JOB CRISIS: What you need to know about workers' rights

WHEN major employers close down and jobs are on the chopping block it's vital employees know what their entitlements are in order to protect themselves.

With around 900 jobs set to go after the announcement that Ipswich's Steggles and Churchill Abattoirs will close down in the new year, now is the time for workers to check their contracts and awards.

If there is an enterprise agreement or employees are on an award then the first thing to do is to look on the Fair Work Commission website to find out what those entitlements are.

If you are not clear on your agreement or award, you could also ask your employer for a copy.

See here for more information. 

The minimum amount of redundancy and notice payments are also contained in the National Employment Standards which apply as a safety net for all workers.

See more information here.

However not all workers will be entitled to a payout. If a business shuts shop and you are a full time employee you should, in most circumstances, be paid a redundancy, with the amount based on continuous service with the same employer.

Generally, casual employees are not entitled to redundancy payments, neither are staff who have not completed at least one year of employment.

A large employer will almost always be required to pay redundancies but if you work for a small business with less than 15 staff then under the law they may be exempt and you won't be entitled to a payout, your work just ceases.

At this stage it looks like the abattoirs will continue to operate for the short term but sometimes when businesses are shut because they aren't profitable or they run out of money, there may be some difficulty in paying wages and entitlements.

We are not saying this will happen in this case but it is good to note that there are protections for certain types of employees under the Federal Government scheme.

These may entitle you to claim unpaid wages, accrued leave, notice and redundancy payments.

In most cases, employee rights are also protected under the Fair Work Act in instances where they have been unfairly dismissed or experienced adverse action.

If receivers are called in and continue to run the business then they must also continue to pay wages and other employee entitlements.

Business closures and jobs losses are a difficult time for any community.

In our experience with employment and industrial law we see much of the aftermath amongst workers.

We would really encourage business owners and managers to speak directly with staff about what is happening. Much of the stress around these awful situations is not knowing what is going on with future employment which makes it even more traumatic.

Giving staff as much notice as possible so they can think about their options is really helpful and can make all the difference when transitioning to other employment.

Check the Fair Work Commission website for more information.

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