Taking on employees is an exciting opportunity and often represents a new stage for a previously volunteer-run charity. It is important to understand what responsibilities your charity has as an employer so you can make sure your employees have work conditions that are fair, lawful and safe. This quick tip touches on some of the main things to be aware of and mentions some of the resources and people who can help you.

What to do:

  • As an employer, you have obligations to your employees under Australia’s workplace relations system. You should be familiar with these obligations before you take on an employee and make sure you meet them as an employer. For more information about Australia’s workplace relations system, visit the website of the Fair Work Ombudsman and consider signing up to their employer eNewsletter.
  • Check whether you can afford to pay for your employees. Remember, taking on employees costs more than just their salary – you will need to make a contribution to their superannuation, have money to cover any leave entitlements and pay for any resources they may need in their role. You should feel confident that you can cover the full cost of having an employee before you consider taking one on.
  • Make sure that the conditions of employment are understood by the employee and your charity (the employer). Before you appoint someone, write a position description so everyone is clear about what the job involves. Give new employees a letter of appointment with the terms and conditions of their employment in writing and a copy of their position description.
  • Consider how your charity will manage any employees you will have. You should think about how you will orientate them to their new workplace, who will supervise them and whether they will require any training. You may like to consider having a probationary period during which you consider whether a new employee is capable of the required work. Before a new employee starts, you should be clear on who they report to – will you employ another staff member to manage them or will they report directly to your board (or other governing body)?
  • Check whether there are any additional obligations specific to the area that your charity operates in. Some charities undertake background checks of all employees such as providing proof of identity or personal references. In some cases, police checks may be a good idea. Working with children or vulnerable persons checks may be required by law if volunteers are working with people such as children, people living with a disability or older people. Some workers may require a professional accreditation to work for your charity (for example, as a teacher).

What not to do:

  • Don’t confuse employees, volunteers and contractors. Although the work they do may be similar, your legal responsibilities to each are different. Make sure you understand the difference and are clear with the people involved in your charity about their role and responsibilities.
  • Don’t think that you can avoid all your obligations (including to pay the minimum wage) by paying employees in cash. Even if you are paying your employees in cash, you still have obligations to them as an employer including to take out tax and to provide them with a pay slip.

Find out more:

There are some good resources available to help you. There are a couple listed below but we are also adding further resources to our tools and resources page all the time.

  • The Fair Work Ombudsman has practical resources for new employers, including some example letters you can use when appointing staff.