LawSense School Employment Law – Fair Work Review, Psychosocial, Probation, Terminations

Date1 March 2024
Time11.30am-3.30pm AEDT (Syd/Melb time)
VenueLive Online with recording (recording access expires 1 April 2024)
Price includes gst.
SectorNon-State Schools
CPDAddresses 7.2 of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers


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11.30    LawSense Welcome

11.35    Chairperson’s Introduction

Belinda Reid, Head of Human Resources, Trinity Grammar

11.40    Reviewing Fair Work Reforms, Exploring Impacts So Far and Ensuring You Are on Track to Meet Obligations

  • New Fair Work legislation:
    • examining the bargaining provisions including multi-employer bargaining, BOOT test and industrial action
    • flexible work rights and obligations, including job sharing
    • fixed term contracts
    • sexual harassment and discrimination and application to staff and students
    • new protected attributes
    • examining key provisions relevant to schools in the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023
  • Examining impacts on schools to date of the changes that have been implemented
  • Exploring best practice approaches to meeting the risks, obligations and opportunities from the changes

Christa Lenard, Partner, Kingston Reid Lawyers

12.50    Break

1.00      Navigating Psychosocial Risk, Rights and Proactive Obligations in 2024 and Learnings from Schools Experiences

Changes in the Law and Interaction with Other Laws

  • Outlining the recent changes to WHS legislation affecting schools including:
    • examining definitions or psychosocial hazard and how this can include bullying, sexual harassment, and other behaviours
    • outlining how it applies to staff, students and others interacting with the school
    • understanding obligations to identify reasonably foreseeable psychosocial hazards that could give rise to health and safety risks

Respect@Work laws

    • examining the recent Respect@Work laws and how they interact other obligations regarding psychosocial risks
  • Understanding what claims staff, students or parents can make against you using the new laws

Attitude/Action of Regulators to Date

  • Examining the response of WHS regulators in investigating and enforcing requirements regarding psycho-social hazards. What have been “triggers” of regulator action?

Examining Best Practice Self-Audits, Controls and Learnings from School Responses

  • Exploring best practice in identifying psycho-social hazards in your school:
    • examining different stakeholders and how they may be affected differently – staff, students, parents
    • exploring optimum data time-frames for identifying psycho-social hazards in your school
    • consultation – surveys, focus groups and other tools including committee meetings, team meeting, networks and individual discussions
    • conducting effective exit interviews for identifying hazards
    • other data sources/audit tools and records available to schools
  • Analysing and evaluating data. What weight should be given to different sources of data? What level of evidence do you need?
  • Introducing, maintaining and reviewing control measures to eliminate (or minimise) psychosocial risks. What should you consider and how have schools responded?
  • Updating policies to meet your obligations and expectations regarding psycho-social hazards

Deanna McMaster, Partner, MinterEllison

2.10      Break

2.20      Probation, Performance Management and Terminations: Navigating Rights and Obligations in Dismissing Staff and Learnings from Recent Fair Work Cases

Performance Management and Dismissal of Staff

  • Outlining key laws applying to staff performance management and dismissals
  • Reviewing timeframes in performance management and dismissal. What length of time is reasonable with performance improvement plans? How long can you take before issuing a warning?
  • Examining lawful reasons for dismissal:
    • what is a “valid” reason for dismissal – reviewing the impact of recent case law
    • understanding the nature and extent of evidence required to establish a “valid” reason for dismissal
  • Reviewing the consultation obligations where there is redundancy
  • Ensuring you implement defensible due process in dismissals – insight from recent case law


  • Exploring the application of probation to different arrangements/contracts with staff
  • Examining the application of probation where staff have already been in a role for some time, but change to a different role
  • Dismissing staff during the probation period – navigating rights, obligations and risks, including where the successful candidate omitted relevant information

Dealing with Claims Against You

  • Outlining claims that can be made against you in response to performance management or dismissals:
    • discrimination, bullying, adverse action, unfair dismissal
    • allegations regarding psychosocial hazards/work environment

Learnings from Recent Cases

  • Outlining recent Fair Work decisions regarding discipline and terminations and implications for schools

Ben Tallboys, Principal, Russell Kennedy Lawyers; Legal Consultant to Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA)

3.20      Chairperson’s Conclusion

3.30      Event Close

Presenters / panelists include:

Christa Lenard is a workplace relations and employment lawyer with extensive experience in advising public sector departments and agencies at both Commonwealth and state level, as well as large and medium private sector companies. Christa has extensive experience in the education sector.
Deanna McMaster provides practical, timely advice about statutory regimes and safety systems, working closely with clients nationally. Deanna often helps manage the immediate aftermath of an incident, and the investigations that may follow. Having acted for numerous regulators, Deanna understands both sides of the enforcement process.
Ben Tallboys provides sector-specific, practical legal solutions to schools across Australia. Ben is a passionate and effective advocate for principals dealing with complex matters relating to parents, staff and students, as well as their own employment.

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