Whether you run your own business or work for someone else’s, having a solid understanding of employee rights can protect your interests and help build your success.
In Australia, the Fair Work Act 2009 governs our workplaces, creating a set of employment standards that apply to all employees, regardless of the industry within which they work.
These Fair Work standards also apply to real estate. Being familiar with them, can help employers ensure you are compliant in your employee conditions and treatment, and helps employees know what to expect and how they should be treated.
What does the Fair Work Act cover?
The employment standards within the Fair Work Act provide us with a framework so all employees can enjoy productive workplaces.
According to the Government, the Fair Work Act covers terms and conditions for employment, rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, and provides for enforcement of the Act.
The Act includes 10 National Employee Standards, which are legislated – this means every real estate agency should be adhering to these standards.
These 10 standards govern areas like hours of work, flexibility and leave for various reasons, holidays, termination and redundancy.
As an employer, if you’re in doubt – or even if you’re not – always refer to the Act and these standards when facilitating an area of employment for which you don’t have previous knowledge or experience.
Where can you get help?
The Fair Work Ombudsman and The Fair Work Commission have been established to ‘give you information and advice about your workplace rights and obligations’.
While, like most Government agencies, they can’t provide you with legal advice, they can help you better understand how to apply the Act, if you are an employer, and how it can be applied to you, if you are an empoyee.
The Ombudsman can be contacted by phone on 13 13 94, but the best place to start your research is on its website.
Online, you will find useful information about pay (including pay calculators), leave, terminations and ending employment, employee entitlements, awards and agreements.
In our experience, the Ombudsman is a valuable resource, and its phone support provides useful advice for managing employment-related issues.
How can Fair Work help?
Unfortunately, a lot of employers still aren’t comprehensively aware of what Fair Work means in terms of the conditions and treatment of the people they employ. Here are a few examples of where Fair Work might apply:
- Flexibility for carers
Joe is a father of two, and both he and his wife work.
Joe’s wife, Mel, works in retail and has to be at the store by 8.30am each morning to open the shopfront to customers. Joe is a sales agent for a boutique real estate agency, where he has worked for five years, and largely manages his own diary.
Joe and Mel can’t get before school care for their kids, so Joe asks the licensee-in-charge if she minds if he arrives at work a little late, so he can drop the boys at school at 8.30am. Working in retail, Mel doesn’t have any flexibility.
Joe’s manager tells him arriving late just isn’t going to work, but doesn’t offer him a reason. Joe tries another approach, asking if he can arrive a little late and work through lunch time or extra after hours so he can manage the boys’ drop off. Joe’s manager still says no.
In this case, Joe’s manager should consider his request, if it reasonable, as Joe is a carer of school-aged children. Joe can call the Fair Work Ombudsman to learn about his rights and how he can approach the situation with his manager.
- Long service leave
Sarah has been working for the local real estate agency in town, for the past 10 years – in fact, her work anniversary has just come up.
Weeks later and Sarah tries to book in a holiday, using her long service leave, but the office manager tells her she doesn’t have long service leave. Upon questioning it, she is told that she isn’t eligible because she has changed jobs within the company quite a few times since starting there.
Sarah knows this is wrong and that she should be eligible. She can submit an enquiry form online for advice and guidance from Fair Trading to learn how she pursues the matter and who can help her.
- Minimum wage
Jill has just started her first real job, at 18, after leaving school. She’s the receptionist at one of the suburb’s biggest real estate agencies, and she is hoping to use the role as a stepping stone to one day become a sales agent.
After a fortnight, Jill gets her first pay and presents her mum proudly with her payslip when she gets home.
Jill’s mum looks at the payslip, and then looks again. She tells Jill it seems really low, even for an entry level position. Jill jumps onto the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website and uses the tools and resources to find out what minimum wage is, and to calculate her pay.
Her mum was right! Jill is being underpaid by around $2 per hour.
She prints out the information and takes it to the office manager so she can ensure her next pay is correct and she is backpaid for what she missed in her first pay cheque.
In real estate, we spend a lot of time at work, so making sure that experience is positive and we feel valued and treated fairly by employers is important. Fair Work is a great resource for all employees and employers.