Welcome back to your favourite workplace newsletter – a combination of things you need to know and things that will make you laugh out loud. In this bumper issue we have a workplace trend, news snippets, cases and sage advice in the “Dear Jen” column.
And of course, I share my recommendations for your viewing pleasure.
What trend am I hearing about out there in the workplace world?
Apparently, “Monk Mode” is the latest viral trend inspired by…monks. According to a time management and productivity expert, it’s all about disconnecting from “inbound communications, especially electronic ones and focusing deeply on a task or project, without all those distractions”.
Take Out Point: Groan. This is just “focus”. Methinks that has been on trend for a while now.
Buzzword of the Week: “Flexidus”
Flexidus occurs when there are mass resignations arising because of a lack of flexible options in the workplace. Whilst some employers may be concerned about this, I reckon others – particularly small businesses – may welcome a flexidus.
Right To Disconnect
Under new legislation, employees will be entitled to ignore after hours contact from their bosses in certain circumstances. More on this in upcoming newsletters.
Employee Fired For Working Overseas on a Secret Holiday
A scientist was fired from his job at the Bureau of Meteorology after he told his boss that he was working from home whilst he was on a secret holiday in the United States. The scientist brought an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission saying there was a possibility that his passport was used by someone else. The Commission found the scientist was deliberately evasive and untruthful. The case was dismissed.
Take Out Point: The cover up is usually worse than the crime. Once trust and confidence is gone, it’s hard for the employment relationship to survive.
Employees Can Now Take Legal Action To Recover Unpaid Superannuation
From 1 January 2024 the National Employment Standards now include the right for employees to take direct legal action to recover unpaid superannuation in Court. The Federal Government is also consulting on proposed laws to require that employers pay superannuation on pay day rather than quarterly.
Workplace To Hire Workers With Severe Disabilities Under Diversity And Inclusion Initiative
Under their Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment Initiative, the US based Federal Aviation Administration has targeted their recruitment towards workers with disabilities which “include hearing, vision, missing extremities, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, psychiatric disability and dwarfism.” The move by the FAA, who state they want to find candidates from as many sources as possible, has led to heated online commentary. Elon Musk was accused of posting an “abhorrent and pathetic tweet” after he claimed on X that the industry body was prioritising DEI over safety of airlines.
Take Out Point: Sigh. Diversity, inclusion and safety are not mutually exclusive concepts Elon!
See: DEI Initiative Targets Workers With Severe Disabilities
Monash University Apologises To Staff For Celebrating Christmas with G-Strings and Nipple Tassels
The 2023 Silly Season got sillier when the Monash University’s Department of Banking and Finance celebrated their end of year Christmas bash at a burlesque bar. It’s not clear what they expected when they made their booking, but the burlesque venue delivered….a burlesque performance. The University issued a formal apology to its staff after it was reported that guests felt uncomfortable about a burlesque outfit comprised of a G-String and nipple tassels.
Take Out Point: Join me in November for my Webinar – “Office Christmas Party Tips for Dummies”.
LEGISLATION YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Train Worker Reinstated After Being Fired For Cocaine Use
A train worker was fired after 26 years of service with Sydney Trains when he tested positive for cocaine. The worker reported that during his period of annual leave, he accepted an offer to try cocaine and believed it would be out of his system by the time he got to work. In an unfair dismissal hearing, the FWC held that whilst there was a valid reason to dismiss the worker, there were multiple factors that made the sacking unfair including that there was insufficient evidence that the worker was impaired by the drug use. Sydney Trains was criticised for failing to make its expectations on drug use clear to their employees. The worker was reinstated.
Take Out Point: Sydney Trains is probably now reviewing its drug and alcohol policy. Workplace policies matter. Let us know if you need help preparing or reviewing your workplace policies.
See: Reece Goodsell v Sydney Trains  FWC 3209 (4 December 2023)
CASES YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Employee Request For Flexible Working Arrangements Rejected By FWC
An employee requested that her employer change her rostered hours, so that she could avoid morning shifts to help her anxiety and insomnia. The request was rejected by the employer with no reason. The employee appealed the decision to the Fair Work Commission. This appeal was the first of its kind, since the option to appeal decisions on Flexible Work Arrangements became available in June 2023. The FWC dismissed the appeal finding that the employee’s appeal did not meet the correct statutory requirements. The FWC additionally observed that whilst the employee provided evidence of suffering anxiety, this did not mean that she suffered a disability.
Take Out Point: There are strict statutory requirements when a Flexible Work Arrangement Request is made under the Fair Work Act 2009. Holler if you need help dealing with a request.
We’ve been busy helping clients with bespoke difficult conversation documentation in January. There’s been a few tricky redundancies, as well as a few even trickier terminations for performance issues. Whilst the clients were understandably nervous, once the conversations had taken place, there was…relief.
9Honey’s Shelly Horton interviewed me for an article about the six magic words that can solve awkward workplace issues.
If you want to empower your managers and team with essential skills and techniques to tackle challenging conversations like this with confidence, check it out my Awkward to Awesome group workshops.
Or…grab the most practical online course in town. Run, don’t walk to my website for my highly informative and entertaining online course – “Difficult Conversations In The Workplace: A Lawyer’s Guide to Not Needing a Lawyer”. Spend an hour with your favourite unlawyerly lawyer for just $149 plus GST, or organise a coaching session.
My employees want to wear “Swiftie” costumes to work for the next month.
Can I direct them to shake it off and dress professionally?
What Will The Clients Think?
Dear “What Will The Clients Think?”,
I’m as excited as anyone about Tay Tay’s visit, but, like you I draw the line at bedazzled leotards in the workplace.
Tell your staff to stick to the dress code…with a few friendship bracelets thrown in.
CATCH UP ON PREVIOUS NEWSLETTERS
Previous newsletters are available at our website. To catch up on earlier legal updates or viewing recommendations, head there now!
What I am Heading Back to the Theatre to See
“& JULIET” is a brilliant and hilarious musical. Written by “Schitt’s Creek’s” David West. Features Max Martin pop anthems from Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson. At the Lyric Theatre from 27 February. Don’t. Miss. It.
What I Watched (On Netflix)
Like everyone else in the world, I inhaled the 7 episode series of “Boy Swallows Universe”. It’s brilliant. Outstanding cast. Great 80’s soundtrack.
What I Watched (On Paramount)
In “The Gilded Age”, “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes brings us all the fancy frocks and flashy homes of NYC in the 1880’s. Christine Baranski’s sarcastic wit is wonderful. Binge all of season 2 now (and season 1 if you missed it).
What I Watched (On Netflix)
“Fool Me Once” is a binge-worthy 8 episode British thriller. Joanna Lumley stars. Enough said.
What I Watched (On Stan)
I love shows about dysfunctional wealthy families (think “Succession”). In “Prosper” we have one such family – who also happen to run an evangelical megachurch. Richard Roxburgh, Rebecca Gibney and a magnificent clifftop mansion shine in this 8 episode drama.
What I Watched (On Netflix)
Want to watch some stand-up that is clever and doesn’t rely on F-bombs for laughs? Check out “Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & the Pool”.
What I Watched (On Prime)
“Dance Life” is a ‘fly on the wall’ docu-series that follows Brent Street dancing students on their quest for Fame. I became so invested, I cried during the graduation scenes.
What I’m Loving (On AppleTV+)
“Criminal Record” is a series about two London detectives who clash over an old murder case. “Dr Who” alum Peter Capaldi and Crush Jump are brilliant.