Myths and misconceptions

December 17, 2019

There are many myths and misconceptions around exactly what an employer can and can’t do when it comes to work and pay conditions with their employees. Getting these things wrong can lead to Fair Work imposing penalties on a business so it pays to ensure you are doing the below correctly!

If an employee breaks or damages something while at work, can I take it out of their next paycheck?

You cannot deduct money from an employee’s wage without notice. There may be stipulations in an employee’s contract that outlines costs may be incurred for things such as negligent damage, but the deduction and it must comply with their award and the law.

Do I have to pay people if it’s just a trial to see if they are worth hiring?

If someone is an official employee, they must be paid for the hours even if it’s during a trial period.

If someone is not a current employee, and unpaid trial may be ok if they need to demonstrate their skills as part of the interview process.

For example, if someone is applying for a job as a barista, they may be asked to demonstrate their skills on the espresso machine and the business would have no obligation to pay them.

Can I pay my staff whatever I want if they agree to it?

Regardless of if an employee is happy to be paid less than the award rate, you must pay them the minimum wage (or more) outlined on their award. Penalty rates for things such as holiday rates or overtime.

Employers found to be intentionally underpaying staff may even be charged with wage theft which may be classified as a criminal offence and attract a penalty of jail time.

In some instances, it may be ok to alter the pay conditions based on an employee’s unique situation, but the rule is the employee must not be worse off when compared to their original minimum pay rates.

Do I have to pay staff to attend meetings or training sessions outside of work hours?

Yes. Just because an employee is not working their regular hours to attend, it is still considered a work-related event and you must pay them accordingly.

This includes after work meetings, training sessions, work at an expo on a weekend etc.

If I’m giving for staff food, travel allowance or other benefits, can I deduct this from their wage?

Reducing the wages of an employee in lieu of food, amenities, travel allowance etc. is called payment in-kind and is illegal. The benefits can be given to an employee on top of their wage but certainly not instead of.

Do I have to give pay slips to my staff?

You must provide pay slips to your employees either in paper or digital form (Via email or in your payroll platform they have access to). These must be provided no later than one day after payment.

Can I enforce that staff must use and consume our products and not our competitors while working for me?

It is both illegal and very hard to enforce an employee MUST use or purchase your products.

It’s a good idea to discount your products for staff or even give them a budget to wear and use your products but you cannot mandate that they must.

With that said, if you were a clothing store it would be fair and reasonable to have a policy in place that states that employees could not wear clearly branded clothing of competing brands.

Do I have to pay staff for coming in early to open the store or staying back late to close up?

If you require someone to come in early or stay back late to complete duties, it is considered work time and they must be paid for it.

For example, if someone is required to come in to the to ensure the shelves are stocked and the shop is ready to open, they must be paid for this time, not just from when the time opens.

If you want to find out more about ensuring your HR framework is compliant, please book a demo of Happy HR today!

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About the author: Christopher Smith - CEO

Founder | Chief Happy Officer at Happy HR - Ensuring we have a happy platform, service mix and team of A grade people! View on Linkedin

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