Hire the right person for the job
To make life easier, here are 11 steps to make sure you comply with Australian employment law before and after hiring employees. You can also read more in our Hiring guide.
1. Create a clear job description
Make sure you are clear about the type of person you want to hire, the skills they require and the amount (or the range) you are willing to pay. Throughout the hiring process, keep an accurate record of each candidate, including their strengths, weaknesses, expectations and interview notes. You’ll need to refer to this again when selecting your preferred candidate.
2. Determine who is doing the recruiting
How much time will it take to recruit each new employee? Think about all the tasks involved including:
- writing the job description
- advertising the job (online and offline)
- communicating with prospective candidates
- answering questions about the job and your business
- interviewing and screening applicants
- communicating with unsuccessful candidates
You may not have time to do all of this. It might be more efficient to outsource some or all of these steps to someone in your team or a recruiter.
3. Ensure each employee has a Tax File Number
A Tax File Number (TFN) is a secure and unique nine-digit number that every employee needs to have to be identified by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Every employee has a different TFN and they must supply it to you when you employ them on the official form.
Even if an employee changes jobs or leaves the country (and returns later), their TFN stays with them – for life. If they move between states or change their name, their TFN remains the same.
You’ll need a TFN not only to transact with the ATO, but also with many other Australian government agencies. Your employees can apply for a TFN online if they don’t have one, but they’ll still need to visit a post office or an ATO office to finalise the process.
4. Maintain accurate tax records
You are legally required to keep proper tax records for five years. It’s important that you keep them safe, secure and easily accessible. Your accounting software should be able to do this for you.
5. Understand your obligations
When you hire anyone for your business, you have tax and superannuation obligations. It doesn’t matter if you hire part-time or full-time employees (or sometimes contract workers).
If you are a director of your business, these obligations can also include you and your family members. Your obligations may include:
- pay as you go (PAYG) withholding tax
- superannuation guarantee
- fringe benefits tax (FBT)
Your responsibilities begin as soon as your employee (or contractor) begins working for you until they finish. Even if you stop being an employer altogether, some of these responsibilities will continue.
You need to be very clear about your legal obligations. Talk to your accountant to make sure you understand them and that you’re clear about your responsibilities.
6. Remember key dates and tasks
There are so many things to remember when you’re running a small business. Your new employee should make your life easier. But when they first begin, you may find your workload increases while they are coming up-to-speed with everything.
A good way to remember some of the most important dates is by using some of the freely available online tools that let you sign up for reminders.
7. Understand the rights of your employees
All employees are entitled to certain minimum rights under Australian employment law. However, many employees may not be aware of their rights or understand them. To help your employees out, display posters in your workplace that explain employees’ rights. Your state might require this.
All employees should receive a copy of the relevant Fair Work Information Statement when they commence new employment. This document details the employees minimum entitlements at work. In addition to these minimum entitlements, employees are likely to be covered by a Modern Award which provides additional entitlements such as overtime or penalty rate payments for certain hours of work. If they're a casual employee, you must also give them the Casual Employment Information Statement.
You can find out more about your obligations as an employer including which Modern Awards may cover your business and employees from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.
8. Obtain workers’ compensation insurance
What happens if your employees are injured at work? It is a legal requirement to have workers’ compensation for your employees and possibly contractors. This provides wage replacement and medical benefits to your employees if they get injured at work. Each state has its own laws and its own government agency that administers workers’ compensation.
- helps employees to avoid workplace injury
- administers health and safety laws
- provides workplace injury insurance for employers
- helps injured workers get back to work
- manages the workers' compensation scheme
The workers compensation regulators for each state are listed below. Contact them to find out how employee protection works in your state and what your responsibilities are:
9. Set up a payroll system
Your options when setting up your payroll include:
- doing it all yourself
- outsourcing the setup to your accountant or bookkeeper
- outsourcing to a payroll service
Look for accounting or payroll software that:
- makes it simple to stay compliant
- can pay your employees efficiently
- files reports with the ATO
10. Keep a file for each employee
It’s important to keep up-to-date and accurate records for all your employees so that you can use them to figure out their pay and entitlements. You will also need records to give to your employee or their union/representative, or a regulator if requested.
Each employee’s file should include their:
- full name, address and contact details
- emergency contact details
- a signed copy of their employment contract
- tax details
- preferred payment method and details, for example internet banking
- any other important information about them
Consider using an HR system that includes these features. These records must be kept for at least seven years after the employee has left.
11. Be clear about goals and expectations
Even if you have just one employee, it’s important that you define and agree on what is expected of them from day one. They should already have a good idea about this from the interview process.
The reverse is also true. Let them know what you will provide in return. This is a professional relationship and it should be based on mutual trust, respect and honesty. The better you treat your employees, the harder they will work for your business.
Your employees are your most valuable asset – choose wisely
Whether you’re hiring one employee or several, it’s important to follow the steps above. And don’t forget to think about how you will retain and reward excellent work. There are many ways to do this other than salary and wages, for example incentives and non-financial rewards.
Remember that your employees are your company’s most valuable asset. Good people are hard to find. And hiring can be time consuming and expensive.
If you get the process right, you’ll ensure you hire the right people. And if you look after your employees, they’ll stay with you longer and your business will perform better.
Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.
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