Employment and Labor Law


Author: Tim Lange, Partner

Whistle-blower protection laws applying to internal (and some external) disclosures are on the cards. The amendments will bring a new and aggressive protection regime into the Corporations Act 2001, replacing the relatively limited scheme that currently exists. Unlike the current scheme, which has not had a significant impact, the new scheme will significantly alter the landscape in favour of claimants arguing that they have been victimised or exposed as a result of having made a legitimate disclosure of misconduct or breaches of the law. The amendments are contained in a bill currently before the Australian parliament and expected to be passed with bipartisan support, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2017.

Read more: Incoming private-sector whistleblower protection laws – Preparing for the new rules


The San Antonio City Council recently approved a new city ordinance that requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees who work at least 80 hours within the City of San Antonio per year. Employers with more than 15 employees must allow employees to earn up to one hour of paid sick leave per 30 hours worked, up to a cap of 64 hours of paid sick leave per year; employers with 15 or fewer employees must allow employees to similarly accrue paid sick leave up to a cap of 48 hours of paid sick leave per year. Employees who terminate employment but return to the employer within six months are entitled to any earned sick leave that was available to them as of their termination date.

Read more: San Antonio Passes Ordinance Requiring Paid Sick Leave


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Contracts of employment are binding on both parties but, if changes need to be made by the employer, what is the best way to do this? Usually the first step is to seek employees' agreement. If no agreement can be reached, the employer can attempt to impose changes unilaterally (risking constructive dismissal and breach of contract claims) or dismiss employees and offer them re-engagement on new terms and conditions (risking unfair dismissal claims). If an employer chooses to impose changes unilaterally, it is not always clear when an employee can be taken to have agreed.

Read more: When can there be a deemed acceptance of changes to terms and conditions of employment contracts?


Last month, in an effort to clarify what types of employee handbook rules are lawful under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued new Guidance on the topic. Determining which rules are permissible and which may violate the NLRA has troubled both union and non-union employers in recent years due to the Obama-era NLRB’s tendency to find that standard handbook rules (e.g. those on basic civility, insubordination, confidentiality, etc.) violate employees’ rights to engage in “concerted activity” for “mutual aid and protection” under Section 7 of the NLRA.

Read more: Clarity on Legality of Work Rules Under NLRA has Arrived!


Authors: Matthew Smith and Debra Gers

The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd v Smith is undoubtedly the most significant decision of the recent employment status cases which impact in particular the so-called "gig economy".
Almost seven years after bringing his Employment Tribunal claim, the highest Court in the country has now upheld the earlier decisions of the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal that Gary Smith was a "worker" and not "self-employed" and, as a result, had the right to the national minimum wage and paid holiday.

Read more: Landmark decision for \"gig economy\" workers in the UK