Employing Staff – 5 tips for Small Business Owners

Employing Staff – 5 tips for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, you’re working really hard to grow your business and hopefully at some point you will be ready to bring someone new into the business to help you. There are so many rules around employing staff and it can be hard to keep across all of your obligations as an employer. So, lets make employing staff just a little easier by giving you five tips to point you in the right direction. It’s great to learn as you go, but employing staff requires some homework and groundwork up-front.  It really is worth the investment in time (and possibly a little bit of money) to make sure you set up your business’ employment conditions and contracts well.

Most people enter employment arrangements with the best of intentions but, unfortunately, people’s attitudes can change and often the employer finds themselves in a tricky situation (and often through no fault of their own). Our advice is to take some time to get the fundamentals right and educate yourself enough to keep on the right track – as you might do for marketing, premises or products. The more structure you have in place around employing staff, the less wriggle room employees have when they want to rewrite history.

Here are our top five tips to start you off:

  1. Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman site. This website has valuable information to help you with employment arrangements; from recruitment to termination, and everything in between. You’ll find access to helpful basic templates and tools under their ‘How we will help’ tab. Business Victoria, and the Australian government website, www.business.gov.au, are also great resources for small businesses. The internet as a whole (aka Google) has some really helpful information but be discerning about the organisation providing the ‘advice’ and stick with the reputable ones.
  2. Put any employment arrangement in writing. A basic contract of employment sets out whether your employee is full-time, part-time or casual. It specifies pay rates, leave entitlements and notice provisions. A written contract will ensure that both the employee and employer understand their responsibilities and expectations. I strongly recommend that you seek legal advice to design employment contracts that will protect you if there is a dispute that arises in the future. The same goes if you are engaging someone as an independent contractor, rather than an employee. A well drafted contractor agreement will ensure there is no opportunity for someone to come back later to claim that they were actually an employee and entitled to leave or other entitlements.
  3. Pay rates, superannuation and leave. Don’t become the next ‘George from Masterchef’ with the Ombudsman knocking! Most jobs are covered by an Award and if you need help to work out which one applies, use the P.A.C.T calculator on the Fair Work Ombudsman site to work out correct hourly rates. Casuals don’t accrue leave but usually get a 25% loading on their hourly rate instead. Don’t forget, Award rates change on 1 July every year and you need to keep good payroll and leave records (ideally using a payroll app) and also provide payslips. You need to pay superannuation at least quarterly and make sure you are keeping track of leave accruals and then recording when it is taken. Many accounting software packages have an easy-to-use payroll function and are worth their monthly fee.  Visit the Business Victoria website to find out more about Long Service Leave (which can also apply to casuals).
  4. Workplace policies. It is really helpful to have key workplace policies to ensure that staff understand the rules they need to play (work) by. I suggest that you at least have a code of conduct policy, and policies on occupational health and safety, bullying and harassment, social media and leave entitlements.
  5. Occupational health and safety, and Workcover. Visit the Worksafe site to make sure that you’re compliant with your obligations as an employer. No one wants to see a person get injured at work and as a business owner, the responsibility rests with you. Also speak to your insurance agent or accountant about Workcover insurance, which is compulsory.

Having great staff is really rewarding but employing staff can sometimes get a bit tricky. Chatting with an employment lawyer and HR Advisor is a worthwhile investment. They are experts in these areas and have plenty of cost-effective templates and information ready to go. At Robertson Hyetts, we enjoy getting to know our local small business owners and providing practical and cost-conscious advice, within your budget, to avoid setbacks and help your business grow.

If you would like some help setting up your business to employ staff, we can discuss your requirements and help you to be compliant. Or if you have been employing staff for a while and would like some assurance that you are on the right track, we would be happy to work with you. And if things don’t go to plan and you need some HR advice or help to resolve an issue, please feel free to give us a call.

To make an appointment with one of our lawyers, contact Robertson Hyetts in Bendigo on 03 5434 6666 or Castlemaine on 03 5472 1588.