesses.’

Retailers can also obtain information by calling the Fair Work infoline on 13 13 94 between 8.00 am 6.00 pm on weekdays or by visiting the Fair Work website.

Female workers still face discrimination

More than half of Australians say female employees are still not treated equally in the workplace – mainly because of the perception they are less capable than males – according to a survey conducted by career networking site LinkMe.

Other reasons sited by the 2700 people surveyed for the enduring lack of equality included the:

  • perception that females will not be in the workplace for as long as men
  • belief that women focus more on family than their job
  • fact that employers don’t want to employ someone who might take maternity leave

Women at the top end of the corporate ladder noticed the lack of equality more than others.

In fact, 68 per cent of those earning over $100,000 said women are still struggling for equality at work, compared to 60 per cent of females earning less than $50,000.

Survey respondents expressed no preference for male or female managers, despite acknowledging that both genders approach the position differently.