Operating a profitable small business in Australia involves so much more than just doing a great job on the worksite. You must remain aware of your legal obligations, plus find a way to attract the best workers.
But as these legal requirements and industry standards continue to evolve over time, it takes a big investment of time and energy to ensure you’re always doing the right thing.
Here, we dive into the difference between legally required benefits for employees, and those that field service business owners should adopt if they want to remain competitive.
What is the difference between required and discretionary benefits?
Knowing the difference between legally required benefits and discretionary benefits is essential when setting up your field service business. Legally required benefits are those your company is obligated to provide to employees. These typically include superannuation, holiday pay, long service leave, parental leave and sick pay.
However, discretionary benefits are optional extras you may consider providing to workers to make your business particularly appealing. With the field service sector so competitive, offering additional benefits may convince the best workers in the industry to join your team.
Understand the Rules and Regulations
With so many rules and regulations to consider, we’ve highlighted a few critical areas that your business must consider. Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s a solid place to start when preparing your business.
Personal Protective Equipment
There can be endless hazards on the worksite, so your workers need to have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to do the job safely. In most cases, the business owner is legally obligated to provide adequate PPE suitable for the work.
The cost of this PPE must be covered by the business, with no fees being deducted from your workers’ pay. Ranging from safety helmets and goggles, to work boots and high visibility clothing, this PPE is provided in conjunction with other control measures to ensure your worksite is safe to operate on.
In addition, the business owner must ensure various types of PPE are compatible with each other. For example, the hard hats and ear muffs purchased must be able to be worn together.
Paid Time Off
All workers in Australia are entitled to 11 minimum wage orders and leave benefits, as described in the National Employment Standards (NES). This safety net for employees cannot be altered by business owners.
For instance, the NES dictates that workers are provided with four weeks of paid leave per year, while specific shift workers are provided with an additional week. Employers must also provide 10 days of paid personal leave for permanent employees, alongside termination and redundancy pay depending on the length of service.
While these are the minimum standards Australian employers are obligated to pay, you can make your business even more attractive by throwing in extra benefits. This might include additional paid days off or special leave to undertake training.
Meal breaks are another requirement that employers are obligated to provide to their workers. While the timing and nature of these breaks may vary slightly depending on the sector involved, this usually takes the form of a paid 10-minute break in the morning and a 30-minute unpaid break for lunch.
However, several other factors are involved with legislation around meal breaks in Australia. For example, employees must not work for longer than five hours without a meal break. While employers can ask their employees to continue working through their meal break, they are paid at 200% of the ordinary hourly rate until the substituted time is reached.
Alongside these meal breaks, employers must also provide adequate dining facilities for their workers. This includes a sink with hot and cold water, a microwave, vermin-proof storage and washing utensils.
Paid and Unpaid Parental Leave
The Parental Leave Pay Scheme provides 18 weeks’ pay at the national minimum wage to eligible primary carers. This programme is usually reserved for birth mothers. However, the Dad and Partner Pay Scheme provides up to two weeks’ pay to eligible fathers. As the government provides these payments to employers, it is the employer’s responsibility to pass this money onto entitled workers.
Employees who have worked for your business for at least 12 months may also take unpaid parental leave. These employees can take up to 12 months leave (and request an additional 12 months), with a return to work guarantee that sees them take up the same position as when they left. If the role no longer exists, employers must place them in a job nearest to the previously held status and pay.
While all workers are entitled to these benefits, many businesses are taking it upon themselves to provide workers with even stronger parental leave. As a discretionary benefit, you may decide to pay workers their full wage during their absence or continue to contribute to their superannuation.
Tools and Equipment
In most cases, employers must provide their employees with the tools needed to complete the job. According to the Building Award 2020, this is provided to certain tradie classifications in the form of a weekly allowance. For example, the tool allowance for carpenters is $33.18 per week, while painters are paid an extra $7.96 per week.
Outside of these specific classifications, employers must reimburse their workers for buying tools required to do their role. Alternatively, you can decide to buy this equipment as a business and provide everything to your employees.
There’s a good chance your employees will be required to work across various locations, which sometimes could be a long distance from each other. In the construction industry, this sees workers paid $17.88 for each day where they start and end work on a construction site. However, you aren’t required to make this payment if you offer free transport from your worker’s home or provide a fully maintained vehicle.
If you require your workers to travel between job sites on the day, they must be paid for their time and any transportation costs incurred like public transport. If employees use their own vehicles to get from A to B, they must be paid an allowance of $0.80 per kilometre travelled.
Boost Business with FieldPulse
Managing the difference between legally required benefits and discretionary benefits can get complex fast. But you won’t have a problem looking after the rest of your business with FieldPulse.
Our comprehensive business management app ensures you can seamlessly track client information, schedule jobs and process invoices from the office or on the road. Schedule a free demo and level up your business with FieldPulse.