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A Strategic Alliance

August 31st, 2018

We are pleased to announce an exciting new strategic alliance between Miller Harris Lawyers of Cairns, and the Brisbane Family Law Centre.

As you know we, at Miller Harris Lawyers, have worked with North Queensland businesses and individuals for over 25 years in a range of legal service areas including commercial, business and property law, insolvency, employment law, environment law, native title and cultural heritage law, tax law, wills and estate matters, conveyancing and retirement living.

Our partnership team consists of senior lawyers with decades of experience in their chosen fields, including Accredited Specialists in Business Law and Property Law.

It is in the area of family law that our firm has recognised an opportunity to form a strategic alliance.

Brisbane Family Law Centre (BFLC)  is a boutique family law firm practising only in family law matters.  The firm focuses on providing their clients with a holistic approach through collaborative law, mediation and out of Court dispute resolution.  It is a multi-disciplinary practice offering clients access to counselling and financial professionals in addition to legal services, ensuring holistic solutions during relationship breakdowns.

Although located in Brisbane, the firm has been servicing clients nationally for quite some time and BFLC’s Director, Clarissa Rayward, welcomed the opportunity to increase their service offering by creating an alliance with us.

As a firm, we are always looking for improvements and better ways to conduct our practice, particularly in the context of sensitive areas involving families.  To increase the depth of legal expertise available to our clients, we have formed a strategic alliance with a speciality family law practice in Brisbane.

We see this alliance is in keeping with the spirit of change that is being embraced by pockets of the legal profession.  Both Miller Harris Lawyers and BFLC are breaking down traditional professional boundaries, sharing knowledge and collaborating for the benefit of their customers and teams.

We have seen significant shifts in the way lawyers and law firms offer solutions to their clients.  The future of law will require us to focus carefully on the needs of our clients in a holistic way and by necessity ‘think outside of the traditional law box’.  In the current business environment, it does not matter whether you are a firm in Brisbane or Cairns, what matters is the ability to provide seamless, tailored solutions to our clients wherever they are.

This alliance is just that- a sharing of knowledge and resources between two firms that might be separated by distance but are aligned through their core values and a desire to offer meaningful legal solutions to their clients, wherever they are located.

 

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Reforms to combat illegal phoenix activity

August 30th, 2018

Illegal phoenix activity is a means by which unscrupulous company directors seek to avoid payment of a company’s creditors.  It typically involves the transfer of a business (or assets) from one company shell to another, without properly recognising the value of the assets transferred.  It leaves company creditors, often including employees, with claims which cannot be satisfied from company assets.

In the 2018/2019 budget, the Commonwealth Government announced a package of reforms to the corporations and tax law to combat illegal phoenix activity.  The government has now released an exposure draft of proposed legislation.  The proposed reforms include:

1.  introducing new phoenix offences which target both those who conduct and advisors who facilitate the illegal phoenix transactions including:

1.1.  making it an offence for company directors to engage in creditor defeating transfers of company assets;

1.2.  making pre-insolvency advisors and other facilitators of illegal phoenix activities liable to both civil and criminal penalties; and

1.3.  extending and enhancing the existing liquidator “callback” powers;

2.  preventing directors from resigning in some situations;

3.  extending Director Penalty Notice provisions to include GST and related liabilities; and

4.  restricting the voting rights of related creditors at meetings considering the appointment or removal of an external administrator.

An exposure draft of the proposed legislation has been released for public consultation.  The final text of the reforms is yet to be revealed.  The draft legislation can be accessed here.

For more information, please contact partner Tim McGrath.

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Family and domestic violence leave entitlements

August 16th, 2018

On 1 August 2018, the FairWork Commission introduced unpaid domestic and family violence leave into all Modern Awards.

The move is seen as a significant step forward in addressing the prevalence of domestic violence in society, and providing assistance for those who need it most.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one woman is killed each week, and one man each month by a partner or former partner.

The determination by the FairWork Commission, which modifies the Modern Awards, was made on 1 August 2018. The changes therefore take effect with the start of the first full pay period that starts on or after that date.

The changes introduce an entitlement to 5 days’ unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence.

What is family or domestic violence?

Family and domestic violence is defined as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a family member of an employee that seeks to coerce or control the employee, and that causes them harm or to be fearful.

Family member is given a broad meaning and includes:

  1. a spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the employee; or
  2. a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of a spouse or de facto partner of the employee.

Note:  A reference to a spouse or de facto partner also includes a former spouse or de facto partner.

Entitlement to leave

There are a number of important points to note about the leave entitlement:

  1. the leave is available to all employees, including those employed on a casual basis;
  2. the whole of the leave (5 days) is accrued at the start of a twelve month period.  That is to say, the entirety of the leave is available to an employee on their first day of work; and
  3. the leave does not accumulate from year to year. At the start of each 12 month period the amount of leave resets to 5 days.

Taking leave

The circumstances in which the leave may be taken are as follows:

  1. the employee is experiencing family and domestic violence; and
  2. the employee needs to do something to deal with the impact of the family and domestic violence and it is impractical for the employee to do that thing outside their ordinary hours of work.

By way of explanation, the FairWork Commission added that the reasons for which an employee may take unpaid leave include:

  1. making arrangements for their safety, or the safety of a family member;
  2. attending urgent court hearings; or
  3. accessing police services.

These are however only guidelines and do not represent the full extent of circumstances in which the leave may be taken.

In addition to meeting the requirements above, under the changes employees are also required to provide sufficient evidence to their employer that the leave was taken for the correct reasons.

Depending on the circumstances, such evidence may include a document issued by the police, a court, or even a statutory declaration.

Employees will also need to provide notice to their employers as soon as is practicable of the leave and advise of the expected period of leave.

The determination by the FairWork Commission states notice may be provided after the leave has begun where it is appropriate in the circumstances.

Final thoughts

These changes to the Modern Awards represent progress in addressing some domestic violence issues.  The largest point of debate so far has been whether the measures go far enough.  That is not for us to decide.

It is important however, to remember that currently these changes only apply to the Modern Awards, so only employees and employers using those awards are affected.

Will this change?  No one can be certain.  Both the current government and the Labor party have identified that they would like changes made to the Fair Work Act which would see all employees able to access the family and domestic violence leave.  Until the legislation is finalised however, we wouldn’t count on anything.

In the meantime, those employers and employees who are bound by the Modern Awards should make sure they are aware of their rights and obligations after the changes, and identify the pay period and date when they come into effect.

Finally, domestic violence affects not only those who are victims, but also those who are exposed to it.

If you feel you need to contact someone, 1800RESPECT is a national service that provides confidential information, counselling and support services on a 24-hour basis. They are available to everyone.  Not only victims but also those exposed to, or at risk of family and domestic violence. (Phone: 1800 737 732)

Please remember, if you or someone you know is in imminent danger you should contact the police immediately on 000.

If you have any questions about this article, or other enquiries related to employment matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.

AJ

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