Ensuring that the conditions of employment and the expectations of the business are clearly and appropriately expressed is an important area of employment compliance, yet it is an area that many businesses struggle with.  Engagement documents contain many of the critical elements required to ensure ongoing employment compliance.  This weeks HR Highlight explores the crucial area of engagement documents.

The Document

Engagement documents can have a variety names of including Letter of Offer or Contract of Employment.  What is important is that the engagement document clearly communicates the required information to the new employee about their role and how they will work, as well as outlining the expectations of the business, and the likely outcome of an employee failing to meet those expectations.

General Inclusions

Engagement documents should clearly communicate key elements of the employment relationship including;

  • The business that the employee will be working for
  • The work location or locations
  • The start date
  • Any probation period that will apply and the notice required by either party (employer or employee) to terminate the employment relationship within the probation period.  Note: depending on the employment instrument is may be useful to stipulate that any notice period directed by the employer may be, at the discretion of the employer – worker, or paid in lieu.
  • The notice that will be required by either party to terminate the employment relationship outside of the probation period.  Note: depending on the employment instrument is may be useful to stipulate that any notice period directed by the employer may be, at the discretion of the employer – worker, or paid in lieu.

Specific Inclusions

In addition to the general inclusions, engagement documents should take care to communicate the following specifics in order to meet statutory requirements;

  • The employment instrument

Engagement documents should clearly communicate the instrument that the employment relationship will be governed by.  This is the Award that covers the work in most cases, but could also be a registered Enterprise or Collective Agreement.

  • The classification of the employee under the employment instrument

Engagement documents should clearly communicate the classification that the business has determined will apply to the employees work under the employment instrument.

  • The status of the employee

Engagement documents should clearly communicate the status of the employee – permanent full time, permanent part time or casual.  It should also express if this is an ongoing engagement or a fixed term contract.

  • The provision of the Fair Work Information Statement

It is a requirement under the law that all staff are provided with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, it is helpful in proving that this requirement has been met, to include reference to the provision of a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement in the engagement documents.

  • Guaranteed Work

It is a requirement for all permanent and permanent part time staff to communicate in writing the days that they will work and the start and finish times of each of the shifts.  These amount to the guaranteed hours.  When communicating guaranteed hours for casuals this section of the engagement document should reflect that casuals are engaged and employed as needed by the hour and as such no guaranteed hours apply.

It is incumbent on employers to be able to prove that they have communicated all of these elements under the law, and failure to be able to demonstrate that these elements were communicated attracts severe penalties.

Optional Inclusions

It is optional to include within the engagement documents, reference to, and a copy of;

  • Business Policies

While this element is optional it is recommended that on commencement is an excellent time to outline to all new staff the expectations of the business and what the likely outcomes are for breaches or failure to meet those expectations.  The provision of coherent well-formed business policies added as an attachment to the engagement documents allows for this communication

  • Position Description

While this element is optional it is recommended that on commencement new staff be provided with a detailed and comprehensive position description that outlines tasks, physical requirements, skill requirements and reporting frameworks.

Practical Considerations

The engagement documents should be provided to the new employee prior to them accepting the role, and ideally their acceptance of the role, and acknowledgement of enclosed documents such as the Fair Work Information Statement, should be indicated by the return of a signed copy of the engagement document.

The employee should be provided with a copy of the document that they keep and the signed copy should be retained by the business as a key document in the employees employment file.

What about current staff?

For businesses that are concerned that their current engagement documents may have missed some of these requirements it is important to address the gaps swiftly.

It is suggested that a Confirmation of Employment Pack, which provides all of the information that would be provided in a complete engagement pack, is circulated to all staff to ensure that staff are provided with the information required under the law, and the business is in a position to be able to demonstrate that this communication has happened.

As with all things in the compliance space, discovering a gap, and taking steps to remedy the gap, is infinitely preferable to turning a blind eye or crossing your fingers and hoping that there will not be an issue.

Here to Help

ACAPMA members are reminded that the ACAPMA Employment Professionals are available to assist with engagement documents. For more information just call 1300 160 270.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of the ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals its free for members. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $810 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR and IR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.