Here's a snapshot of what's been going on in private health workplaces and how HACSU can help.
Employers can use what their employees post on social media as evidence in disciplinary proceedings. In some circumstances, it can be used in misconduct proceedings, so there are a few things to think about before posting anything online that may pertain to the workplace. Don’t vent online,even if you’ve had one of those weeks when you’re feeling frustrated or upset,even if you think it’s okay because it’s on your personal page and out of work hours. In Australia there’s no general right to privacy when it comes to social media and employers may be legally entitled to take disciplinary action if they can reasonably establish a post is about work and breaches their policies.
Venting about a work colleague in a post can be seen as bullying or harassment, and be careful what you ‘like’, comment on, reply to, share or re-tweet as this can be seen as endorsing or confirming the content as your own view and if your posts could have a negative impact on your employer's reputation they may be entitled to act. Tasmania is a small place so it’s best to have your social media on full privacy settings and make sure your employer isn’t shown in your public information – we’ve had family disputes escalate to workplace grievances.
Don’t post pics of yourself having fun when you’re on sick leave (we’ve even had to represent people who stopped for a coffee and post edit after a doctor’s appointment), don’t share porn or other lewd images or jokes with your work colleagues and don’t spend excessive amounts of time on personal accounts while at work (only do so on sanctioned breaks where possible).
Get permission if posting pictures taken in your workplace of anything with the company logo or of people wearing a uniform, because anything that identifies work may be contrary to your employer’s social media policy, which every workplace should have, so ask your employer if there is one and see what it says.
Always think twice before posting because employers are using breaching social media policies as a new way to try and sack workers. Read more here.
Under the Workplace Health and Safety Act of 2012, workers have the right to request Health and Safety Committees (HSCs) to be established(section 75). This means that bosses and workers must come together to discuss safety issues. The committees established under the Act are ‘required to meet at least once every 3 months and any other time on request of half or more of the committee’. Bosses cannot reject a request to establish a committee if the request comes from a HSR or 5 or more workers at the workplace – big fines apply if committees are not established with 2 months of the request being made.
H&S Committee members are to be given ‘reasonable time’to work on safety matters, it is always paid time. Your boss should approve this and it is not normally a trigger for overtime. If bosses don’t allow committee members time to work on safety matters, big fines apply. Committee members must be provided with or have access to all relevant information relating to hazards (including associated risks) at the workplace and health and safety concerns of workers at a workplace. This may include being able to see all ‘incident reports’ which relate to safety events including workplace injuries.
HSRs have powers under the act, but HSCs don’t have to just include the HSRs. Anyone can be appointed to a HSC. Where an injury is involved the boss must not disclose the identity of the specific worker to the HSC members. This is to comply with the privacy obligations. Fines are included under the Act if they do disclose the identity of the injured worker.
Calvary, for example, has workload consultative committee meetings set up for clinical and non-clinical staff members that are held every 3 months in paid time, and workers with any workload issues can contact us so we can raise them on their behalf. Remember, if your issue isn’t raised there’s a fair chance it’ll never be addressed, so if you’d like more info about having a health & safety committee in your workplace please contact us at HACSUassist via email@example.com or 1300 880 032.
Casual award-based employees in aged care and social &community services including disability will be paid the 25% casual loading on top of their penalty rates for working Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from July 1, 2020. This is happening because HACSU and other unions have pushed for and won this change, and the main reason we achieve great outcomes like this is because these sectors are highly unionised.
It's always worth asking questions about your working conditions. If you’re working in a dental worksite are you even getting penalty rates for working Saturdays? Are your working conditions good? Are you on an agreement or an award? Is your employer fair and equitable? Do you always receive all your entitlements? Will asking for entitlements make your employment insecure? Have you ever been told ‘you’re lucky to have a job’ as a reason why something isn’t paid?
These are all good questions – so if you don’t think you get your fair share, or feel there’s an imbalance going on and want to see change,then contact us so we can chat about how to fix things by giving HACSU members a stronger voice at work.
On 8 April the Senate established a select committee to inquire into the Australian Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic - there was one broad term of reference allowing for a large and diverse range of stakeholders to make submissions, from individual community members through to small businesses, peak employer groups, unions and the ACTU, and HACSU’s national office made a submission on behalf of branches, being an updated version of the comprehensive submission made to the Attorney-General’s inquiry into the workforce impacts of COVID-19.
Online public hearings by the committee are ongoing, with a number of senators from across the political spectrum participating in addition to the committee’s members and our national office has expressed interest in providing witnesses and will update branches if the opportunity arises. The final report from the inquiry is due to be handed down on 30 June 2020 but there’s been such a large amount of interest that an extension to the final report date may be granted.
Our national office has been busy preparing for a number of upcoming hearings in the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
On 25–26 June, a Full Bench of the FWC will hear our claim for paid pandemic leave for health, aged care and social and community service workers. The claim seeks to ensure any worker required to self-isolate, or who becomes sick because of COVID-19, can take paid pandemic leave which is separate from any other leave entitlements. The claim will cover casual as well as permanent employees, and we’ve been working with other relevant unions and the ACTU on this significant claim. All the relevant documents can be viewed on the Fair Work Commission’s website here.
The following week, on 1–2 July, the FWC will hear our claim for a COVID-19 allowance for disability support workers working with clients who’ve contracted or are in quarantine because of COVID-19.
We’re also waiting on a final hearing date in relation to coverage of health professionals in the Health Professional and Support Services (HPSS) Award. The HSU is maintaining that the HPSS Award should coverall health professionals, and that none of these employees should be left award-free.