The New Banking, Finance and Insurance Award

Australian workplaces are preparing for a readjustment of employment conditions under the Federal Government’s planned shake-up of workplace relations. The remainder of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘the Act’) comes into force on 1 January 2010, bringing with it a myriad of Modern Awards and changes in workplace standards.

As a major part of the Government’s “Forward with Fairness” Policy, the Act aims to create a unified national industrial relations system that will ensure balance and fairness for all Australian workers. The Federal Government will assume power over certain employment standards, previously administered by the states, to introduce consistency across all Australian workplaces.

Workplaces are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the new Act and relevant Modern Awards. Of particular significance is the new Banking, Finance and Insurance Award (‘the Banking Award’), effective as of 1 January 2010. The Banking Award, prescribed by the Act, will prevail over state imposed awards unless expressly provided for by the Act. It works to regulate the terms and conditions of employment for all employees in the banking, finance and insurance industries, irrespective of their role. It will therefore be the applicable award for many clerical employees who were previously covered by the NSW Clerical & Administrative Employees Award.

Major Changes

The New Award introduces an extra employee grade to aid in the distinction between employee roles, updating to a grading scale of one through six. While the grading of an employee will continue to increase in accordance with the skill and knowledge required in the proper execution of their employment tasks, the terms of reference for each grade have been significantly altered to better correspond with the duties and responsibilities particular to the banking, finance and insurance industries. It is anticipated that the new guidelines will enable a fairer assessment of employee roles and changing skill requirements within identified industries. All workplaces will need to re-evaluate their employee duties and responsibilities accordingly.

It is similarly important that employers ensure compliance with revised minimum wages for the respective grading. The standard minimum wage, which reflects current basic fairness requirements, has changed to adopt the new grading system. Further changes to wages may become necessary after reassessment of employee grading within the workplace. The new rate of pay will override any lower rates made in earlier enterprise agreements and will continue to be reviewed annually.

Other changes under the Act and Banking Award include an increase of sick leave entitlements, an adjustment of meal break allowances and a reassessment of unfair dismissal laws.

Enterprise Agreements

A key element of the Government’s policy is the encouragement of greater flexibility within the employment relationship. The framework for enterprise agreements is premised in good faith bargaining and the promotion of a more balanced approach to workplace standards. Where appropriate, the Act allows for bargaining between employers and their employees regarding employment conditions such as overtime rates, penalty rates, allowances and leave loading.

In support of this, the New Award includes a flexibility term and guidelines for the implementation of individual or collective agreements, which may be used to vary the application of award terms in order to meet those specific needs of the employment relationship. Any such agreement will be carefully regulated by the Award in its negotiation and execution.

Fair Work Australia

Seven former Government bodies have been superseded by Fair Work Australia, a new and independent national workplace relations tribunal. Heralded by the Government as the “one-stop shop” for information and assistance on workplace issues, Fair Work Australia will be the point of call for any issues arising under the Act. As well as managing industrial relations and dispute resolution, the tribunal will conduct four yearly reviews of the New Award to maintain a relevant and fair minimum safety net for Australian workers.

Conclusion

Employers and employees alike hold it in their best interests to become well acquainted with the Act, its purpose and its legal implications. Workplaces across Australia should be gearing up to adopt and maintain all relevant changes under the Act and the Banking Award. Be they subtle adjustments or major alterations, the employment standards across all Australian workplaces are set to change.

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Changes to Australian Safety – Work Health Safety Act 2011 Requirements

MAJOR CHANGES RESULTING FROM THE WORK HEALTH SAFETY ACT 2011

1.0 INTRODUCTION
The Work Health and Safety Bill 2011 and Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2011 were passed by the Lower and Upper House of NSW Parliament on June 1 2011. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 incorporated the following changes to the existing Act from January 1 2012. Currently, the Act is in place in; New South Wales, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Victorian Parliament have thrown the Bill out of Parliament, on the basis of the initial implementation cost for SME’s, with little or no capital gain for the outright expenditure of the organisation/s. There were also concerns regarding the union/CFMEU influence and possible control of elected Health and Safety Representatives, who can now issue ‘Provisional Improvement Notices’ and ‘Cease Work Notices’ to their respective employer/PCBU.

2.0 THE ALARP PRINCIPLE
The Act have placed an insertion to the duty of care definition, to the ensure health and safety of workers, regarding risks posed whilst performing working duties on behalf of a company is “as far (low) as reasonably practicable.” This is known as the ‘ALARP Principle.’

The core change of the harmonisation legislation, now places sole emphasis on the ‘ALARP’ principle. The principle itself moves away from previous state legislation, that an employer can, with issues of OHS, implement “infinite; time, effort and money (that) can be spent, on an attempt of reducing the risk involved with an activity to zero.” This now is no longer the case.

An employer now must ensure that risks in the workplace are assessed through the ALARP principle, using the Hierarchy of Controls to determine the lowest point of risk. No longer can organisations simply throw money at a safety issue (worker training, finances for extraordinary licences etc.) Employers now are required to have documented proof that risks posed to all levels of staff, were assessed using the Hierarchy of Control (Elimination, Substitution, Isolation, Engineering, Administration, PPE.) Upon finalising a decision based upon the HOC, evidence supporting the reason/s why it was deemed as posing the lowest possible risk to the employees, must be able to be provided to auditors and external parties, if and when required.

2.1 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
To ensure ALARP, additional emphasis is now being placed on employers to have a structured Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS,) and the appropriate documented and recorded paper trial as evidence that all risks posed to an employee, no matter what their employed role, have been assessed by all levels of the company representation, with appropriate control measures implemented.

2.2 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
Ensuring ALARP principles methods are reasonably simple; it all boils down to common sense. The old saying however, of “Common sense is not all that common!” is still relevant.

• A widely recognised and on-going company induction procedure for all employees, including re-training,
• Assessing training needs, whether on the job, or requiring a certified RTO course,
• Documentation of all training is now required (soft/hard copy certificates and qualifications, company training logs etc.),
• Involvement of all staff in safety matters (safety notifications, committee meetings, election and consultation of health and safety representatives,
• Risk Assessments on owned and hired Equipment/SWMs for frequent works, JRA’s for all site visits. All documentation requires a training and assessment program for all staff, with on-going review.
• Test and Tagging compliance with plant equipment,
• Ongoing servicing of all plant and equipment used by the workforce
• Possible corrective actions, arising from incidents and hazard forms, appropriately assessed.

When implementing the changes, Elimination and Substitution should always be the first port of call, and of course, common sense being administered to all possible actions required undertaking.

3.0 DEFINITION CHANGES
The term ‘employer,’ has now been replaced by the term ‘Persons Conducting Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU.) A PCBU conducts a business or undertaking alone or with others (proprietorship or joint venture). The business or undertaking can operate for profit or not-for-profit, so this can include volunteers and charity organisations, a move which has already come under scrutiny from external parties.

The word ‘employee’ has now been replaced by the term ‘worker.’ A worker is anyone who conducts and performs work for a PCBU, which now includes:

• Employees,
• Contractors or subcontractors,
• Employees of contractors or subcontractors,
• Labour hire employees,
• Apprentices or trainees,
• Students on work experience,
• Outworkers,
• Volunteers.

3.1 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
All wording within manuals, documents and business contracts require to be altered to ‘PBCU’ and ‘worker.’ The definition enables litigation cases to be brought against anyone within a company, providing there are grounds that a worker was grossly negligent whilst performing works for a PCBU, affecting the health and safety of others. Although widely unpopular, volunteers and charities now can also be sued. Are procedures and policies in place to protect your workers? Is there a system for rectifying negligent behaviour?

A need to raise awareness to existing workers, that the State now can initiate proceedings against an individual and not just a PCBU entity, needs to be performed. Inclusions of information within in; safety notifications, staff inductions or general toolbox meetings are a great way of informing staff of their legal responsibilities towards OHS.

4.0 REVERSE ONUS OF PROOF (Now Removed)
The WHS Act 2011 previously stated a “reverse onus of proof.” For all the non-lawyers out there, it means that the Act was following the French Judicial system, where in litigation cases the defendant was prosecuted and presumed as guilty. In essence, defendants had to prove their innocence.

The Reverse Onus of Proof Principle was removed from the Act, in the OHSA Amendment Act.

4.1 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
Inclusion is now not required of the ‘reverse onus of proof’ principle.

5.0 DUE DILIGENCE
Defined as “the deemed liability of officers is replaced by the proactive duty of due diligence.”

Due diligence is a term used for a number of concepts, involving either an investigation of a business or person prior to signing a contract, or an act with a certain standard of care.

5.1 COMPANY MANAGEMENT CAPABILITIES
Managing Capabilities aims to balance both current and future operational requirements along with ensuring sustainability and ensuring constant development.

5.2 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
Do your company’s documents include and make known the individual requirements of a worker? Is the worker made known of these requirements? Is a standard set?

5.3 PERFORMANCE GAPS
Ensuring employee performance remains consistently of a high standard, ensures that the management capabilities and strategic vision of the company maintains constant development. Ways to measure performance can involve a range of registers (KPI, performance), and can include but are not limited to;

1. Comparing performance with objectives,
2. Comparing performance with similar workers or work units,
3. Considering outcomes against key timelines and milestones,

5.4 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
Does your system include risk assessing outside factors, that can decrease a PCBU’s or a workers performance?
Eg:

Outside Factor Example
Environmental Acts of God, Unforeseen weather
Staff Employee retention, Hours worked, Quality of work
Personality Conflicts Differing views on decisions from employees
Industrial Disputes Outstanding litigation, Union involvement (CFMEU)
Cost Increases From suppliers, Government etc
External Pressures Lobbyist Groups, Legislation, Religious influences

5.5 GROWTH PROJECTIONS FOR PCBU’s WITH DUE DILIGENCE
PCBU’s estimate future business possibilities; based on current trend. Involvement of research into potential company growth, market predictions and acquisitions of assets, are now performed either consciously; through financial professionals, acquisition of work contracts, or subconsciously; such as employing a worker based on experience, knowledge or price. If a PCBU is growing financially by 20% per year, is the size of the workforce also growing to aid with the completion of additional work? If not, are workers workloads increasing, which in turn is causing mental and physical fatigue?

5.6 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
Using the ALARP Principle, are Fatigue Management Plans implemented, recorded and governed?

Inclusion of a Fatigue Management/Overtime Policy can include a requirement for compulsory days off, after performing x amount of hours. How many minimum hours are required to be worked, before additional being classed as overtime? Is the system in place to recognise overtime, and identify fatigued workers?

In turn, is there a monitoring system for reviewing worker health, and medical requirements? Most of who have been involved in life-threatnening events, state that its a series of little things that combine, to ensure the event did not result in a death. The detail is in the little things. Are EpiPens available for Diabetics, and heart defibrillators for those with predisposed risk? Are personnel trained in handling the situation? What is the known emergency procedure?

In addition, does your system cover the cultural beliefs of Australia’s multicultural workforce? Are measures in place for such occasions with disputes, and worker conflict situations settled with a complaints or conflicts procedure?

5.7 ASSUMPTIONS VALIDATION
With an assumption, we expect something to happen from an individual or group. This incorporates a level of risk with trust in an employee to perform their duty. With a risk, we ask; what will we do if something does not happen, or how do we decrease the probability that something will happen?

Due diligence now states an Officer (elected or employed representative in the company), who can make decisions on behalf of a PCBU, which significantly affect the business, is now responsible for the following areas;

1) Having an understanding of the nature of the operations of the PCBU and the hazards and risks associated with those operations.

2) Ensuring appropriate resources and process to enable; identification, elimination or control of specific hazards, risks, compliance with specific obligations (consultation, incident notification.)

3) Having up to date knowledge of laws and compliance requirements.

4) Verifying that risk and hazards are being appropriately controlled.

5) Ensuring there is a process for receiving, considering and ensuring a timely response to information regarding incidents, identified hazards and risks.

6) Ensuring verification of the provision and use of the resources and processes that have been implemented for the purposes of auditing and review.

How do we ensure that the major decision makers receive as much legal coverage, if an event would arise?

5.8 IMPLEMENTATION INTO AN OHSMS
Does the system provide educational and referencing support, in major decisions from Management? Are prior job references researched and documented, with stated and provided qualifications’ validity checked? How are legislative changes affecting your industry, informed to your PCBU? If legal action was taken against your PCBU, what is the process for installing legal privilege?

6.0 HEALTH AND SAFETY REPRESENTATIVES
The Work Health and Safety Act has included some changes in terminology and emphasis and introduced some new provisions. Health and Safety Representatives can now issue a ‘provisional improvement notice’ and a ‘cease work notice’ to a PCBU, but only if trained to do so. Once elected, the PCBU has 12 months from date of election, to provide Health and Safety Representative training. A Health and Safety Representative can serve a three year term, until they require re-election.

7.0 CONCLUSION
When it boils down to the new legislation, a lot of discussion can be had, many documents can be written, and procedures implemented from a range of the above points, however this is all pointless if safety is not an integral part of a PCBU’s culture.

Any individual working within the OHS field will agree, that to implement or change a culture, it has to be filtered down to the workforce, from the highest point. If safety is number 1 priority to your organisation, an example must be set, and followed by a Board of Directors, General Managers and of course, an OHS Department. Build on this culture of safety first, and with time, a reduction of LTI and MTI rates will shortly follow.

Author Overview
Based in Western Australia, Liam is a Health and Safety professional with 7 year’s experience in establishing and implementing Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, ranging from Civil/Construction, Mining and Corporate.

Since coming aboard with Alliance Power and Data, Liam has undertaken the role of National HSEQ Manager and lead a HSEQ team Australia wide. He has gained; International, National and State accreditation’s and Approved Service Provider (ASP) status with multiple utilities, through the systems’ procedures and processes implemented, in consultation with all levels of staff in APD.

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Home Loans – How to Avoid Swimming with Sharks!

Predatory home loan sharks are coming under increased pressure from consumer campaigners concerned at the number of Australians falling victim to rogue lenders.

It is feared the problem could get worse as interest rate hikes force struggling families to refinance their home loans. The need to keep a roof over their head could leave some families vulnerable to lenders operating on the fringes of the credit market.

Typically, predatory lenders target people in financial trouble, who have assets, such as a home, but little ability to repay a refinanced home loan. Often the sole intention of predatory lenders is to strip as much cash from their victim as possible by charging very high interest rates, excessive commissions and charges.

Cases of predatory lending are characterised by high levels of default. The Credit Ombudsman Service Limited has pointed out most predatory lending cases see borrowers default quickly, due to the high interest rates charged. Defaults sometimes occur as soon as the first month.

Often the tragic outcome for those who fall victim is the loss of their home and any equity they may have built up while repaying their home loan, causing real hardship for the families affected.

The issue has become so serious that a coalition of consumer groups and financial industry bodies has been set up to help raise awareness and to help tackle the problem. The coalition includes the Public Interest Law Clearing House, The Australian Banker’s Association, Legal Aid NSW, the Consumer Credit Legal Centre, Abacus and the Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia.

According to Australia’s Credit Ombudsman service, many victims of rogue lenders are vulnerable people who are less able to stand up for themselves. They are pre-dominantly people already in financial difficulties, Centrelink recipients, pensioners, non-English speakers or people with learning or mental health disabilities.

Rogue lenders get around consumer protection rules, such as the Uniform Consumer Credit Code, by structuring loans to fall outside of the credit code’s jurisdiction.

Two sad cases highlighted by the NSW Consumer Credit Legal Centre show just what can happen. An unemployed couple, with four children, contacted the consumer watchdog, after being stung by unscrupulous money men. The family had gone to a broker when their home was threatened with repossession by their lender. The couple, who had fallen into serious arrears on their original home loan, also needed to raise money to pay off debts, register their car and convert a garage into an extra bedroom for an expected fifth child. The broker, who had been informed of the couple’s income, set up two high interest loans, one at a whopping 23.6%. The broker was paid $15,000 dollars in fees and commission on top of the lender’s fees. The family ended up owing $65,000 more than their original home loan, with little hope of ever repaying the debt.

In another devastating case, a migrant couple, who had lived in Australia for 35 years, lost their home after going to a broker to refinance their home loan to repay debts incurred due to a family crisis. The couple in their 60s had been repaying their home loan for 25 years, but after the broker arranged three loans in a couple of years they found they were unable to meet their repayments.

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Understanding Legal Aid – Sydney NSW

Legal Aid Sydney falls under the Legal Aid Commission Act of 1979 of New South Wales. It is an independent statutory body. Disadvantaged members of the Sydney and New South Wales community are entitled to make an application to this body for legal aid and other legal services. The Legal Aid body is governed by ten board members. They are appointed to office by the Attorney General New South Wales and decide on the policies and strategies to implement. This board stands for certain important groups such as the Bar Association of New South Wales and the Law Society of New South Wales and welfare groups. It is the Chief Executive who takes care of the daily running of Legal Aid or LA New South Wales and is assisted by the Executive.

A function of Legal Aid Sydney is to ensure that disadvantaged individuals have their rights protected. This body understands it can only be accomplished if people are provided fair access to the law. The most disadvantaged groups are those who are institutionalized, women, non English speaking and Torres Strait islanders and Aboriginal people. The applications of these groups receive preference.

Legal Aid Sydney and throughout New South Wales has offices and clinics for advice. These are to be found in both urban and rural areas. The group also has private lawyers to represent their disadvantaged clients. Grants are given for admin law, veteran’s issues, family, mental health and criminal matters. Strictly speaking, legal aids are not completely free as clients often have to pay some money towards a court case. This is seen as a contribution and the amount will vary because it depends on the individual’s financial situation.

To be accepted by the group, an applicant must be eligible. To find out whether you are eligible there is a means test indicator for this purpose. The means test will identify to you whether you are financially eligible for assistance. It is important to note that this is one of the tests you must go through. There are other tests that take into account other issues and not just your finances. Passing the provided Means Test Indicator does not mean you are eligible. You must also take the other tests.

If you are eligible then financial advice is free and a consultation will take around twenty minutes. It is when court cases are involved that you would be expected to make a contribution towards the cost. A private Legal Aid lawyer will represent you and take care of your brief.

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Assistive Technology An Independent Life For Everyone

Not depending on others is very important for every human being. As technology progresses everyday and the development includes specially designed devices and equipment, everyone can now enjoy an independent life style. Even people with disabilities can have a better life, avoiding frustration or incapacity to communicate. Assistive technology is for a great help for those who need to feel secure when they are by themselves, even if they have certain disabilities. Our assistive technology products meet their needs and offer an alternative for a better life. Communication for example, is one of the biggest problems for people with disabilities, but our assistive technology products make it easier. Even if your problem is about hearing, seeing or moving around, the solutions we offer can solve any type of problem related to physical challenges.

We also offer you a great variety of products as furniture, software, workstations or switches, specially created for an independent living. You can enjoy assistive technology products in your own house and anywhere you go, avoiding frustrations and difficulties you were exposed to before. Assistive technology is even for people who suffer from Parkinson, Lou Getring’s Disease aka Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Multiple Sclerosis. All the products we recommend are easy to use, the technology being adapted to every special need. Now, deaf-blind people will be able to communicate between themselves or with other people because assistive technology makes it possible.

If you want to make your children’s life easier, now you can do it with the help of special communication software or CDs that contains all kinds of information about social activities. Eating out, shopping, transportation are some of the social activities children need to learn about before they go out. This and some other assistive technology products can help your children have a better, independent life, even if they have some disabilities. It’s important to mention that these teaching products are not only for children, but also for people who have found themselves, all of a sudden, in the undesirable situation of an accident that has affected their health.

Our furniture is designed for people who need better access in the kitchen, bathroom or in the bedroom and for those who need special workstations in their homes or offices. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable at your desk anymore, because now you have the perfect solution, easily accessible through an online order.

In one word, assistive technology is for those who want to raise the standard of living, for those who need to increase the quality of life because an independent living is now possible through technology. This is why our products come to meet your special needs, helping you achieve what you want.

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