If you have a Zombie Agreement, the 6th December 2023 deadline is looming for having your next plan in place on how you engage your employees.
As a refresher, your three options are:
1. Negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement
2. Apply for an extension on the existing Enterprise Agreement (Fair Work will consider whether there are reasonable grounds and extending it is in the best interest of all parties)
3. Let the Zombie Agreement lapse and revert to Award conditions.
So what happens if you go with option 3 – that is, you allow the Zombie to be slain.
If you do nothing before 6th December 2023, this is exactly what will happen. The Agreement will automatically cease and your employees will revert to being covered by the applicable Modern Award as well as the Fair Work Act.
While this path does not require you to take any action per se, as a business you need to ensure that you manage the process effectively to protect the business and keep employees informed.
We believe that there are four key elements to consider. To help you get this right, these elements are outlined below with some helpful tools to support your journey to being Award covered.
1. Zombie vs Award Comparison
It is essential that your business understands how the Modern Award which is about the come into effect differs from the terms that were in your Zombie Agreement. You’ve been operating under the Agreement for over 13 years now, so it is likely that the terms of the Agreement have become second nature to you and you may not be aware of how it differs to the applicable modern Award. So it is crucial that you:
a. Research/check which modern Award(s) apply to your business and the types of roles that you employ
b. Compare your Agreement to the terms of the Award(s)
c. Consider how any differences will be treated
• Where your Agreement is more generous than the Award(s), how you will treat this? Will you continue to provide the more generous terms to your employees? (If you are considering removing/reducing elements that employees currently receive, we recommend seeking advice)
• Where your agreement is less generous than the Award(s), consider the impact of this and plan for managing this
d. Consider implications for things such as payroll, rostering/time recording systems, leave approval etc.
You should have already given your employees formal communication that they are covered by a Zombie Agreement. The legislation required that this happen before 6th June 2023 (so if you have not yet done this, please make sure you action ASAP).
But let’s be honest – that clinical letter is the bare minimum of what you should be doing to keep your employees informed and feeling secure in what is coming.
You should now be focusing your messaging with your people on:
o Reassuring them that the cessation of the Zombie Agreement does not mean their role ceases. It just means that their employment is now covered by a different document (i.e. the Award and a Contract of Employment – more on that below).
o What may change with the cessation of the Zombie Agreement. Having compared the Agreement to the Award terms in step 1 above will provide insight on what may need to be communicated here.
o What is coming next. Letting your people know to expect Contracts of Employment and what else they may need to be ready for (changes in what shows up on their payslips, changes to time recording, any changes in processes etc).
3. Contracts of Employment
Thorough Contracts of Employment are crucial for clarifying and documenting the agreement reached with your employees on the terms of their employment. They set expectations with the employee and a provide safeguards for the employer.
Getting your Contracts right is just so important – it underpins the engagement moving forward. If you already have Contracts drafted, please check to ensure they protect your business and provide the right information to your people. To assist with this, you can access our Contract of Employment self-assessment tool here.
If you need to set up Contract templates, please contact us for assistance.
From reading numerous old Agreements, we know that many contain elements that are better described as ‘policies’. This might be things like sun protection, mobile phone usage, drug and alcohol testing, sexual harassment and discrimination prevention just to name a few.
Policies play two crucial roles in any business by: 1) ensuring compliance that protects your business; and 2) clearly stating what is expected of your people and what they can expect in return. Your policies form the foundation for proactive, effective positive guidance of your people’s performance and behaviours.
So now is a good time to review the policies which exist outside of the Zombie Agreement to identify whether these are sufficiently robust.
To assist you in considering which policies may suit your business, please access our Policy Explanation checklist here. We certainly don’t suggest that every business needs all of these policies, actually we recommend only having as many as are needed to ensure clarity for your people.
If you need to review or set up effective HR Policies please contact us for assistance.