3 Practical Legal Tips for HR Practitioners in Manufacturing to overcome legal obstacles

HR in manufacturing are dealing with disruption – here are some practical tips

COVID-19, the pandemic has caused massive disruption to industry.  Manufacturing has been no exception and although there have been a number of companies who have benefited from clients “going local” and others who have pivoted into other areas – hand sanitizers been an obvious one.  Many HR professionals in Manufacturing companies are coming to grips with some major challenges.  NB Lawyers – lawyers for employers have come up with 3 major practical legal tips for Human Resources.

Tip 1 – Restructuring and Redundancies – have a game plan

Jobkeeper’s likely end in September will play a large part in restructure plans for manufacturing companies and so will the changing needs of suppliers and customers.  For Human Resources discussing these issues with the Executive team, directors and board members keep these key points in mind:

  • The positions will be made redundant and by doing so the person employed in that position will have their employment cease
  • There are consultation provisions which will need to be complied with under the Modern Award, if there is an EBA in play this may well have more onerous obligations
  • Redeployment will need to be an option
  • If there are potentially discriminatory elements at play such as age, family responsibilities, pregnancy or gender ensure your restructuring documentation will withstand scrutiny from the Fair Work Commission or Federal Court – it may well end up being reviewed by a Judge or Commissioner
  • Consider any obligations to representatives of employees such as a Union – do you have a strategy and if so do all internal staff who will be dealing with the matter understand the strategy
  • What do the redeployment or termination documents look like? Do contracts need to be varied to meet the new expectations or even potentially new terms such as an increase or decrease in salary or hours?

If you have game plan in place it will mitigate a lot of risk and legal liability.

Tip 2 – Get the Policies in order

Policies especially in larger organisations have a tendency to fall behind, irregularly updated and potentially even non-compliant with the law.  Policies are organic documents and as long as employees know about the policy and procedure, are aware of it and where to access it and is reasonable and lawful – policies can be utilised by Employers to maintain certain standards and behaviour (the common sense that needs to be made explicit to staff).  Some policies that need be in place include:

  • Code of Conduct
  • Workplace Health and Safety
  • Disciplinary Process
  • Complaint Management
  • Social Media
  • Confidentiality
  • Vehicle management/property management policy
  • Leave policy
  • Harassment
  • Performance management

If you have updated policies in place, where staff are regularly trained up on and are reasonable and lawful – they will be invaluable for managing staff – their expectations, standards and potentially dealing with any difficult employee situations.

Tip 3 – Unfair Dismissal is not the only issue to be concerned with

One of the many misconceptions around termination of employment is that unfair dismissal is the only issue to really be concerned with.  There are many other applications to be concerned with mainly:

  • Human Rights
  • Workers Compensation
  • Discrimination
  • Breach of Contract
  • General Protections

Depending on the situation there are many elements in play, for example for a manager in a manufacturing company reasonable notice might be a particularly decisive factor which if applicable could cost the company between 6 – 24 months pay.

General Protections applications could mean significant pecuniary penalties for the company of up to $63,000 per breach for the Employer and more significantly up to $12,000 per breach for an individual involved in the breach – HR, Directors, Board Members and CFOs have all been included in previous successful General Protections Applications in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Going Forward

It is a difficult time, however, NB Lawyers – lawyers for employers have been helping a number of organisations and providing practical advice to avoid (and mitigate) the legal obstacles that many in HR are dealing with.  We offer an obligation free consultation call +61 (07) 3876 5111

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Written By

Jonathan Mamaril


NB Lawyers – Lawyers for Employers

[email protected]

+61 (07) 3876 5111

About the Author

Jonathan Mamaril, Director, NB Lawyers – Lawyers for Employers

Jonathan Mamaril leads a team of handpicked experts in the areas of employment law and commercial law who focus on educating clients to avoid headaches, provide advice on issues before they fester and when action needs to be taken and there is a problem mitigate risk and liability.  With a core value of helping first and providing practical advice, Jonathan is a sought after advisor to a number of Employers and as a speaker for forums and seminars where his expertise is invaluable as a leader in this area as a lawyer for employers.