Workplace relations practices have bucked the downturn trend and are busier than ever, a partner at Australian Business Lawyers has told Lawyers Weekly.
Siobhan Flores-Walsh said that, apart from advice work, the firm has seen a big increase for requests for in-house training on two areas - occupational health and safety and sources of grievances, including discrimination, harassment and bullying.
"There is a lot of emphasis or a lot of concern on the part of employers as to what they need to do to stop bullying, because bullying has moved from an issue that is traditionally dealt with under anti-discrimination legislation, and not very effectively, to now being dealt with as an occupational health and safety issue," she said.
"So employers can now be prosecuted for breaches, for bullying in the workplace, by WorkCover, but, equally, some employees are taking action for breach of their employment contract if they're exposed to bullying. So there's been a real spike in employers seeking training around those issues."
Flores-Walsh said the firm was expecting a further spike in work when the Fair Work Bill is introduced on 1 July, while the advice it provides has changed from how to retain people or stop them competing unfairly when they leave to examining contracts of employment from a risk management and restructure perspective.
- Sarah Sharples