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Employee or Contractor? What the law says about Sham Contracts

What are the new changes, and how can my business defend itself against sham contracting claims?   Employment relationships can be complex, and understanding how to manage them is often key. Most would think that the law was clear on who is considered an employee, and who is a contractor? In this case, you would be wrong.    

Permanent Impairment: Is your assessor correctly assessing psychological injuries?

In New South Wales, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (‘SIRA’) provides Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment in Workers Compensation claims. The purpose of the Guidelines is to ensure trained medical assessors consistently provide objective, fair and consistent assessments of permanent impairment.

Employing Workers On Fixed Term Contracts – The Rules Have Changed

In the whirlwind of 2023 employment law reform, the unfettered power for employers to engage employees on indefinite rolling fixed term contracts was kicked to the curb from 6 December 2023 (although some industries may still have until 1 July 2024 before these rules apply to them).   A fixed term contract is an employment contract that terminates at the end of an identifiable period, for example, on a specified date or when a specific project is completed. Many businesses use these to engage workers for a two-year period, followed by a second, third, or forth two-year period (for example).  

Meki Jnr Puletua by his Tutor Sosefina Puletua v Sydney Childrens Hospital [2024] NSWSC 64 – What is a material change in circumstances that could justify resiling from a settlement agreement?

Following settlement negotiations in a claim involving an infant plaintiff, terms of settlement were signed. In the usual course, a listing date had been allocated for the approval of the terms of settlement by the Supreme Court of NSW.   In the lead up to the infant approving Hearing, the plaintiff’s legal advisors requested that the matter be urgently heard as the plaintiff’s health had suddenly deteriorated and he was now in a critical condition. The Court agreed to hear the matter on Sunday, 14 January 2024 given that it was in the interest of both common humanity and administrative justice for the Court to have the opportunity to deal with the matter during the plaintiff’s lifetime.

An Employer’s Positive Duty to Prevent Unlawful Sexual Conduct is in Place

Since 12 December 2023, your organisation can face a visit from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). In the latest wave of legislative amendments of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), businesses are required to take additional reasonable and proportionate steps to eliminate, as far as possible, certain unlawful conduct.

It’s Christmas! Can I direct my employee to take unpaid leave during the end of year shutdown?

With Christmas fast approaching, employers and employees will be turning their minds to organising leave arrangements over closedown (or ‘shutdown’) periods.

Vicarious Liability, Criminal Acts, and Volunteers

Adam Kneale claimed damages from the Footscray Football Club (Club) for injuries, loss, and damage suffered as a result of child sexual abuse by Graeme Hobbs and others. The trial proceeded before a judge and a jury of 6. 

Falling from Heights – Courts consider imposing fines which might crush business viability

In recent years, District Court Judges have dramatically increased the penalties that businesses, their staff and owners (officers) face for Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) breaches. Firmly within their sights has been matters of workers falling from heights - and arguably rightfully so. Despite this, the recent involvement of Hicksons Lawyers in a fall from heights prosecution delivered a verdict that demonstrated that the Courts are not aimlessly imposing crushing fines with the sole purpose of destroying the culprit business. Rather, subject to the circumstances, the Courts are still willing to exercise their discretion to significantly reduce the penalty imposed.  

Will you be protected if you provide medical advice through an app?

There has been a proliferation of businesses in the past decade both globally and in Australia which provide medical and dental advice over the internet. The appeal to patients is obvious: convenience, low expenses and instantaneousness. But if you are the medical practitioner employed or contracted by these businesses and something goes wrong with the treatment provided, will you be afforded the same protection under the law in defending a negligence claim as you would if you had reviewed the patient in a traditional manner (i.e. in person)?

GLJ: High Court Refuses Permanent Stay in Historical Sexual Abuse Claim

On 1 November 2023, the High Court of Australia delivered its judgment in the matter of GLJ v Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Lismore [2023] HCA 32. The majority of the Court allowed GLJ’s appeal stating that the Court of Appeal was wrong to conclude that there could be no fair trial of the proceedings nor that the proceedings involved an abuse of process. Accordingly, it was held that the proceedings should not have been the subject of an order for a permanent stay and the appeal was dismissed.

When an Employer gives their staff exclusive access to client confidential information – the result can be disastrous: Protecting businesses in today’s connected world

We live in an era where ‘one click’ on the wrong link can create a serious privacy risk for an organisation. This topic has become particularly relevant in the past 12 months, with organised cybercrime groups targeting several high-profile Australian legal and consultancy firms, as well as Government departments. The resulting large scale data breaches can serve as a warning for all Australian businesses.  

Subpoena to Produce set aside on grounds of Legal Professional Privilege in the NSW Supreme Court judgment of Woolner v South Western Sydney Local Health District [2023] NSWSC 748

The Supreme Court judgment in the matter of Woolner v South Western Sydney Local Health District [2023] NSWSC 748 (“Woolner”) outlines the Court’s consideration of a subpoena to produce issued to a defendant’s law firm, calling for production of its communications with the client.

Schokman: The High Court of Australia considers the ‘scope of employment’ in the recent case of CCIG Investments Pty Ltd v Schokman [2023] HCA 21

A recent High Court of Australia decision in the matter of CCIG Investments Pty Ltd v Schokman [2023] HCA 21 (Schokman) deals with the extent of vicarious liability in the employer/employee relationship. The decision affirms that employers are not liable for the actions of their employees if those actions are not within the course or scope of their employment. Ultimately, the ‘scope of employment’ will turn on the facts of each individual case.

Expert evidence requirements for issue of professional negligence claims

In the matter of Netherwood v Hillier, the case dealt with an application to strike out proceedings as against the third defendant, Dr David Bell for failing to provide expert reports supporting the claim against him.  

When does a heated resignation amount to a real resignation?

It is not unusual for employees to offer a verbal resignation, often in the heat of the moment or during a contentious incident. It is also not unreasonable that employers treat any such resignation as legitimate. However, this is yet another example where Workplace Relations law in practice can vary from an employer’s expectation. In short, these kinds of ‘heated’ or impulsive resignations may lead to potential claims of unfair dismissal where employers rely on them to end the employment relationship.

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