One little known part of Australia’s new industrial relations laws is the BOOT. No, this is not way to get rid of troublesome employees by using your Size 9’s (or whatever size boots you wear)! Instead it is an abbreviation for Better Off Overall Test.
The new laws allow for award conditions to be varied on an individual basis as long as the variations result in the employee being better off overall when compared to the award conditions.
What does this really mean? Well it means employers and employee can agree to more flexible conditions providing the BOOT is passed. However, it also creates some problems for employees leading up to 1 January 2010 when the BOOT comes into effect.
On 1 January 2010, a new safety net will be coming effective for all national system employers. This safety net will comprise new Modern Awards and the Minimum Employment Standards. New modern awards will cover all employees under a threshold which is roughly $100,000.
If you currently have employees on agreements (or AWA’s), come 1 January 2010 these agreements will need to pass the BOOT. If they do not you may be in breach of the award covering your industry or the minimum employment standards. This may result in investigations by Fair Work Australia and/or relevant unions and significant costs to your business in fines, backpayments and time.
So what do you need to do? First you need to review your agreements to ensure they are compliant with the new minimum standards. Then you need to alter your practices to ensure you will be compliant by 1 January 2010.
Leaving this until 1 January 2010 is not the right thing to do! From January 1 if you are not compliant you are in breach of the legislation and an employee or union may report you for the breach.
So be aware of the BOOT – start looking at your agreements and systems now! People Smartz are currently offering free employment compliance reviews to businesses. These reviews will identify for you the areas you may need to act to protect your business.