Independence shines at National Awards of Excellence

Independence shines at National Awards of Excellence

This year’s IHG expo was a little different, as we were unable to gather due to COVID restriction. The show must go on and the event proceeded with a weeklong exhibition, online business sessions and the National Excellence Awards being held virtually.

The awards were a unique experience for everyone with some village groups gathering together in venues across the county to hear the winners announced.

Jacki Kersting (State Sales Manager – VIC/TAS) and Greg McKean (National Manager – Joint Ventures)  were the MC’s along with members of IHG’s support office helping to present the awards. This was a nice touch as many of these people are often heard of but never seen.

14 awards were presented on the night, including three supplier awards, eight member awards and three individual awards.

2020 Supplier of the year

The suppliers of the year were the first awards announced, nominees in each of these categories have consistently delivered quality product innovation, have consistent field representation and seek out promotions and initiatives to support IHG members.

They have demonstrated a long term commitment to working with IHG to grow market share and build a point of difference.

2020 Supplier of the year – Build Category


  • Blue scope
  • Hume Doors and timber
  • Paslode
  • Selley’s

IHG AwardsHume Doors & Timber

Winner: Supplier of the year – Build

This year’s winner have demonstrated great attributes in their loyalty to our Members and IHG. They have nurtured a culture of trust and openness with the members that has resulted in over 10% growth even during these challenging times.

They have worked closely with members to help them find ways to grow together and have gone the extra mile to make that happen. During the year they have also delayed price rises and tried to do anything they could to lessen the impact on members wherever possible.

Two areas where Hume Doors and Timber have excelled in supporting our members is in expanding their offer to job lots so members can order exact amounts for customers, and undertaking dual calls with members to builders.

In 2020 Hume also found a way to launch new products to members, including

  • Expanding their range of H3 treated pine primed and mouldings range so they can offer the full suite of products
  • Evolution Door cavity Pocket upgrades to include soft close and touch release features.
2020 Supplier of the year – Fix & Fit Out


  • Yardforce (Sumec)
  • Weldclass
  • Trio

IHG AwardsYardforce (Sumec)

Winner: Supplier of the year – Fix & Fit Out

Yardforce has continued to demonstrate a willingness to partner with IHG to ensure its members have access to quality products at competitive prices. In particular, their ability to react quickly has proven to be invaluable during the challenges of 2020. 

With sales growth in the Yard Force brand of almost 94%, the team have proactively looked for ways to support the Group with a strong promotional program across both Power Garden & Power Tools, a dedicated Facebook page to direct customers back to M10 / HTH stores and a digital range brochure specifically created to suit the IHG network.

They continue to drive product development to ensure our members have a strong pipeline of new products and improved specifications while maintaining the highest levels of quality and profitability that members have come to expect from Yard Force.

2020 Supplier of the year – Finish & Exterior


  • Dulux Australia
  • Amgrow
  • Husqvarna

IHG AwardsDulux Australia

Winner: Supplier of the year – Finish & Exterior

Every year IHG run through a list of criteria to see which supplier really stands apart from the others. This year has been exceptional in terms of the sales growth but for the winner of this award, there were two standout reasons in particular that gave them the win – stock availability and delivering a truly holistic business partnership with IHG and members. 

Whilst Paint is produced locally there were nonetheless COVID challenges.  Despite that, Dulux maintained a DIFOT to our stores at the normal exceptional rate.

You moved stock between DCs as borders closed, and then back again when they didn’t!

Covid was at its height just as we were about to start the national roll out of the Accent Paint re-launch in July. The first time in 14 years that we have had a full relaunch of our Own Brand Paint.

Undeterred by lockdowns you switched everything to an online launch, producing videos to do the official launch and the member training and, where possible, the physical elements continued.

Our YTD scan sales growth of Accent is at 27%, higher than that of our branded paints. Had we had to delay the launch our members would not be enjoying these unprecedented sales levels.

In addition, the passion and co-operation from everyone at Dulux is visible to all. From the investment and pride in the Accent Brand, through to the hard work and dedication of your member-facing sales teams, we wouldn’t be gaining the market share we are in Paint, without your support.

2020 Store of the Year Awards

2020 Village of the Year

This award celebrates Member collaboration, the past 12 months have been difficult for stores, however, we have seen store work together to drive sales and teaming up to combat the effect of competition. They have collaborated on cluster buying and driving improvements by sharing ideas.


  • Northern Independents (NSW)
  • Melbourne Traders & VIC Pioneers (VIC/TAS)
  • Western Warriors (WA)
  • Central Diggers (SA/NT)
  • Bush 2 Border (QLD)

IHG AwardsMelbourne Traders & VIC Pioneers (VIC/TAS) 

Winner: Village of the Year

This year’s winner endured the strictest COVID lockdown in Australia for almost four months, where village members had to close their retail shops, while be able to continue to operate Trade under very strict requirements.

They not only adapted their businesses to meet the lockdown requirements, but came together as a village, sharing their experiences, frustrations and learnings on a weekly video conference.

Their teams worked patiently with customers to try to solve their DIY queries, often over the phone, and provided a contactless, helpful service.

All members ‘hub & spoked’ with each other and did whatever it took to collectively service the community.

In the midst of stage 4 lockdown the members introduced Click & Deliver to metro customers and bought decking together as part of a collated buy. Stores didn’t miss a social media beat, continuing to engage with customers on specials, handy hints or showcasing their latest trade projects.

And finally, the leadership shown from the store owners and managers during such a tough time with stressed, exhausted staff and anxious customers should be commended.

2020 Garden Centre of the Year

This award judged across all the IHG brands, the award is presented to the store who sets the benchmark for Garden Centre retailing in terms of quality, range, layout and customer experience.


  • Gubbins Pulbrooke Mitre 10 (NSW)
  • Diamond Valley Mitre 10 (VIC)
  • Emerald Mitre 10 (QLD)
  • McLaren Vale Mitre 10 (SA)
  • Tuckey’s Mitre 10 (WA)

IHG AwardsMcLaren Vale Mitre 10 (SA)

Winner: Garden Centre of the Year

McLaren Vale Mitre 10 has demonstrated that they truly are the best store in town. The owners continue to demonstrate their retail leadership through consistent investment in new ranges and layout for their store.

The business is famous for its garden offer, with a best-practice reputation for quality and healthy presentation of plants.

The team work extremely hard on presentation and challenge themselves to improve. Even with high sales growth during COVID, the store was able to maintain healthy stock levels and great standards, when demand was at its highest.

The Garden Centre manager, Anthony Butz’s passion and enthusiasm for plants and people helps to bring the Garden Centre to life. He takes his expertise to social media, giving regular helpful hints to customers demonstrating range, knowledge, value and service.

2020 Store of the Year – Convenience Format

This award recognising the best members within the True Value and Thrifty Link brands. These stores demonstrate a good understanding of the role they play in their local market and allow their service and offer to shine as their key point of difference.  


  • Bungendore Rural Services (NSW)
  • Trafalgar True Value Hardware (VIC)
  • Woodgate Beach Hardware Thrifty Link (QLD)
  • Port Broughton Thrifty Link Hardware (SA)
  • Manjimup Motors True Value Hardware (WA)

Manjimup Motors True Value Hardware (WA)

Winner: Store of the Year – Convenience Format

Manjimup Motors True Value Hardware has proven time and time again that they punch well above their weight for their size. There are plenty of surprises when you walk through the doors of this 5-paint brush store – customer service, ranging and standards making this store a destination for many in the community.

The team pride themselves on store standards and the tailored range they’re able to offer on such a small footprint. A great range of hardware and power garden is on offer, along with bearings and industrial supplies that support the existing mechanical business.

Owners Jeff and Maree are strong advocates for the Group, fully brand compliant and put every effort into supporting all initiatives.

Upskilling their team in product knowledge is evidenced by a great completion rate for eLearning modules. The team are also very supportive of community organisations and local sporting clubs.

2020 Store of the Year – Small Format

Winning this award take commitment pride and passion, to provide the best shopping experience to customers and to also be an active and worthy contributor to the local community. Members in this category are assessed in a number of key areas including HSA, sales performance and innovation.


  • Sunlite Mitre 10 York St (NSW)
  • Rochester Mitre 10 (VIC)
  • Bundall Mitre 10 (QLD)
  • Strathalbyn Mitre 10 (SA)
  • Bindoon Mitre 10 (WA)

IHG AwardsSunlight Mitre 10 York St (NSW)

Winner: Store of the Year – Small Format

With a consistent 5-paintbrush standard and one of the highest Mighty Rewards cash sales rates, Sunlite Mitre 10 are an outstanding inner city business that put emphasis on maximising a small space.

Having completed a Sapphire transformation in 2017 the York Street location was the clear stand out in 2020.

Strategic placement of fast-selling lines and diligent inventory controls help the store achieve very high stock turns with lesser stock weight.

COVID lockdowns have hampered sales for this store however new opportunities are always being sought with sales reps highly active in the community and innovative marketing to gain cut-through to local customers.

2020 Home Timber & Hardware Store of the Year

Nominees for this award demonstrate excellent standards in service and community spirit. These stores have continued to drive improvement each year within their businesses.


  • Narooma Building Supplies (NSW)
  • Beaconsfield Home Timber & Hardware (VIC)
  • Home Timber & Hardware Biloela (QLD)
  • Kies Home Timber & Hardware (SA)
  • Waroona Home Timber & Hardware (WA)

Home Timber & Hardware Biloela (QLD)

Winner:  Home Timber & Hardware Store of the Year

The Biloela store has recently undergone a Home Hardware Refresh – the first in Australia to pilot the program – which has helped to lift the store standards to a new level.

The community has responded well to the upgrade and sales across both Trade and Retail have lifted, keeping business local. Tim and Kent are heavily involved with the community, supporting many local events and groups.

Staff take a lot of pride in merchandising dense ends, upgrading ranges and pulling together creative promotions to maintain strong ties to the community. The store initiates regular Facebook activity during seasonal events such as catalogues, birthdays and their very own Christmas lights competition.

The store is a co-exist site and continues to work progressively through the IHG initiatives whilst maintaining a healthy working relationship with the local Mitre 10 store.

2020 Mitre 10 Store of the Year – Medium Format

The nominees in this category are stores that have applied the disciplines and energy necessary to maintain high standards in presentation and service to their customers.


  • Kincumber Mitre 10 (NSW)
  • Pontings Mitre 10 (VIC)
  • Parkside Mitre 10 (QLD)
  • Wills & Co Mitre 10 (SA)
  • Streeter & Male Mitre 10 (WA)

IHG AwardsPontings Mitre 10 (VIC)

Winner:  Mitre 10 Store of the Year – Medium Format

A long established Warrnambool business, the Pontings business has been reinvented through the Sapphire program. 

The Mitre 10 brand has been warmly welcomed in Warrnambool and it shows in their sales numbers – with continued growth across the store, up 42 per cent year on year.

Customers regularly express how pleased they are with the new range and layout since the completion of the transformation in 2019.

Adopting shopper-led range, Trade Technology and eLearning are some key reasons for their recent growth, as well as local community initiatives through social media, Mighty Rewards drives and colouring competitions for the kids.

2020 Trade Centre of the Year

This is a hotly contested award with nominated stores displaying trade excellence in all facets of their business. These stores adopt IHG trade strategy programs such as trade technology, truck tracker, SLA and customer segmentation and contribute to trade cluster meetings. They lead the way in driving the success of IHG build trade strategy.


  • Johnson Bros Mitre 10 Mona Vale (NSW)
  • Hume & Iser Mitre 10 Bendigo (VIC)
  • Tully Mitre 10 Trade Centre (QLD)
  • Barossa Mitre 10 (SA)
  • Versatile Mitre 10 (WA)

IHG AwardsHume & Iser Mitre 10 (VIC)

Winner:  Trade Centre of the Year 

Hume & Iser Mitre 10 turned 140 years old in 2020, and is an institution within its regional location.

The longevity of this business is down to the team’s ability to reinvent themselves year after year, delivering to their customers’ needs and truly integrating into their local community.

Hume and Iser invested in the Sapphire program in 2019 and the results are outstanding. An extensive upgrade to the trade area sees all timber now completely undercover. New pigeon-hole displays facilitate easy re-stocking and access, and designated traffic management systems make it a safe and convenient destination for tradies.

Hume and Iser were early adopters of Trade Technology and have been an integral part of the Metricon trial with great results.

2020 Store of the Year – Large Format

Nominees for this award have invested in their business, their team and their community. They are the best stores in town.


  • Johnson Bros Mitre 10 Mona Vale (NSW)
  • TM&H Mitre 10 (VIC)
  • Sunshine Mitre 10 Gympie (QLD)
  • McLaren Vale Mitre 10 (SA)
  • Margaret River Mitre 10 (WA)

TM&H Mitre 10 Moe (VIC)

Winner:  Mitre 10 Store of the Year – Large Format

There is so much to say about this exceptional family business – one that cares for their staff, delivers for their customers, engages with their community, is respected by their peers, invests in their future and adopts all IHG initiatives.

TM & H Mitre 10 in Moe is one of the finest examples in IHG to represent our values to the highest standard in every way.

Having invested in Sapphire just over 12 months ago, it has been an amazing transformation for the Hitchins family with the George Street store and new Trade Only site on Waterloo Road both delivering incredible results and, importantly, adding significant value to the local township of Moe.

The Hitchins family are the first to help out in any situation – whether it be supporting other stores, the community or the Derrimut DC during lockdown. They embrace the community spirit of Mitre 10 by driving Mighty Rewards, holding cancer fundraising nights or celebrating the Built By Families concept through their own television advertising.

They support all IHG initiatives, Trade Technology, Store Dashboard, eLearning, shopper-led range and have recently added a more extensive range of greenlife as well as a Wattyl Trade Centre. They are very active participants in Village and Cluster meetings and this award is in recognition of all that hard work.

Individual Awards

2020 Paul Murphy Mighty Helpful Service Award

This award celebrates exceptional service and advice by an individual employee within a Mitre 10, Home Timber & Hardware, True Value or Thrifty Link store.

It is someone who lives the brand essence of being ‘Mighty Helpful’ in a similar vein to the person that this award is named in honour of – Paul Murphy from Murphys Mitre 10.

Paul lived and acted by the Mighty Helpful slogan, both in business and in life.

Paul believed that excellence customer service was the key to a retail business. He ensured the customer felt important and was treated in the same manner that he would want to be treated.

Paul gave up his time to educate the customer, his staff and his peers. He had an amazing ability to impart knowledge without realizing he was.

The Nominees are:

  • Dianne Foat – Coopers Mitre 10
  • Byard Sheppard – Doncaster Mitre 10
  • Vanessa Rossen – Dongera Mitre 10
  • Christy Hose – Faggs Mitre 10 Wallington
  • Julie Samuelsson – Hastings Co-op Mitre 10
  • Alysha Somerville – TM&H Mitre 10
  • Dale Okley – Tuckey’s Mitre 10
  • Stacey West – Tait Mitre 10
  • Jarrard Murfet – Becks Mitre 10

IHG AwardsVanessa Rossen from Dongara Mitre 10

Winner: Paul Murphy Mighty Helpful Service Award

Vanessa epitomizes what we mean when we say ‘Mighty Helpful’.

Her friendly disposition, generous nature and the trust she has built with local customers ensures they return again and again.

Nothing is too hard for this person, she shows a can-do attitude at all times.

2020 Blue Blood Award

This award is extremely important to the culture of the Independent Hardware Group as it recognises an IHG support staff member that delivers exceptional service, expertise and support to our members.

To be called a ‘Blue Blood’ is possibly the best compliment we can give someone internally.

A Blue Blood demonstrates a positive attitude, adds value to our members and displays behaviors aligned to our core values.


  • Joanna Poon – Supply Chain
  • Paul Nagl – IT
  • Taryna Rao – Finance
  • Sarah Hewson – Marketing
  • Steve Bocjevski – Derrimut DC
  • Chris Menezes – IT
  • Richard Walker – Merchandise
  • Paul Bordonaro – Store Development
  • Kimberley Gittings – Store Development
  • Brent Riddiford – Store Development
  • Noel Green – Store Development
  • Nicole Sexton – Store Development
  • Oliver Krumins – QLD State Operations

IHG AwardsPaul Nagl

Winner:  Blue Blood Award

For 10 years this year’s Paul has delivered outstanding solutions and innovation quietly and consistently. He has been unwavering in his dedication to delivering solutions that are fit for purpose, that make life easier for our members and are low cost, efficient and sustainable.

Those members on the NAC and Trade action group would know that this individual calmly approaches each project or challenge, and his communication is logical, understandable and without pretense.

He and his team have delivered step change in our Trade Technology and e-commerce functionality, but it is the huge volume of work that happened behind the scenes after our businesses merged that really demonstrated his leadership and ability to cut to the root of an issue.

Those members on the NAC and Trade action group would know that this individual calmly approaches each project or challenge, and his communication is logical, understandable and without pretense. 

He and his team have delivered step change in our Trade Technology and e-commerce functionality, but it is the huge volume of work that happened behind the scenes after our businesses merged that really demonstrated his leadership and ability to cut to the root of an issue.

After 10 years with IHG Paul has announced his decision to retire from the business, and of course he goes with our blessing and our respect.

It was always going to take a very special, high quality person to lead the business and our members through integration, development and innovation on a very low cost budget and we have been so fortunate to have had that person in Paul.

Paul on behalf of the entire group, you have made a difference and left a legacy from which we will continue to benefit for years to come.

2020 Hall of Fame Inductee

IHG AWards
Gary Woodruff 

Gary has been at the forefront of Mitre 10 for over 15 years , shaping the business and the trading model that exists today. 

He has always generously given his time and his expertise to guide Mitre 10 and everyone that works across it towards the successful business that it is today.

Gary was introduced to hardware through his father John, and has had 16 years running Woody’s hardware shops with his Dad and at their peak they owned 5 Mitre 10 stores in Victoria.

Importantly, Gary tended to find broken stores in need of attention and invested in them to get performance back up again and build the best store in town. 

Gary took his broad experience and commenced assisting the group, initially working on the members marketing sub-committee for Mitre 10’s south east division and then joining the Mitre 10 board. 

In the 2000’s, Mitre 10 was on its knees. During 2008 and 2009 discussions were held with prospective equity partners in a bid to save Mitre 10 and get much needed capital.

Gary as deputy Chairperson, working alongside Lance Collins and Phil Petrie – rallied the members to prepare them for change and the eventual purchase of Mitre 10 by Metcash. 

He, with his peers, realised that the traditional co-op model of Mitre 10 would not survive in the face of Woolworths and Wesfarmers battling it out – Mitre 10 was in need of a helping hand and so followed the 50.1% Metcash investment. At the first board meeting of M10 and Metcash, Andrew Reitzer advised the board that the current CEO Mark Burrows would not be the future CEO, but he had a guy and asked Gary, Lance and Phil to interview him. So at a hotel in Melbourne Mark Laidlaw was duly interviewed and the rest is history.

It was Gary who guided Mark, alongside Carl and Robin, in understanding the network, the individuals and in particular sharing his knowledge of Trade. Gary used his relationships to facilitate discussions with key store owners to rebuild trust and belief in the future of the group. 

In 2011 he joined the Trade Action Group and lent his experience and counsel to guide the Mitre 10 brand on its strategy of “Build Trade” and remains there to this day. 

At Village meetings he has shared his experience, keeping the success and viability of store owners’ front of mind.  He has undertaken Sapphire at Benalla with outstanding results, and given the locals an amazing offer to shop local.

Hiring Qualified Employees: 4 Factors to Consider

Hiring Qualified Employees: 4 Factors to Consider

Article by ECI

Hiring qualified employees is often difficult. However, there are a few things your shop can do to make it easier. The following checklist lays out what you can do to give your shop the best chance of getting qualified manufacturing employees.

Check Your Job Posting

The job posting is the first thing job applicants see and often the last thing companies look at when searching for a new employee. Make sure your job posting is accurate for the job you’re trying to fill. Make sure the job description has been updated since the last time you hired for the position. Having the correct job duties listed on the job posting ensures that you’ll get qualified manufacturing employees for the job.

Once you have the right duties listed on the job posting, you will also want to look at the qualifications on it. Does it have all the necessary qualifications or certifications you need? Does it have too many? For example, if you put that job candidates need a welding certification, but you’re willing to help them earn one on the job, you’re potentially losing out on great candidates. Remember, this is what job candidates read to decide whether or not they want to apply to your company. Make sure it’s accurate and interesting.

Check Your Culture

One of the best ways to attract high-achieving future employees in your shop is by having great current employees refer their friends. However, if your shop is not a great place to work, no one will recommend that someone should work there. Checking on employee morale starts with the basics. Are people generally happy to come to work, or are they relieved to leave at the end of their shift? Make sure you know what it’s really like on the shop floor.

If people like coming to work and you have a good culture, that’s a great start. If you want to stand out to qualified applicants, then there’s more you can do. Does your shop have any company events like holiday parties or picnics? Even smaller events like happy hours can be a great time for bonding and improving morale. If your company has these events, that’s great for your employees, but you also want to share this with others.

Check Your Outreach

Having a great company culture is wonderful, but it only helps potential candidates choose your shop if they know about it. If you have a website, make sure your “About Us” page is helpful not only to potential customers but also to potential employees. If you have social media pages, post pictures from your company’s events periodically. It adds a personal touch for your customers and helps show potential employees what it’s like to work there.

Even if you don’t have a website, there are other ways to share your company with the world. Check out company-rating sites like Glassdoor. If your shop isn’t on there already, consider making a page and asking employees to honestly and anonymously fill out a review. The internet has made it easier than ever to share your company with the world. Make sure your shop takes advantage of the opportunities out there.

Check Your Hiring Process

Before you post your job opening anywhere, you’ll want to decide how to conduct your hiring process. Will you start with a phone interview? Will you bring them in for an in-person interview first? Depending on the position, you may want a certain number of steps before hiring someone. You will also need to decide who will be involved in each step. Do you only want the manager of the position in the interview or others as well?

A smooth interview process is a sign of an organized company and will make job applicants think highly of your company. For a smooth process, you’ll need to plan it out before you interview anyone. Once you know who you want to be involved, you will also need to make sure they are willing to commit to being there.

Finding qualified manufacturing employees for your shop has become more complicated, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Once you find an employee you like and who likes your shop, it’s all worth it. Just remember that keeping your ready to attract job applicants is an ongoing process. Part of this is keeping current with what’s happening in manufacturing.

How can we help?

Earlier this month the Australia Government announced the extension of the BAC (Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements) subsidy. This means that if you hire a new trainee you may be eligible for a government subsidy of up to $7,000 per quarter, subsidised for 12 months.

If you need help finding the right employee or would like to take on a trainee, TABMA Australia offers recruitment services with discounts available for Hardware Australia members.

We also offer Certificate III in Retail Hardware, which has been specifically designed by us for our industry.

For more information on any of this call  us on 1300 391 426 or email

Can you direct your staff to work on a public holiday?

Can you direct your staff to work on a public holiday?

article by 

A section of the National Employment Standards (NES) sets out the rules about working on public holidays. The NES apply to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system, regardless of any award, agreement or contract.

The NES give employees the right to reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday, so the employer is not entitled to direct an employee to work on a public holiday.

The NES also protect employees from adverse action for reasonably refusing to work on a public holiday. That means the employer can’t dismiss them or disadvantage them in their employment, in retribution for their refusal.

That said, the employer can request employees – as against directing them – to work on public holidays.

It’s important to understand what are considered to be reasonable grounds for requesting or refusing to work on a public holiday. To decide whether a request – or a refusal – to work on a public holiday is reasonable, there are a number of things you need to take into account.

From the employer’s perspective, of course, the core of a reasonable request concerns the nature of the workplace, including its operational requirements, and the nature of the work carried out by the worker.

However, the employer also needs to consider the employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities; whether the employee could reasonably expect that they might be asked to work on the public holiday; and whether the employee is entitled to receive overtime payments, penalty rates, additional remuneration or other compensation that reflects an expectation of work on the public holiday.

Other matters that need to be taken into account are the type of employment (full-time, part-time, casual or shiftwork), and the amount of notice in advance you can give the worker when making the request. This is also relevant to whether an employee’s refusal to work on a public holiday – how much notice they’re given beforehand. In general, a worker would have more grounds for refusing if the request was made at the last minute, the day before the public holiday.

Any other relevant matter also needs to be considered when deciding whether a request or a refusal is reasonable. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to check any applicable enterprise agreement and the underlying award, if there’s no enterprise agreement, as well as the employee’s contract of employment.

And remember, all four days of the Easter weekend are not necessarily public holidays – in Tasmania and Western Australia the Saturday and Sunday are not declared to be public holidays; and in South Australia, Easter Sunday is not a public holiday.

If you need advice, please contact our workplace relations advice team on 1300 391 426.


Image by

12 Workplace relations questions you should be asking in 2021

12 Workplace relations questions you should be asking in 2021

by Julian Arndt, Associate Director at Australia Business Lawyers & Advisors

Now is the perfect time to stop and think deeply about where the year is headed, what might have been missed last year and see what opportunities may lay ahead. Our workplace relations partners at Australia Business Lawyers and advisors, answer 12 key questions you need to have a good answer for to make this a successful year.

1. Have you considered where your business is placed in relation to requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

There is much more discussion to come about this issue both in terms of what the vaccine will actually mean for Australia but also how it will be integrated into the industrial landscape. Will you be able to issue a lawful and reasonable direction to your employees to take it? While the science should be left up to scientists, if this isn’t on your radar as a business yet – it should be.

2. Where are you placed and what is your plan concerning the expiry of the pandemic-era employment conditions?

Has your business adopted any of the temporary industrial standards that have been introduced during the pandemic? Have you issued JobKeeper directions which are ongoing? Have your employees accessed ‘Schedule X’ entitlements under various modern awards? What about ’Schedule I’ conditions under the Clerks Award? Now is a great time to consider how to manage these arrangements in the future, particularly as they have current expiry dates. If you are unaware of what these arrangements are – perhaps its time to ask an expert as to whether you should be using these arrangements while they last?

3. What happens with working from home?

Several libraries have been written about what 2020 will mean for remote work. For you, right now, questions could be: will your new normal persist? Is it time to bring people back in? Are they ready and if they are not, how do you get them ready? Long term what is the optimum working arrangement for your business.

4. What is your business currently doing with its casual employees?

The Courts in recent years have shown a willingness to disregard the ‘casual label’ on an employee and instead look to the true character of an employee’s engagement. If an employee has relatively consistent hours and a reasonable expectation of ongoing work, regardless of the casual name (and a 25% loading) the employee may, at law, be a permanent employee entitled to paid leave.

Moves in parliament and the High Court this year may clarify this issue, or they may not, we will see. What can be done now is for HR practitioners to look at how their casual workforce is engaged (their contracts and their work patterns) and take necessary steps to ensure their casuals stay casual.

5. How much personal leave are your part-time employees accruing each year?

While other things were happening last year, the High Court of Australia reversed the Full Federal Court’s decision in Mondelez Australia Pty Ltd v AMWU [2019] FCAFC 138. This means that, after some years of uncertainty, the current state of the law is that:

“a ‘day’ for the purposes of the Fair Work Act refers to a ‘notional day’, consisting of one-tenth of the equivalent of an employee’s ordinary hours of work in a two-week (fortnightly) period”.

More simply – this means that Part-time employees are entitled to a pro rata amount of 10 working days of paid personal/carer’s leave for each year of employment.

While the High Court’s decision in Mondelez confirmed the understanding applied by almost all employers for almost all of the Fair Work era (that personal leave was a ‘pro rata’ entitlement), it did overrule a Full Federal Court Decision which had been the law for some months. If your business had changed its practices following the Full Federal Court’s Mondelez decision – it is now time to take the High Court’s lead and change back.

6. Does your business have an up-to-date employment contract?

If not, it is time to review and update your employment contracts before your next employee arrives.  Does your template have the five contractual essentials?

  • general obligations clause
  • set-off clause
  • notice of termination clause
  • policies and procedures clause
  • surveillance clause

Does your contract incorporate what has changed over the past 18-24 months, including protections against accrual of leave by casual employees? Do your contracts contemplate ‘stand downs’ on the basis that the employee cannot be usefully engaged (a COVID-era hot point)? If you are unsure, seek expert guidance to ensure your obligations are met and your business is protected.

7. Do you intend to conduct pay reviews shortly? It could be time for a new contract.

Performance reviews and pay reviews are often scheduled between January to June.  If so, it is useful to think about whether you need to update an employee’s contract of employment alongside this. Consent is required for any contract variation so if you are in a position to offer a salary or wage increase in exchange for agreeing to sign a new contract, the employee is much more likely to consent.

8. Do you have compliant and effective workplace policies and are your employees aware of them?

At an absolute minimum, in addition to a current Code of Conduct, all workplaces should have the following policies in place:

Workplace policies should be clear as to what your expectations are as an employer, while providing enough flexibility for you to run your business.  As a general rule, these workplace policies should not form part of an employment contract.

9. Is your enterprise agreement (EA) expired, or due to expire in 2021 or 2022?

If it is, the time to start planning for the EA bargaining process is now. Chances are, for better or worse, bargaining for your next agreement will be very different to previous years and the economy reacts to the ongoing turmoil of the pandemic. This will of course occur against the backdrop of the Fair Work Commission’s continuously evolving approval processes including the forensic examination of loaded rates, a much stricter Better Off Overall Test (BOOT), thorough analysis of information given to employees during the access period and an assessment of the moral authority of certain votes.

10. Are you aware of the changes to Modern Awards and the Four-yearly Review and their implications?

All businesses should be aware of what Modern Awards apply to them (including those awards which underpin their EAs). Modern Awards will continue to change as the Four-yearly Review continues into its seventh (and final?) year. Are you up-to-date on award entitlements in relation to flexibility requests? What has happened to overtime conditions for your casual employees? Are you aware that Family and Domestic Violence leave is no longer an Award entitlement (but instead is now in the National Employment Standards)? Have you been providing casual employees with conversion notices? It’s time to review your award to ensure your compliance.

11. Do you have injured employees undertaking long-term absences?

Managing your ill and injured employees is a legal obligation. It is very likely that in the fog of 2020 many of these issues would have been put in the ‘tomorrow’ basket. Now is the time to make sure that you are up-to-date with the status and progress of these employees in order to develop a plan and timeline going forward.

This is hugely beneficial for all parties in managing what are always extremely difficult situations.

12. Did 2020 raise any employee disputes, contractual or award interpretation queries, or entitlement calculation questions, which remain unresolved?

Now is a good time to call the experts to discuss outstanding issues that might be tempting to throw back into the too-hard basket.  Take the time to review what employee disputes arose last year, how they were handled and what could be improved to reduce dealing with unfair dismissals, harassment claims or adverse actions filed against the business.

Training your HR team is also critical.  You can have the correct policies and documentation but if the managers don’t behave appropriately or they are unsure how to have a difficult conversation or address poor behaviour in the workplace, the paperwork means nothing.  The two need to work in tandem for a fully functional workplace that presents minimal risk for claims.

Where to from here?

A comprehensive list of workplace policies and procedures is available on our members portal and members can access our workplace relations team on 1300 391 426 for advice.

Meet Greg Gill

Meet Greg Gill

Greg Gill

Greg Gill is a new member of our committee, having only joined our national committee last year. Greg is passionate about our industry in particular securing the future of our industry. He sits on our Industry Rising Star committee and is currently involved in rebuilding the program. His experience in the industry from a very young age means he can bring a unique perspective to our committee and industry.

What is your position within your business and what do you do?

I am the APAC Business Development Manager for ECI Software Solutions. My role is to work with independent hardware and building supply retailers to improve operations by implementing and utilising new technology. ECI provides business management software with a focus on providing cloud solutions and providing mobility and visibility across the business to store owners and managers.

When and how did you enter the hardware industry?

I grew up in hardware stores, with the family owning stores it was my life before and after school. After finishing school, I spent 10+ years on the tools in the construction industry. My personal requirements changed and I required a “steady income” to purchase a house. I was offered a position on the floor at a hardware store, owned by a family member. I took the position and over a period of 10 years in the store, I was taught a lot about the hardware industry and gained so much experience in the retail hardware/trade sector.

What do you love about the hardware industry?

The people – the store owners, their families that put their lives into the business and their customers. The employees who take pride in keeping the stores up to a certain standard. I love the passion that people have for their stores and serving their customers.

Why did you join Hardware Australia and the committee?

To give something back. Since leaving the store I have been working for suppliers to the industry, acquiring knowledge now from both sides. I enjoy providing my input when asked and hope to use this opportunity with Hardware Australia to show the younger generation in the stores that further careers in our industry can come from working on the floor of the local hardware store.

What benefit do you think Hardware Australia brings to its members?

Peace of Mind – Hardware Australia is a place to keep you updated with current topics, regulations etc. allowing store owners to focus on their business, knowing someone is keeping them up to date with changes to legislation and requirements. An additional bonus is having a support line to assist with industrial relations issues that are specific to our industry.

Where do you see the future of the industry?

If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it is that independent hardware stores are a large part of the community and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. When people were stuck inside their houses during a worldwide pandemic, the local hardware store was a saviour to people’s mental health, serving the community by providing them materials to keep busy at home whilst also continuing to support the essential businesses and trades.

I hope the community has seen the value the local independent stores provide with personalised service and localised ranging, and continue to support their stores at the same level as 2020.

Any words of wisdom?

Always be willing to adapt to your environment. Don’t keep doing something simply because that is the way it has always been done. We live in an ever-changing world and people are constantly coming up with ways to improve processes. Be open to change and see if there are small changes you can make that will lead to large improvements in your businesses. Chances are competitors are already doing this and you don’t want to get stuck playing catch up.