Workplace law expert says employers can require staff vaccinate for COVID-19

Employers will be allowed to require workers to vaccinate against coronavirus, a workplace law expert says, despite assurances from the federal government the jab will be voluntary.

As the vaccine’s national rollout approaches, there are calls for greater clarity around the authority of businesses and rights of their employees.

It comes after a Brisbane care worker who was terminated for refusing a flu jab launched an unfair dismissal case against her former employer.

Zana Bytheway, executive director of employment rights legal centre JobWatch, said employers had a responsibility to provide a safe work environment.

As part of fulfilling that obligation, they may require that workers are vaccinated at the company’s expense.

“Under occupational health and safety law, an employer is required to do whatever is reasonable and practicable to ensure workplace health and safety,” she said.

“Given the ongoing global pandemic, this can reasonably include requiring employees to wear masks, do COVID-19 tests and receive vaccinations once they are available.”

Disability discrimination law requires that employers make reasonable adjustments for employees to do their job, and medical exemptions to vaccine rules may apply in some cases.

But Ms Bytheway said the situation was complicated by federal and state laws and directives, and the balance of risk to the community against impact on individuals.

“We’ve seen instances of this already, where aged care workers in Victoria have been required to wear fitted face masks through government orders – individual medical exemptions did not apply in these circumstances because of the high-risk nature of their work,” she said.

“I think employers, like the entire community, are looking to the government to provide us with some clear guidance.”

Although the federal government’s policy is that the coronavirus vaccine is voluntary, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also acknowledged that some people may be required to get one.

Earlier this week, the Fair Work Commission ruled that care worker Maria Corazon Glover would be allowed to pursue an unfair dismissal case against her former employer, Ozcare.

Ms Glover, 64, who works with vulnerable people, was terminated after she refused to comply with a policy that required workers undergo flu vaccination by May 1.

She told the commission she refused the jab on medical grounds, following an anaphylactic reaction she suffered after a flu vaccine when she was seven years old and living in the Philippines.

Ms Bytheway said her case could set a crucial precedent.

“At the moment, the courts have not tested this, and Maria Glover is, in fact, going to be the person that tests it,” she said.

“I think, for her, one of the questions is that this was a long time ago when she had an adverse impact and things may be different now.”

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Commentary: How COVID-19 has forced employers to be more human – and rewards them in the process

SINGAPORE: In the 1970s, renowned economics professor Milton Friedman wrote a famous essay explaining that the only purpose of a business was to generate profit, and the sole focus of the CEO, to rally the human capital of the company around that cause.

Since then, corporates around the world have adopted profit as their religion, operating with their eyes firmly fixed to the bottom line and a firm foot on the gas pedal.

Then COVID-19 entered, upending this simple equation of big profits equals a good business.

READ: Commentary: Goodbye, Robinsons. You may soon be with familiar company

READ: Commentary: Retail isn’t dead – look at snaking queues outside Apple stores


Some companies, like Amazon, Zoom and many others profited massively by virtue of being in the right place at the right time.

Yet, many other well-run and well-loved companies, like Singapore Airlines, found themselves bleeding further into the red every day through no fault of their own.

The sad sight of SIA jumbo jets, grounded next to a quiet airport, coupled with news of the company’s fighting spirit demonstrated in its COVID-19 response, from reviewing fleet sizes, to having flight attendants joining frontline efforts and offering novel dining experiences, show a company’s value cannot be purely assessed on profits.

READ: Commentary: Asian airlines may never recover without consolidation

LISTEN: Rethinking the role of national carriers while saving Singapore Airlines

What makes a company valuable is also its purpose, contribution and humanity – and what it’s doing to help other businesses, communities and people get through this generation-defining crisis.

This global trend towards purpose over profits was already gaining momentum even before COVID-19 hit.

(Photo: Freepik/tirachardz)

In August 2019, a letter issued by the Business Roundtable, signed by 181 leading US companies from Apple to Walmart, essentially rebuked Friedman’s worldview by declaring that they would commit to deliver value not just to shareholders, but also to their four other stakeholder groups – employees, customers, suppliers and communities.

“One of the definitive results of the pandemic around the world is that we can see the old Milton Friedman model crumbling. No one believes that anymore. The pandemic hasn’t changed everything, but we are starting to see much more concern for people,” Bob Aubrey, founder of the ASEAN Human Development Organisation told me.

The pandemic will more deeply shape our approach to human capital, making employees care more about inclusivity, investing in mental well-being, empowering our workforce with more flexibility in how they work, and ultimately shifting the focus of businesses to purpose, not just profits.

Even for pragmatic Asia, companies will be forced to look at human factors such as diversity, inclusion and stress indicators, and move beyond paying lip service to these issues for a few powerful reasons.

READ: Commentary: The cult of work is eroding the value of parenthood

READ: Commentary: Burned out while working from home? You should check your work-life boundaries


First, there is a consensus that a caring, inclusive culture is directly linked to more profits.

For instance, Deloitte’s research found organisations with inclusive cultures twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 5 to 7 per cent annually, growing faster with higher profitability, empirical research on 1.5 million employees from Professors Claudine Gartenberg and George Serafeim from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School and Harvard Business School respectively shows.

Futhermore, McKinsey’s findings from more than 1,000 companies in 15 companies suggests a growing performance gap between inclusive companies that “get it” and companies yet to embrace diversity.

office colleagues

Two colleagues in a discussion. (Photo: Unsplash)

Companies in the bottom quartile for gender and ethnic diversity were 27 per cent more likely to underperform on profitability.

COVID-19 will do more to separate the goat from the sheep.

I have seen this in Singapore, where companies who haven’t prioritised inclusion are now in a vicious cycle of low employee morale, high turnover and burnout, which fuels even more underperformance and less management focus on inclusion as they are too busy fighting fires.

On the other hand, I have also seen a wave of companies developing a virtuous cycle of investing in a caring, purposeful culture, doubling efforts to amplify employee support, psychological safety and inclusive leadership training.

READ: Commentary: Work appraisals can’t depend on what your boss thinks of you

READ: Commentary: Worried about keeping your job? Here’s advice to soothe your concerns no matter how old you are


Second, a younger workforce demands a more flexible, inclusive and values-driven approach to work, and employers who want to attract and retain talent, a scarce resource that remains in high demand, will have to listen.

Millennials are now the biggest segment of the workforce, Gen Zs are starting to enter the labour market.

Research suggests they are much more purpose driven than other generations. They want to join companies that align with their values, with LinkedIn’s research finding almost nine out of 10 Millennials would take a pay cut to work at a company with the same values as their own. This figure was just 9 per cent of baby boomers.

man laptop mask covid work from home office laptop

(Photo: Unsplash/Paul Hanaoka)

This makes sense as the Millennials and Gen Zs will probably be spending more time at work than any other preceding generation, and want to contribute to something they care about.


Third, consumers and clients are choosing to spend their dollars with corporates who signal a high level of environmental social governance (ESG), including employee treatment, and diversity and inclusion metrics.  

Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing’s survey concluded that 86 per cent of millennials are interested in sustainable investing and are twice as likely as the overall investor population to invest in companies targeting social or environmental goals.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicted that millennials could pour between US$15 trillion and US$20 trillion into Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investments in the US in the next two decades.

LISTEN: What is corporate climate action and why companies need a paradigm shift | EP 11

READ: Commentary: Forces of climate action are reshaping finance in Singapore and around the world

The stakes are high for companies who do not keep up with the current consciousness. In 2020, we have also seen clear the “cancel culture” financial repercussions for companies deemed to have been hypocritical in their values or mistreated their employees.

Just think about how Starbucks’ memo asking employees not to wear Black Lives Matter T-shirts led to instant global backlash from consumers.

The Instagram movement #PullUpOrShutUp has convinced more than 200 companies, including Estée Lauder companies and Levi’s, to reveal how many Black employees they have and commit to improve.

And fashion advocacy non-profit Remake has announced an estimated US$22 billion owed to garment workers that have gone unpaid since March owing to the coronavirus from 21 brands, including H&M and Nike, after calling on brands to #PayUp via an Instagram campaign.

A person holds a "Black Lives Matter"

A person holds a “Black Lives Matter” sign as a heavy cloud of tear gas and smoke rises after being deployed by Seattle police as protesters rally against police brutality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle, Washington, on Jun 1, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson)

Consumers and employees today have never been more vocal. They also possess the platform, knowledge and desire to call businesses out for their failings.

According to Edelman’s study, 64 per cent of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue.

READ: Commentary: Facebook’s decision to resist advertiser boycott could pay off in the long run


Fourth, we are experiencing a major rise in firms offering mental health support for their staff as companies grapple with the realisation that burnout and stress has serious impact on business.

Employee Assistance Programme providers are reporting an uptick in companies signing up for counselling. Most of my corporate clients have significantly increased their mental health and resilience training budget this year.

This is an encouraging and much needed trend as Singapore is regularly voted as having one of the world’s most stressed and sleep-deprived workforces, even before COVID-19.

Over 1 in 3 employees report often feeling tired or having little energy and over 2 in 5 employees feeling burned out and exhausted from work, according to a SHRM study.

READ: Commentary: What’s behind burnout? Confusing long hours and face time for work performance

LISTEN: Returning to the office – can you say no?

While employers are upping support, we also need leaders themselves to normalise talking about mental health and demonstrating by example, taking concrete actions to alleviate stress by reducing work hours or having policies on not working on weekends or minimising late-night conference calls.


Last, COVID-19 has forced companies to relax policies regarding working from home.

While most used to tolerate the occasional remote working arrangement, this pandemic has led many employers to realise trusting their employees to get their work done without constant onsite supervision can lead to increased productivity.

The pandemic of work from home injuries

(Photo: Unsplash/Brooke Cagle)

Zoom meetings have also provided an unusually intimate glimpse into our colleagues’ lives.

We discover new things about each other as we see people’s tattered posters and plant collections, what they really look like without make-up, and how they speak with their pets and children when they are interrupted.

We have gone from seeing our colleagues as mere transactions to connect and exchange data with, to real human beings who live, love and suffer just as we do, imbuing work with deeper and more human dimensions.

READ: Commentary: Cure to burnout requires a pervasive culture of rest

The real gift of this pandemic may well be the start of a more conscious, human-centric approach to work.

A caring, purposeful, flexible work human capital approach can no longer be seen as a nice-to- have.

It is the foundation on which a company builds its future survival on: Put people and purpose first and the profits will follow.

Crystal Lim-Lange is co-author of the national bestselling book Deep Human- Practical Superskills for a Future of Success and the co-founder of Forest Wolf, a leadership training and talent development consultancy.

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Is the JobMaker hiring credit legal? Are employers allowed to only hire young people?

The Federal Government’s new wage subsidy hasn’t passed Parliament yet, but some employers are already advertising for young workers who will qualify for the program.

So how does that sit with Australia’s anti-discrimination laws, and will the scheme make it more difficult for people who don’t qualify to find work?

Here’s what we know.

Who will be covered by the wage subsidy?

The JobMaker Hiring Credit will provide wage subsidies to businesses if they take on extra workers, between the ages of 16 and 35, who have been receiving JobSeeker, Youth Allowance (Other) or Parenting Payment.

Employers will be able to claim $200 per week for staff aged between 16 and 29, and $100 a week for those aged 30 to 35.

The $4 billion program, announced in the recent Budget, is currently being examined by a Senate committee, which has received a mixed response so far.

But some online job advertisements are already asking for candidates who fit the criteria.

“This is a newly created role under the JobMaker program and as such candidates will be expected to demonstrate eligibility with the JobMaker provisions,” one advertisement read.

“Please confirm your age is between 16y and 35y.”

Ads have begun appearing specifically asking only for people who meet the eligibility to apply.(ABC News)

Another ad asked for candidates who would be eligible for the higher Hiring Credit rate.

“To be successful in this role you will have: Eligibility for the JobMaker program (ie be aged 16 to 29 years old and have received income support, such as JobSeeker or Youth Allowance, for at least one of the prior three months).”

Nicole Newport-Ryan lost her job in March, and while she has since picked up part-time work, the 48-year-old is still hoping for a full-time position.

“You know like, don’t even bother applying, don’t read it, we’re not interested in you.

“I think it’s absolutely discriminatory.”

A woman sitting at a table in front of a computer with her hands crossed.
Nicole Newport-Ryan will not be covered by the JobMaker hiring credit.(Supplied)

What does the law say?

In a statement, Treasury said Australia’s Age Discrimination Act generally made it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of age.

“However, the JobMaker Hiring Credit falls within the exemptions from this general prohibition,” it said.

“Individual circumstances will vary, and employers should seek their own legal advice as to how the law will apply to them.”

Alysia Blackham, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne, pointed to a couple of exemptions that could apply.

“One of them is if it complies with another law, so once this is passed in legislation, it’s possible that it will be exempt on that basis,” she said.

A headshot of a white woman with short brown hair smiling.
Alysia Blackham says the hiring credit could be exempt from discrimination laws.(Supplied)

“The other exception in those laws relates to positive action, so if we’re doing something to support a particular group of people, who have been particularly disadvantaged, then it can also be exempt from age discrimination law.

“So here the argument would be that because young workers had been disproportionately pushed out of work, having some sort of incentive to bring them back into work is a reasonable measure and therefore it’s a form of positive action.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission said while it encouraged employers to avoid “direct and indirect discrimination against people of all ages in their hiring and retention policies,” the “positive discrimination” exemption made it lawful in cases where it:

  • Provides a bona fide benefit to persons of a particular age
  • Is intended to meet a need that arises in a particular age group, or,
  • Is intended to reduce a disadvantage experienced by people of a particular age.

What does it mean for people not covered by the subsidy?

The Government argues young people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and the Hiring Credit is aimed at preventing the long-term youth unemployment seen in previous recessions.

It believes the subsidy will support around 450,000 jobs, although Treasury officials told a Senate Estimates hearing this week that only around 10 per cent of those positions were expected to be created as a direct result of the program.

It also points to a scheme called Restart, which offers financial incentives to businesses hiring workers over the age of 50.

Ms Newport-Ryan hopes the youth wage subsidy will benefit her children, but feels there is little support for people in her age bracket.

“I’m pretty down about it, to be honest, I’m feeling pretty negative,” she said.

Dr Blackham said while young people had been hit hard by the pandemic, she was worried about other groups of workers too.

“We know that shutdowns have really affected women very badly across all age groups,” she said.

“They’ve also affected older workers who also are over-represented in insecure and precarious work, just like younger workers.

“So while these subsidies may help, they may just serve to displace the problem.”

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PMO failed to check with key former employers before Payette’s appointment as Governor General: sources

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his officials never conducted checks with Julie Payette’s former employers at the Montreal Science Centre and the Canadian Olympic Committee that might have raised red flags about her behaviour with co-workers and subordinates before her appointment as Governor General, sources tell CBC News.

Multiple sources have told CBC News they were stunned by Trudeau’s decision to appoint Payette in 2017. They have questioned the prime minister’s judgment.

“A number of us were blown away when she got appointed,” said a former board member at the Canada Lands Company (CLC), the self-financing Crown corporation that owns and operates the Montreal Science Centre. Payette was vice president of CLC and chief operating officer of the Montreal Science Centre from 2013 to 2016.

“This is a Crown corporation owned by the government,” said the former board member. “You would have thought they’d call to check out her credentials.”

Payette and her Rideau Hall office are now at the centre of an unprecedented third-party investigation launched by the Privy Council Office. In July, a CBC News report quoted a dozen confidential public servants and former employees who claim the Governor General belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff.

Payette received severance in 2016: sources

Payette was given severance of roughly $200,000 when she resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints about her treatment of employees, say multiple sources. In 2017, Payette left the Canadian Olympic Committee after two internal investigations into her treatment of staff, sources said.

CBC News spoke to 15 confidential sources who worked with Payette, including current and former employees and board members at the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Montreal Science Centre, the Canada Lands Company and the Canadian Space Agency. They spoke on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, could lose their jobs, still work in the industry or, in some cases, continue to interact with Rideau Hall.

The Prime Minister’s Office would not say if it was aware of the complaints made against Payette at these institutions.

“The Governor General is recommended on a broad range of factors and done with the appropriate due diligence,” said press secretary Alex Wellstead in a statement to CBC News. “Any questions about previous roles should be directed to the organizations in question.”

A spokesperson for the Governor General’s office issued a statement to CBC News calling Payette an “outstanding Canadian” and “a trailblazer for women” and pushed back against the reports of workplace harassment.

“Over the course of her career, no formal complaint has ever been filed against her, nor has she ever resigned from a board of director position, including at the Canadian Olympic Committee, where she finished her term,” said the statement from Payette’s press secretary, Ashlee Smith.

“She has served on more than a dozen boards over the years in an exemplary manner,” the statement said.

Julie Payette, top right, helps to carry the Olympic flag into B.C. Place for the opening ceremonies of the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver on Feb. 12, 2010. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Payette accused of berating staffer at 2016 Olympics

In April of 2016 — the year Payette left the Montreal Science Centre — she was appointed to the board of the Canadian Olympic Committee. That same year, two employees of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) complained to the committee about Payette’s treatment of staff, triggering internal HR investigations.

The COC board spoke to Payette about the complaints, said the sources. Payette did not apply for an extended term.

In one case, Payette was accused of berating a young female employee to the point of tears while at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio in August, according to several current and former Canadian Olympic Committee staffers.

Payette is alleged to have screamed at the employee over having to wait with her son for a Canadian Olympic Committee vehicle to pick them up from an event they attended privately in Copacabana, the sources claimed. Payette complained it wasn’t healthy for them to be standing on the street breathing in pollution for that long and called the situation “ridiculous,” the sources claim.

In the second instance of a COC employee filing a complaint against Payette, say sources, Payette was accused in November of 2016 of overstepping her authority by threatening to fire an employee during a meeting for not having ready answers to her questions.

“Staff couldn’t do anything to make her happy,” said one former COC employee. “She would erupt out of nowhere. What she chalked up to appropriate behaviour would under every circumstance be inappropriate behaviour. We were all just supposed to sit there and take it.”

When contacted about this story, Payette’s press secretary suggested CBC News speak to John Furlong to provide balance to the unnamed accounts of Payette’s conduct. Furlong worked with Payette on the board of Own the Podium, a not-for-profit organization that supports Canadian Olympic athletes, for several years before she joined the COC.

Furlong, the former chair of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), said he witnessed no incidents of harassment involving Payette during that time and called her “an exemplary board member.

“She had a perfect attendance record. She did her homework and read the material, which was extensive,” he told CBC News.

“She was very engaged, collaborative [and] involved. I would give her a very high mark for her performance there.”

(Furlong is himself no stranger to controversy. He was accused in 2012 of verbal and physical abuse of First Nations students in northern B.C. decades ago, allegations Furlong has consistently and strenuously denied. The RCMP investigated and concluded there were no grounds for charges, and civil claims were either dropped or dismissed.)

In her media statement, Smith pointed out that, “shortly before her term was completed, [Payette] was appointed as a member of the International Olympic Committee Women in Sport Commission on which she still serves.”

Payette became a COC board member in April 2016 after the former president Marcel Aubut resigned over a sexual harassment scandal in 2015. In the wake of the controversy, the organization vowed to make sweeping changes to prevent similar issues in the future.

In a statement issued to CBC News, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it “is not appropriate for us to make public comment on any former or current Board member on such matters and leave this to the mandate of the Office of the Privy Council.” Instead, the organization pointed CBC News to its conduct policy, which states that harassment is not tolerated and says that even “one incident could be enough to constitute harassment.”

“Harassment includes bullying, and can take many forms but often involves conduct, comment or display that is insulting, intimidating, humiliating, hurtful, demeaning, belittling, malicious, degrading, or otherwise causes offence, discomfort, or personal humiliation or embarrassment to a person or group of persons,” reads the policy.

Julie Payette was chief operating officer at the Montreal Science Centre from 2013 to 2016. She resigned with a year’s salary as severance pay, according to multiple sources. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

A former Canada Lands employee with direct knowledge of the matter said the Crown corporation could have warned the Prime Minister’s Office had it reached out before Payette’s appointment.

“The red flags were her relationship with her employees, her controlling attitude and her resistance to administrative authority,” said a former board member.

The board of directors at Canada Lands met Payette at an annual gala in 2013. Bowled over by her charisma and celebrity status in Quebec, they rushed to hire Payette without the normal due diligence or evaluation process, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The board members hoped Payette would woo donors and boost fundraising. But it quickly became clear Payette lacked experience in managing staff and was learning on the job, multiple sources claim.

A ‘tense’ and ‘painful’ time

The National Post documented Payette’s tumultuous time at the science museum and how her behaviour foreshadowed issues later reported at Rideau Hall. Radio Canada also reported on claims that Payette had created a toxic climate there by subjecting employees to unjustified criticism.

CBC News spoke to several people who worked with Payette at the Montreal Science Centre, including former employees who claim they were victims of verbal harassment. One former staff member described it as a “tense” and “painful time” and said staff members never knew who would be the target of Payette’s criticisms at a meeting.

“HR was aware,” said a different source with direct knowledge. “Everyone was aware. HR were witnessing it because they were in the same meetings. Some colleagues complained directly to HR.”

Senior management at Canada Lands also saw Payette sulk and turn teary-eyed in meetings if she didn’t get her way, said a source. In one case, said a source, Payette pushed back against a plan for Canada Lands to commission a routine survey of employees to improve the working environment at its properties.

“Julie fought it tooth and nail,” said one former Canada Lands employee. “She strongly resisted wanting it done at the Montreal Science Centre.”

Canada Lands went ahead with the survey. Payette was still so upset with the project that, when an HR consultant arrived to give a presentation about the survey, Payette pointedly ignored them, according to two sources who say they witnessed the interaction first-hand.

Governor General Julie Payette’s office is undergoing an unprecedented third-party review after CBC News reported in July on claims that Payette had created a toxic work environment and verbally harassed employees. (Adrian Wyld)

The Canada Lands Company quietly awarded Payette a year’s salary as severance when she resigned in Oct. 2016, said multiple former employees and former board members. Sources said she was paid the severance so that the federal Crown corporations managing the science museum — Canada Lands and the Old Port of Montreal — could protect their reputations.

Canada Lands said that for privacy reasons, and out of respect for current and past employees, it “will not discuss personnel matters.” It did say it has a “comprehensive” policy on respect in the workplace that applies to all staff. 

“Ms. Payette’s departure was her decision after serving three years at the Montreal Science Centre,” said Canada Lands’ VP of corporate communications Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern in a statement to CBC News. “She contributed greatly to the Science Centre’s success and we appreciated her ideas and vision.”

‘I don’t want to be in a room with her’

Complaints about Payette’s workplace behaviour date all the way back to her years at the Canadian Space Agency in the 1990s and early 2000s. Some who worked with her there say they have no wish to interact with her again.

“I don’t want to be in a room with her, unless she wanted to apologize,” said one former Canadian Space Agency employee. “She would comment on people’s work in a very negative and demeaning way. There is Julie Payette’s way or it’s not good.”

Sources report Payette would lash out at staff by calling them at home during off-hours to denigrate their work.

“For me leadership is about helping others grow. She’s the other way around,” said one former employee. “She didn’t want to help others shine.”

Others describe a more professional, collegial workplace relationship with Payette. 

Julie Payette, STS-127 mission specialist, eats a meal on Space Shuttle Endeavor’s flight deck July 17, 2009. (NASA/handout photo/Canadian Press)

Fabienne Lebranchu worked at the agency on Payette’s second mission to space, booking her travel tickets and expense claims. She said that when she travelled to Houston for work, Payette would invite her to her house for a glass of wine so that she wouldn’t be stuck alone in a hotel room.

Lebranchu said Payette has a type-A personality, like other astronauts, and had a stressful job at the Canadian Space Agency, but she never saw her treat her colleagues poorly.

“She was very nice,” said Lebranchu, adding she’d like to work with Payette again at Rideau Hall. “She appreciated the work we did for her, she would thank us and always asked us if she needed anything else for her expense claims.”

Maclean’s magazine has reported that, for two years in a row, Payette’s office at Rideau Hall ranked among the worst in the public service for harassment complaints. An annual government survey conducted last year showed 22 per cent of respondents working for Rideau Hall claimed to have experienced harassment. Of those employees, 74 per cent attributed the harassment to individuals with authority over them.

Trudeau defended vetting process

Trudeau is now facing renewed criticism over his approach to choosing Payette for the job — selecting his personal pick for the role rather than using former prime minister Stephen Harper’s advisory committee process to suggest suitable candidates.

For months, Trudeau skirted the controversy over Payette’s relationship with Rideau Hall staff. He came to her defence early this month, calling Payette an “excellent” Governor General and saying he had no intention of replacing her right now. That comment upset the whistleblowers who claimed harassment — one said Trudeau’s words felt like a “kick to the stomach.

In 2017, the online political news outlet iPolitics reported that police had charged Payette with second-degree assault in 2012 while she was living in Maryland; the charge was later dismissed and expunged from her record and Payette herself called the charge “unfounded”.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, right, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly wave as they arrive for a reception at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Oct. 2, 2017. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Toronto Star also reported that Payette had struck and killed a pedestrian while driving in Maryland in 2011. Police subsequently found Payette was not at fault.

Trudeau defended his vetting process In 2017 and said nothing in Payette’s past disqualified her from the job of Queen’s representative.

“I assure everyone that there are no issues that arose in the course of that vetting process that would be any reason to expect Mme. Payette to be anything other than the extraordinary governor general that she will be,” he said in July 2017.

Barbara Messamore, a history professor at the University of the Fraser Valley and fellow of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada at Massey College, said the advisory board is a recent innovation and Trudeau didn’t abandon a time-honoured tradition. She said there’s still a strong argument for using it now, in light of the recent controversy.

And if the government didn’t ask the Montreal Science Museum and Canadian Olympic Committee for references, she said, it “suggests a failure of the vetting process.”

“The process that was used was evidently not entirely adequate,” said Messamore. “It didn’t uncover some things that ought to have been known. If they did indeed know those things, I would have described them as a deal-breaker.”

Ashley Burke can be reached at Kristen Everson can be reached at

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Proposal to simplify small business pay divides employers in industrial talks

Its advocates say it would also make employers less wary of hiring new staff as the coronavirus pandemic eases but others argue it would discourage businesses from taking on staff above the small business threshold, which could be as low as 15 people.


Sources involved in the working groups, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential, said the proposal had received a favourable reception from Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter, who is leading the process.

Mid-sized and large employers will not benefit from the award changes, meaning they will have to negotiate with unions on enterprise agreements if they want similar simplified rules.

A proposal to make it easier to approve those agreements has won joint backing from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Business Council of Australia, which represents the country’s largest companies including Coles and McDonalds.

Under the plan unions would act as a safeguard to ensure workers are not being ripped off. Deals they back would get a fast-tracked approval process through the Fair Work Commission.


That proposal sparked a furious backlash from four other employer groups, which spent Thursday writing an open letter to Mr Porter outlining their concerns the proposal puts pressure on workers to join unions and gives them power disproportionate to their membership.

Whether simplified pay will help workers will depend on how high the small business loaded rate is compared to the penalty rates and allowances that would otherwise be earned, and if unions can extract concessions in enterprise agreement negotiations.

Exactly how many employees a business could be allowed under the small business provision and which industries it would apply to are being discussed in the working groups. Mr Porter asked at a meeting whether a threshold of 15 or 20 employees would be appropriate, a source said.

Offering something for small businesses as well as the largest employers would give the Morrison government a powerful argument when it presents the outcome of the working groups to the Senate crossbench, sources in the working groups said.


The small business proposal has left some employer representatives unhappy because they want the flexibility to benefit all businesses regardless of size. One said it would be a “failure” because it “pits small operators against large operators”.

“Surely regardless of whether an employee is working for a small business or a big business, a job created is a job created,” the source said.

Another employer disagreed: “Small businesses don’t have resources, big businesses do and that’s why the change has got to come,” they said.

Versions of the small business award are being pushed by the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia and the small business ombudsman. Mr Porter declined to comment on specific discussions in the working groups but said they remained focussed on creating jobs.

“It should be no surprise to anyone that there would be different points of view on certain issues amongst participants of the working groups – if there wasn’t there’d be no need for this in the first place,” Mr Porter said. “Indeed the differences of views are not just between unions and employer groups – they are sometimes inside those organisations.”

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Back-to-school uncertainty prompted these 2 employers to give parents new perks

Two U.S. banking giants are rolling out more benefits to parents juggling childcare and homeschooling while keeping the companies running through the pandemic.

Citigroup Inc. will offer employees discounts on test preparation and tutoring services as many continue to work from home while their kids start the new school year. Bank of America Corp. is extending backup childcare payments for staff with children as old as 12.

Workers at Citigroup can get help finding an educational caregiver to supervise their children’s online learning, Sara Wechter, the bank’s head of human resources, said on LinkedIn. If employees decide to try small-group learning at home, it can also help them find families and educators to join their pod.

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“I can’t believe it’s already time for back to school,” Wechter said in the post. “I know that I’m not alone feeling some anxiety around balancing work and my children’s education.”

The world’s largest employers have been grappling with how to help workers who remain at home to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. This fall, many employees will split daylight hours between doing their jobs and helping their children with school work as districts across the country stick with remote learning — so any aid companies provide may also help their own productivity.

At BofA, eligible employees can get daily childcare reimbursements of $75 or $100, depending on their compensation, while they’re working from home or in the office through Dec. 31. The bank is also providing online resources on finding childcare and virtual learning, and will help employees get access to discounted childcare and tutoring.

“It’s going to be a very fluid situation” for working parents, BofA’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sheri Bronstein said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “I had one of my own team say to me, ‘Gosh, I need a Ph.D to figure out when my four kids are going to school in the fall.’”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. still has about 150,000 people working remotely and is trying to be “very flexible” about that structure, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon told CNN in an interview this week.

“We’re going to try to enhance childcare benefits, or let people know where the childcare is,” he said.

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Working from home poses serious dangers for employers and employees alike

A few years ago, when I, as an outside consultant, was leading a time management workshop at an all-virtual company’s in-person annual retreat, I noticed something: these people were working a lot. Time logs chronicled late night email sessions. One employee—who’d mentioned wanting more time to play with her dog—had hired a dog walker because, despite working from home, she didn’t think she could take a break to go outside with her pet. As I began doing workshops with more all-virtual companies, I noticed this same phenomenon. Many remote workers had no boundaries protecting non-working time. Needless to say, their stress levels reflected this.

I was thinking of that forlorn dog owner as the COVID-19 pandemic forced whole organizations to go virtual overnight in March. Remote work has grown rapidly—up 159% in the last 12 years, per an early 2020, pre-lockdown report from FlexJobs—but there’s long been resistance to it. Push managers for an explanation and you’ll eventually get some version of this: How do I know people won’t watch Netflix all day?

But Netflix isn’t the real danger. The real danger is that without a physical separation between work and the rest of life, people won’t ever stop working—risking burnout, which has huge costs for employees and their organizations. Wise managers address this, rather than worrying that people will slack the second they aren’t being watched. 

It’s hard to quantify this fear of slacking, but consider this: One Gallup poll in mid-March found that only 31% of U.S. workers had ever worked remotely, despite a majority of workers saying in various polls that they would like to do so occasionally. By the beginning of April, the proportion of workers who’d ever worked from home had risen to 62%. Clearly, many more jobs could be done from home than were. 

This fear of slacking is also reflected in which work-from-home requests are granted. I’ve studied thousands of time logs over the years for my books and time diary projects, and I found that, pre-COVID, Friday was by far the most common work from home day. When people ask to work from home one day a week, Friday is generally the day managers agree to. One survey from Accountemps found that Friday is seen by HR managers as one of the least productive days of the week. I don’t think this isn’t a coincidence. If we assume that people who are working from home aren’t really working, best to minimize the opportunity cost. 

I wish the pandemic had removed this fear, but even after COVID sent everyone home, I began hearing from listeners to my podcast (which is about working from home) that a number of teams began doing daily check-ins at 9:00 a.m., making sure everyone was at their desks.

Employees are aware of this suspicion. And so there is a tendency to leave Slack open all day, respond to emails instantly, and skip breaks, lest anyone think silence implies the binge watching of Stranger Things. With no commute, people don’t know when to declare the day done, and so they half work into the night. Long hours with no breaks are pretty closely linked to burnout. One poll finds that burned out employees are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job, and 63% are more likely to take a sick day.

But this lack of boundaries isn’t inevitable. When I was reviewing time logs from employees at all-virtual companies as a time management consultant, I noticed that people with children or other caregiving responsibilities were far better at creating a stopping point, which makes sense. Someone has to send a sitter home or pick up the kids from day care. 

Wise managers can encourage people without kids to come up with other personal commitments that end the work day. Years ago, when I realized that I was half working and half surfing the web until 10 p.m. every night, I joined three community choirs. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, I had to stop work around 6 p.m. to go to rehearsals. I became much more efficient—and happier. 

Of course, choirs might be out these days, but here’s an idea. Any organization that institutes a 9:00 a.m. virtual check-in needs to also have a 4:45 p.m. virtual goodbye ceremony. This gives people a stopping point so they live to march again the next day—and maybe spend some time with their dogs too.  

Laura Vanderkam is author of The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work From Home, which publishes on July 21, as well as Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done and Juliet’s School of Possibilities. She speaks about time management and productivity for organizations across the U.S. and Canada. 

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U.S. unemployment rate fell in June to 11.1% as employers bring back more workers

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The unemployment rate dropped from 13.3% in May to 11.1% in June. That’s the second straight month of a pick-up in hirings after the jobless rate topped out at 14.7% in April—the highest level since 1940.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report finds the U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June, following adding 2.5 million net jobs in May. Economists projected 3 million jobs would be added in June, so the data is better than expected.

The June jobs numbers also show the economic slump is still hitting some communities harder than others. The jobless rate among white workers is 10.1%, compared with 13.8% for Asian workers, 14.5% for Hispanic workers, and 15.4% among Black workers. Among adult men the rate is 10.2%, compared to 11.2% among adult women.

A second straight month of an improving labor market signals employers are rehiring, and the economy has moved from contraction to recovery. But that rebound is about to be tested by spiking COVID-19 cases in many states and a wave of re-closing orders.

“The real risk now is we start backsliding and start contracting again,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. The resurgence of the virus, he says, is already decreasing some economic activity in Texas and Florida.

This official unemployment rate of 11.1% is likely undercounting the actual level of joblessness from June. The BLS defines the unemployed as people without jobs who are also looking for new positions. Some laid-off workers may be waiting it out before starting their job search given the deadliness of the virus.

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Legal protections for LGBTQ people at work are crucial, but it’s on employers to create a welcoming environment

When our firm signed on to an amicus brief in Bostock v. Clayton County and two other cases last summer, we were proud to stand alongside 205 major businesses in expressing the importance of workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 6-to-3 in favor of the plaintiffs in this case, which tested the applicability of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to these critical elements of individual identity and experience.

Certainly, we believed the case to be strong; as Justice Neil Gorsuch noted in the majority opinion, “The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Given a shift in the court’s ideological makeup, however, it would be inaccurate to suggest that we expected it to rule in favor of the plaintiffs. This shift was all the more reason, we believed, for businesses to stand firmly in support of what is best for employees, organizations, society, shareholders, and our firms: the removal of a critical barrier to the psychological safety required of productive and meaningful workplace cultures.

As a cisgender, gay CEO of a global leadership firm, I celebrate the notion that this psychological safety—the ability to bring one’s full self to bear healthily and appropriately without fear of retribution or other negative consequences—is a critical element of the best workplaces.

Of course, the mere notion that individuals are legally protected from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity does not, in and of itself, enable psychological safety. Legal protection is a helpful but incomplete precursor to crafting truly hospitable environments for LGBTQ employees and others with historically marginalized identities.

Implicit in the notion of legal protection is the idea that an individual or community is at risk because of some critical aspect of who we are—or what others attribute to those individuals, based on stereotyping or inaccurate perceptions. For LGBTQ individuals, expressing the parts of ourselves that do not align with broader expectations of how we should look, behave, or love based on our assigned sex at birth has often resulted in derision, rejection, exclusion, violence, or just plain silence in the workplace.

But that expression of this essential element of our identities can no longer result in legal termination of employment in the U.S.

The court’s decision has opened the door for leaders to engage with these critical components of identity and culture in a much more sophisticated and powerful way. Rather than operating from a place of legal protection for themselves—that is, treating this latest ruling merely as occasion to conduct antidiscrimination trainings and other risk mitigation activities—employers have the opportunity to reconsider the benefits of identity-diverse workplaces.

Recognizing that the law confers protection on an identity group is humanizing and energizing. When we understand that the most important parts of our identities matter and must be protected at work, we internalize the idea that our work can be a source of the very basic human need for meaning and purpose. Taken in the context of other major events last week—the first broad, mainstream recognition of Juneteenth as a major marker of black American civil rights; a second Supreme Court decision prohibiting the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program without reasoned explanation; continuing daily protests across the country for equity and justice for black Americans—the impetus for leaders and organizations to cultivate work settings that recognize and harness the power of difference has never been more profound.

Wherever any particular organization presently stands on its journey, there is room for growth, development, and evolution embedded in learnings from the Bostock ruling. For employers who are new to recognizing their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees, acknowledging the importance of allowing individuals to bring their full selves to work is an important starting point. 

For employers that already celebrate their LGBTQ team members and colleagues, fostering similar celebratory conditions, just treatment, and psychological safety for individuals and communities across a wider range of identity groups creates a reservoir of positive energy in the organization. And for all of us, every day in the workplace (be it physical or virtual) affords the opportunity to demonstrate the kind of meaningful interpersonal connection that affirms our individual and shared humanity—to the benefit of our lives, our organizations, and our communities.

Eric Pliner is CEO of YSC Consulting.

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Tip-offs point to employers cheating staff on JobKeeper

About 3.5 million Australians are supported by the $70 billion JobKeeper scheme, with the $1500 a fortnight wage subsidy paid by the government via the employer’s payroll.

There are strict conditions for companies using JobKeeper, including a “one in, all in” principle that means they must enrol all eligible staff, and rules about pay and conditions.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has made special pandemic provisions that allow businesses to direct employees to take annual leave, as long as the staff member would still have 10 days leave remaining. However, this does not apply to other sorts of leave such as long-service leave.

A Treasury spokesman confirmed employees in the JobKeeper scheme must be paid their normal rate of pay while on leave even if it is higher than $1500 a fortnight. The business can still claim JobKeeper as a subsidy towards paying leave entitlements.

The Sun-Herald has heard from a number of workers at both small and large companies whose employers seem to be flouting the rules.

In one case a woman in an administration role at a medium-sized company in Sydney was forced to take long-service leave without the usual notice period. She was only paid the $1500 a fortnight JobKeeper Payment while on leave but normally earns significantly more. The Sun-Herald has seen the employer’s letter and payslips verifying this.


In another case, a Sydney chef claims his employer deducted annual leave while only paying JobKeeper rather than his usual, higher salary. Some employees say they have been directed to take leave even if it leaves them with a zero or negative leave balance.

Some employers are claiming they can do this because of the Federal Court decision that upheld Qantas’ policy to not allow employees to take sick leave while stood down.

Employees have also told The Sun-Herald their bosses are using people’s fear of unemployment to impose permanent pay cuts of up to 40 per cent or move people in permanent roles to fixed-term contracts without paying redundancy.


Tim Petterson, Hospo Voice coordinator at United Workers Union, said members recently shared stories in a survey. One employer tried to pocket the difference between the low-paid workers’ usual wages and JobKeeper, while another boss claimed employees would have to work increased hours to get JobKeeper or make up the hours later.

Mr O’Halloran said tip-offs to the Tax Office included claims businesses are fraudulently claiming JobKeeper because they do not meet the eligibility requirements. Businesses with a turnover under $1 billion must have a 30 per cent reduction in turnover, while bigger businesses must show turnover has halved.

However, most complaints were about payments to employees, including disagreements about employee eligibility, problems related to termination, redundancy and stand downs, disputes about increasing or decreasing employee hours of work or location, and allegations about incorrect payment or misuse of annual leave.

Mr O’Halloran said it was probably only “a small number of employers” doing the wrong thing but the Tax Office would follow up tip-offs and also refer matters to the Fair Work Ombudsman where appropriate.

A FWO spokesperson said the frontline team dealt with 1000 customer enquiries a day about COVID-19 throughout May, mostly from employees. Eight out of 10 COVID-19 inquiries were about JobKeeper.

“Assisting with workplace issues created by coronavirus is our number one priority,” the spokesperson said. “We have diverted some of our resources internally, and brought on new staff with additional funding to bolster our capability to respond to the needs of the public.”

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