If you are considering purchasing a small business, or are already in the business of operating one, you may be looking at hiring your first employee or taking on additional employees. Whilst this may seem daunting at first, it is important to know there is a wide range of support available to help you.

We invited the team from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to share their top four tips to hiring and setting up good employment practices in your business.

1. Know where to get help

Firstly, it’s important to know where to seek accurate and reliable advice. You have already taken the first step by seeking information through jobactive.

Depending on your needs, you may like to join an employer association or seek assistance from third-party advisors (lawyers, accountants or HR Advisors), who can offer expert knowledge on a range of topics relevant to your business operations. Employer organisations are generally industry-specific which enables them to offer advice tailored to your industry, making them a valuable source of information.

And remember, help is always at hand at the FWO. We offer a wide range of free services and educative resources to help you develop the skills needed to confidently manage your employment relationships. For instance, our Small Business Best Practice Guide provides an overview of the Fair Work workplace relations system. It explains minimum employment conditions, record keeping, pay slips, unfair dismissal laws and other responsibilities for you. We also have a dedicated Small Business Helpline you can access via our infoline on 13 13 94.

2. Get the basics right

Now you know where to go to find the right information, it’s time to work out what your employees are entitled to.

Minimum conditions at work can come from registered agreements, awards or legislation. There are 122 industry and occupation awards that cover most people working in Australia, which means many employees who aren’t covered by an agreement will most likely be covered by a modern award.

Modern awards apply to employees depending on the industry they work in, or the job they do. You should start by reviewing the coverage clause and job classifications within the award to confirm whether an award will cover your employees. If you need help, take a look at the awards information on fairwork.gov.au or contact our Small Business Helpline.

Also available at fairwork.gov.au is PACT, the FWO’s pay and conditions tool. PACT lets your calculate rates of pay, penalty rates and entitlements (including annual and carer’s leave) under all modern awards. It is accessible ‘on the go’ via mobile devices, making it simpler and faster for you to obtain wage information for your employees. PACT can also provide you with a reference number and allows you to save wage results so they can easily be retrieved at a later date.

You can assess your knowledge of and compliance with workplace rights and obligations through Workplace Basics—our online, interactive quiz with seven modules of multiple-choice questions on topics including pay and awards, leave, and record keeping and termination. At the end of each module, you’ll get a customised list of links to relevant resources and information which you can email to yourself so you can easily find these later.

By signing up for FWO’s My account service you will be able to store and receive personalised workplace information, such as relevant awards. Through My account you can save results from our Pay, Shift, Leave, Notice and Redundancy calculators, and you can also submit queries and receive Fair Work Ombudsman responses. You can register for My account on the fairwork.gov.au homepage.

3. Establish good employment practices

Once you understand the basics, it’s a good idea to establish employment practices and systems within your business which will help your business run smoothly. At the FWO, we have a variety of tools and resources to help you do so.

Our online learning centre provides free interactive courses on hiring employees, managing performance and having difficult conversations in the workplace. The online courses take you through activities and interactive scenarios to provide you with hands-on-skills-based training which fosters good workplace practices.

For instance, when hiring a new employee, there are a number of important decisions to be made. Taking some time to think about aspects of the role and preparing the right questions to ask potential candidates can dramatically affect the outcome of your recruiting process.

One of the important things to consider when hiring a new employee is the type of employment status. Should your new employee be engaged on a full-time, part-time or casual basis? The hiring course includes a tool which helps you determine which employment type is best suited for the role you need to fill. With some simple planning, you can ensure you are prepared for the hiring process, including being aware of what the minimum pay and conditions are for each employment type.

Additional online courses on diversity and discrimination, workplace flexibility, managing people and record-keeping and pay slips will be released this year.

We also have a number of guides and templates to assist you with developing the skills and know-how to manage your employment relationships. Our downloadable templates can take the stress out of the record keeping involved with hiring employees, pay slips and other common workplace issues.

4. Stay on the front foot and resolve issues early

Finally, it is important to be proactive and stay on the front foot when it comes to managing employment relationships in your business. You can be proactive in a number of ways. Firstly, take steps to ensure you are kept up to date and informed of any changes which impact your business. You can subscribe to our email updates or our employer newsletter at fairwork.gov.au to make sure you are amongst the first to know if any changes or updates have been made to the wages or conditions which apply at your workplace.

Just as it's important to stay up to date with any changes to entitlements, it’s also important to be proactive in resolving any disputes which arise in your workplace. Where a dispute occurs—and it will at some point—it’s important to know how to approach it. The best thing to do is to address it early, and to try and resolve it at the workplace level. Doing so will not only alleviate the need for intervention from a third party, such as FWO, but it is also likely to save both your time and money.

Our ‘Difficult conversations in the workplace’ online learning course is designed to help you feel confident in discussing and resolving issues which arise in your workplace before they escalate. We know that having a difficult conversation with an employee can be a daunting task. Dealing with these issues before they escalate is not only best practices as an employer, but can also prevent further disputes arising later down the track. Visit the online learning centre to access the course.

As you now know, there’s plenty of support available to help you navigate the workplace relations system. Be proactive in getting the help you need and take the time to establish good management of employment relations in your business. It is likely to save you time and money down the track, and will help you build a workforce which supports your business goals.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) works with employees, employers and the community to educate and encourage compliance with Australia’s workplace laws.

If you are thinking about hiring someone new, you can also get in touch with a local jobactive provider to help you find the right staff to fit your business.