Hiring: Your staffing options

When your business needs to put on staff, you will need to consider what roles employees will fill, and the skills they will need to bring to the table. As an employer, you will need to also consider the level of pay and other costs involved, as well as employment conditions, including physically accommodating the person coming on board (desk, chair, workstation or space in the workshop for example).

Preparing a job description will help identify the job functions and responsibilities the person will fulfil, and will also help define the knowledge and skills that you are looking for. You can download a job description template here and change it in according to your work needs. (The template is an example provided by BusinessVictoria, but will give you an idea of what to include. Note that you should check if there are federal, state or industrial law requirements to take into account.)

There are a number of obligations that employers are required to meet and, as you may have read in other areas of this website, there are several specific tax and superannuation matters to take care of (as well, the Tax Office has an employer obligation checklist that may be handy to use when a business engages workers).

Remember that when you advertise a job, you must not by law use discriminatory language that could be seen to exclude certain people because of their age, race, sex, marital or family status, religion, sexual orientation or whether they have a disability or not. The government’s Human Rights Commission has guidelines on anti-discrimination for employers.

The government’s JobSearch website provides free services to employers, and could assist with looking for the right person for your job. You may also find assistance with wage subsidies, training and other support. There are also low-cost web-based job sites.

Once you have found the right person, here is a letter of offer template that you may find helpful. (This is an example from Fair Work Australia, but gives a good idea of what to include. You should check if there are legal obligations under an award or workplace agreement, or state legislated requirements.)

There are a few main options in the way that you put on staff. You can put on permanent or fixed-term employees, casuals, apprentices or trainees, go through an employment agency (also known as labour hire), or take them on as a contractor or consultant. The cost and legal obligations can vary for each, so it’s important to think about which type of hire will suit you and which will work best for your business.

An employee will generally:

  • receive payment as wages or salary
  • have tax held out from that salary
  • be based at your business (even if ‘out and about’)
  • be full-time, part-time, casual or an apprentice or trainee
  • be directed by you or your managers regarding tasks undertaken, and how and when to do those tasks.

Permanent employees

A full-time staff member will work a standard (or agreed-upon) day, such as 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. A part-time worker will have set regular work times, but less than a full week, for example 1pm to 4pm, Tuesday to Thursday.

Casual staff

Casuals can be hired for irregular periods of work, and are paid just for that period. A casual arrangement however can be on-going if the worker is amenable to it. Casual workers can cover short-term job demands and can be a flexible solution, but generally are paid above permanent staff pay rates to compensate in some way for not having regular hours or illness and holiday leave.

Casual employees also:

  • can be asked to work at very short notice
  • do not get annual leave
  • can be terminated with very little notice (unless a work agreement specifies otherwise).

The extra pay can be up to 25% more than the base pay rate, depending on pertinent industry awards or legislated pay levels.

Apprentices and trainees

An apprentice trains for the work of a tradesperson, while a trainee learns how to work in a non-trade job such as in an office or retailer. Each are trained on the job as well as having off-site training where required.

Trainees and apprentices are paid a wage and superannuation, and an employer needs to meet the tax obligations that go along with these (see the Tax Office apprentices summary here). But the government offers incentives to take on apprentices and trainees, such as the Australian Apprenticeships Scheme.

If they are under 18 a training agreement needs to be signed by the workplace, the employee and employee’s parent or guardian. If aged under 21, you may have to register with the government, which is where an Australian Apprenticeships Centre will be able to help. These also provide free services to employers. Click here to find one in your area according to your postcode. More help may be available from the different state or territory training authorities.

Labour hire

An employment agency will hire the worker and then charge your business for the use of that worker for a set period or agreed hours. You can hire people at short notice, who may also have specific skills, for short-term or long-term projects.

The agency pays the wages and covers other entitlements, however your business must cover insurance and occupational health and safety requirements. Your business will be charged for the worker’s services, and generally also a commission or fee payable to the employment agency.

Contractors and consultants

Contractors have specific skills and knowledge, and perhaps specialised equipment, that workplaces can use for a set period under a contractual arrangement. Rather than receiving a wage or salary, contractors invoice for their services.

For details about working as a consultant or contractor, see the article ‘Selling your skills, knowledge or advice’ on the Taxpayers Australia website But if your business is considering putting on a contractor, there are a few caveats to be aware of, especially as the Fair Work Act has specific elements designed to stop ‘sham contracting arrangements’. These are where a business has simply converted staff to contractors in order to get out of obligations such as compulsory superannuation, workers compensation as well as tax liabilities. See all the implications for employers in the article ‘Employee or contractor?’ on the same website.

A contractor generally:

  • Does a set task (like installing machinery, painting a factory or installing an IT system) and once the task is completed, the engagement ends
  • Can work for more than one client
  • Can sub-contract out different tasks
  • Provides their own equipment and is responsible for it
  • Charges for services, takes care of their own insurance, and will run their own business (unless they are ‘deemed’ to be an employee — see above article).

Hiring workers from overseas

If the local talent doesn’t fit the bill, maybe there are prospects from overseas. People who migrate to Australia are entitled to work here of course, but visitors may or may not have the right to work. There are numerous work visas (such as the s457 visa), and some have different selection criteria.

Control over these matters is maintained by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which also has a free online skill matching database that can help you find overseas workers. The database holds information on potential workers from a variety of trades and professions who are interested in living and working in Australia.

There are other employer sponsored visa options where a workplace can sponsor and employ skilled workers with recognised qualifications or experience in particular occupations.


This article first appeared on www.taxpayersassociation.com.au