Barry Plant, a Victoria-based real estate group with around 80 offices, is one of eight franchises selected by Fair Work to participate in its new National Franchise Program (NFP).
Through the NFP, the Fair Work Ombudsman will provide free advice on how to best promote compliance with workplace laws across their networks.
After calling for volunteers to join the program in February, about 40 franchisors expressed interest in participating, Fair Work said.
“In selecting participants we considered the industry in which the franchise operated, and the number of employers and employees that would be assisted through the engagement," a Fair Work spokesperson told Real Estate Business.
“The first intake includes franchises of differing sizes and from a variety of industries, to allow us to pilot the program with a broad range of participants.”
Mike McCarthy, director and CEO at Barry Plant, was thrilled his company was one of eight prominent franchises selected.
“We’re really proud to have been selected, and we think it speaks to [our] standards as an employer,” he told Real Estate Business. The other franchises selected by Fair Work were Subway, Boost Juice Bars, Just Cuts, Bank of Queensland, Pizza Hut, Terry White Chemists and Just Better Care.
Mr McCarthy said the new arrangement would allow Barry Plant to work closely with Fair Work whenever staff-related issues arose, which were inevitable in most companies.
Mr McCarthy said Barry Plant had, since the early 2000s, established group-wide agreements which clearly set out the conditions of employment consistent with (current) federal law. In some cases, he added, these conditions went over and above what were required, for example, providing extra maternity leave.
These agreements, including the current version, were applicable for all employees in the network, he said.
Mr McCarthy said some of the keys reasons Barry Plant established an employment agreement was to ensure their franchisees were compliant with relevant workplace laws; to protect the brand’s integrity; and to help make the group an employer of choice.
The NFP is an initiative of Fair Work’s Major Employer Branch, which won a commendation at the 2011 Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management for its National Employer Program (NEP). Through the NEP, the FWO has adopted an innovative approach to regulation, fostering compliance with the Fair Work Act by working collaboratively with large employers.
Fair Work’s new initiative comes a day after the workplace regulator announced an audit of 125 agencies in Qld, a follow up to a campaign it conducted in the same state last year.
Mr McCarthy said it was likely numerous real estate principals weren’t in compliance with workplace laws, although the vast majority weren’t doing so on purpose.
“Very few set out to not comply with relevant [workplace] awards,” he said.
Mr McCarthy pointed to inadequate record keeping – particularly in relation to hours worked by busy sales agents – as one area many principals were failing in. Keeping a close track of hours worked was essential if employees are to be correctly remunerated, he continued.