By the time you read this the excitement, over indulgence and (hopefully) respite from the daily routines of work that the festive season offers will be behind us, and we’ll be heading out into a new year. The fresh start provided by the ticking over of the calendar into 2015 it is a good time to pause and consider where we should be heading as an Association.
The SSAA has long provided legal and operational support to members on general day-to-day issues. The standardised storage agreements, the Manual of Advice and Procedure and legal support for tricky storer and storage related issues have long formed the cornerstone of our Association’s services to members.
Excitingly this year, the SSAA will begin to offer support for another important area of our members’ businesses, namely in relation to workplace law. Late last year we employed a new paralegal, Kate Ruhl, to assist me with legal queries from members. Kate makes an excellent addition to our SSAA team, and brings with her extensive employment and workplace legal knowledge. Currently, in addition to assisting with general enquiries, Kate is working on three main projects:
1. a review of the appropriate Award applicable to self storage staff,
2. compiling a new Workplace Health and Safety Manual, and
3. drafting workplace polices for use by SSAA members.
1. Review of awards
The Australian federal Modern Award system has been operating for five years. In more recent years, there has been a distinct move away from reliance on the Miscellaneous Award. This is the Award previously thought the most applicable to self storage office employees. So what does this move away from use of this Award mean for us?
The SSAA distributed a questionnaire to members late last year, asking for details about the tasks a typical employee would engage in over any given working month. Many members responded to this survey, and we thank you for your participation. What has become evident is that there is a huge variety of tasks across different facilities, and it may no longer be practical to argue one self storage employee’s employment conditions are the same as another. Instead, it may be preferable to determine which is the relevant Award through careful consideration of the unique activities of each Facility.
Generally, there are three Awards which could possibly be applicable to self storage staff depending on the tasks they are required to engage in as part of their employment. These are the Clerks Private Sector Award 2010, the Miscellaneous Award 2010 or the General Retail Industry Award 2010. In some very specific instances the Storage Services and Wholesale Award 2010 may also apply, but this will be very unlikely unless your business is engaged primarily in traditional warehousing – this is not the case for almost all of our members.
The SSAA has prepared extensive information on these three primary options, and is happy to supply this research to our Facility Owner members.
As members would no doubt agree, this is an incredibly important issue which we must get absolutely correct. The SSAA has engaged outside counsel to confirm our research. In early 2015 the SSAA will formally advise Facility Owner members of the final outcome of this research and advice.
New Zealand – The employment system in New Zealand is not the same as in Australia. The SSAA has distributed a survey to NZ members in an attempt to establish some statistics on employment conditions, including pay rates. If you have not already done so, I urge you to respond to the questionnaire and assist the SSAA to assist you – without your input we cannot give accurate or meaningful advice. Please note that all responses will be handled confidentially, and identifying details – including size and location of your Facility – will not form part of the SSAA’s report.
2. Compiling a new Work Health and Safety Manual
Kate has expended considerable effort in compiling a new Work Health and Safety Manual to replace the outdated Australian OHS Manual. This 100+ page detailed document outlines the duties owed in the workplace, powers of inspectors, and a number of very detailed guides on specific employment issues, such as a Guide to Dealing with Workplace Bullying and a Guide for Managing Fatigue in the Workplace.
The obligation to provide a safe workplace has far-reaching consequences, including impacting on our sell up procedure. The SSAA is working hard to bring about a new, safer procedure in relation to the undertaking of inventory upon default. Members in Australia and New Zealand are asked to please forward photographs of hazardous items found in defaulting storers’ spaces to provide support to a possible new ‘no inventory of closed boxes and bags’ policy to firstname.lastname@example.org marked INVENTORY PHOTOS.
The new Work Health and Safety Manual is available from the members’ only section of the SSAA website. If you have not already done so, consider downloading a copy today to ensure you are meeting your legislative obligation to provide a safe workplace.
New Zealand – New workplace safety obligations are also planned for New Zealand. Our New Zealand lawyers will be instructed to provide the SSAA with similar advice for distribution to our members in NZ. This advice and accompanying policy will be released to members via the website.
3. Workplace polices
As many members will know, it is extremely helpful when an issue arises in a workplace to be able to refer to a company’s workplace policy and negotiate a resolution. Policies on leave, dress code, social media use and alcohol and drug use should be in place in every workplace – whether it be in a self storage facility or any of our service members’ workplaces. The SSAA’s new Work Health and Safety Manual includes a number of policies, but the SSAA will be releasing a large number of additional standardised workplace polices over the next twelve months. Members are asked to modify these policies where relevant to ensure they are applicable to their workplaces.
Having a workplace policy in place makes it clear what your expectations are as an employer. Without a workplace policy, you may not be able to manage problematic issues such as harassment, inappropriate dress or comments about your business by staff on social media. Having sensible, fair policies in place makes your expectations clear to staff as well as detailing how your business will respond to challenging workplace situations.
These Workplace policies are being drafted for use in Australia and New Zealand. They manner of including and enforcing them in the employment relationship will differ slightly between the two countries. The SSAA will be providing detailed instructions about how to introduce and enforce workplace policies in your workplace.