Agenda 2021


Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT)

8:50 am

Opening remarks from the chairperson

Luis Izzo

Managing Director – Sydney Workplace, Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors

9:00 am

Casual liaisons – overview of the new casual employment regime

The new statutory definition of 'casual' employment in the Fair Work Act comes with new rules around the employment of casual workers. What should employers do to ensure compliance and minimize risk?  

  • What is the statutory definition of casual employment? 
  • Which employees have a right to request casual conversion? 
  • Can you refuse a request for casual conversion? 
  • New rules around double-dipping and casual loading  
Gareth Jolly

Partner, MinterEllison

9:45 am

Workplace COVID vaccinations policies: employee rights and obligations

Employers looking to implement mandatory workplace vaccination programs are likely to be subject to legal scrutiny. In this session, we explore the current legal framework around COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace so that you can protect your workforce and while minimising the risk of legal claims. 

  • When can employers require employees to be vaccinated? 
  • What type of medical evidence will legitimately support an employee’s refusal to vaccinate 
  • How are the courts treating mandatory vaccination polices in the workplace?    
  • Lessons for the childcare sector from Bou-Jamie Barber v Goodstart Early Learning [2021] 
  • Lessons from the aged care sector: Kimber v Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care Ltd [2021] 
Alexandra Shields

Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright

10:25 am
10:45 am

“I refuse”: How to handle refusals to return to work

It’s becoming a familiar scenario for HR teams. An employee who has worked from home for an extended period of time during COVID is now refusing to work from the office. What are the rights and obligations of employees and employers in this situation?   

  • What legal rights do employees have to work from home? 
  • Step by step guide to managing refusals to return to the office 
  • What is a reasonable excuse not to return to work? 
  • How do mental health and anxiety complicate the situation? 
  • How will the FWC treat terminations on the basis of refusal to return to work?
Stephen Hardy

Partner, K&L Gates

11:25 am
11:30 am

Mental health and psychosocial hazards in the workplace

As mental health issues continue to skyrocket and state governments release guidance on psychosocial hazards, what should employers and HR teams do to minimize mental health risks?   

  • What is a psychosocial hazard? 
  • Pre-existing mental health conditions and psychosocial hazards 
  • SafeWork NSW’s new Code of Practice on Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work – what has changed? 
  • Strategies to minimise the risk of bullying and harassment, violence in the workplace, and remote or isolated work
Cilla Robinson

Partner, Clayton Utz

12:10 pm
12:50 pm

Employees on social media: Drawing the line between personal and professional

Employers only have the right to extend their supervision over private activities in exceptional circumstances. What scope to employers have to discipline or terminate employment over a private social media post? 

  • Where do the courts draw the line between personal and professional actions?  
  • Tips for drafting and enforcing social media and conduct policies  
  • Lessons from Besanko v R.B. Aquatics Pty Ltd [2021], in which a casual swim instructor was summarily dismissed for recommending a rival swim school  
  • When will inappropriate social media activity be a valid reason for dismissal? 
Drew Pearson

Partner and Section Head, Employment, IR and Safety, Herbert Smith Freehills

1:35 pm

Workplace health and safety update

This session will provide an overview of recent developments in WHS law, with a focus on changes brought in by the Work Health and Safety Act 2020. 

  • The duties of a PCBU and the possible penalties for failure to comply 
  • What are the duties of an officer under WHS laws?  
  • Can an employer terminate over failure to comply with work health and safety policies? 
  • Lessons from Hamlin v City of Sydney Council [2021] 
  • Lessons from Yordanos Fesshatsyen v Mambourin Enterprises Ltd [2021] regarding departures from safety standards, especially during the pandemic 
  • New penalties for industrial manslaughter and serious harm or death to workers  
Ben Burke

Partner, Baker McKenzie

2:15 pm
2:30 pm

Lawful and ethical termination of employment

This session will provide an overview of recent cases and developments relating to unfair dismissal.  

  • Overview of the general protections and adverse action landscape  
  • The legal risks involved in the termination of an employee's employment  
  • How to ensure procedural fairness during the investigation and disciplinary process  
  • Lessons from the courts: case law overview  
  • When do unilateral changes to an employment contract constitute repudiation?
Veronica Siow

Partner, Allens

3:15 pm

Roadmap for Respect: Reforms to workplace sexual harassment laws

With the introduction of the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021, the workplace sexual harassment landscape is set to change.  

  • Overview of the legislative reforms  
  • Sexual harassment as a valid reason for dismissal and serious misconduct 
  • Can HR professionals be held liable as an accessory to the harassment? 
Elissa Speight

Partner, Ashurst

3:55 pm
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