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As your employees begin returning to work from the holidays, now is the perfect time to take some very simple steps to ensure HR – and business – success during the year ahead.

1. Ensure everyone has a job description

People generally work better when they have a clear understanding of their employer’s expectations and their own specific (and important) role within the business. The easiest way to ensure your employees have this information is to issue clear job descriptions that summarise their main responsibilities and key performance indicators (KPIs). Even the smallest business will benefit if everyone is working to their full potential and pulling in the same direction.

2. Make sure everyone has a signed contract of employment

The easiest way to protect your business from HR tragedy is to make sure each and every employee has signed an up-to-date and legally-compliant contract of employment. Remember that employees covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 are entitled to the 10 National Employment Standards (NES), and many will also be covered by Modern Awards that impose additional terms and conditions of employment. Signed contracts ensure there are no ‘misunderstandings’ regarding a person’s employment status, wage or salary and other employment-related benefits. You’d be amazed just how much time and trouble can be saved by ensuring contracts have been signed.

3. Check your employment records

Want to save yourself from $510 on-the-spot fines for every breach of your record-keeping obligations? If you do, now is the time to review your time and wages records and payslips to ensure they are fully compliant with all the obligations imposed by the Fair Work Act 2009. A large number of employers still aren’t maintaining the necessary records and, if you don’t, you face fines and possible prosecution.

4. Roll out basic policies

Australian employment laws make it quite tricky to discipline and dismiss employees. One of the easiest things you can do to protect your business ifs to implement policies covering bullying, harassment, acceptable behaviour, drug and alcohol use and workplace health and safety. Having at least these basic policies in place will enable you to hold your employees to account and set minimum expectations. It’s also worth remembering that the new bullying laws took effect back in 1 January, making it easier than ever for employees to bring claims against you. There’s never been a better time to ensure you have good policies in place.

Here’s to a prosperous and successful 2014.

Published: Thursday, January 09, 2014 for The Switzer Daily