Professional and Financial Services

Professionals and financial services employees need to take particular care to understand their legal requirements.

WorkLegal has had experience in assisting a range of professionals in professions as diverse as:

  • Accounting
  • Law
  • Insurance
  • Banking
  • Financial/wealth advice and services
  • Advertising and Communications
  • Information technology

Many professionals however do not have a “safety net” of a modern award, and need to understand:

  • how to negotiate their employment contract;
  • how to deal with a workplace investigation;
  • what to do when facing an allegation such as workplace harassment; and
  • knowing where they stand in redundancy.

Some professionals may have the protection of an modern award, including some banking and finance professionals, some engineering professionals, and some information technology professionals. Those professionals should understand their protections under their award. They should also be aware that some other important issues are only regulated by their employment contract, not a modern award.

Some particular needs that professional employees may have are:

Negotiating an Employment Contract?

WorkLegal can help you devise a negotiation strategy and list of desired outcomes to help guide the negotiation process.

Considering the scope of a Restraint of Trade?

A particular issue affecting professionals is the scope and effect of any restraint of trade that will apply after the employment ends.   Advice should be taken before agreeing to any restraint terms.  Agreeing to onerous restraint terms may significantly limit your career options after the employment ends.

Responding to a Workplace Investigation?

WorkLegal can help you to navigate the demands of an investigation process, so that you know where you stand.

Protecting your Reputation

Your reputation is an asset that you need to protect.  Reputational outcomes always need to be front of mind at every step in the employment journey, especially when dealing with a disciplinary investigation or negotiating terms of separation.

Contact WorkLegal to arrange a fixed fee consultation to discuss how we can assist you.

Have you experienced difficulty working in the professional and financial services industry? Contact us for early advice.

1300 223 398

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Case Study – Negotiating a restraint of trade

Daniela is an up-and-coming accountant and is thrilled when a multi-national accounting firm accepts her employment application.  She will have to relocate to take up the job and the company will pay for her relocation costs.  She is emailed a lengthy employment agreement which she reads quickly.  Daniela shares her good news with a friend over a coffee.  Her friend is happy for Daniela but recommends she has the employment contract checked before sending it back.  

Her employment lawyer reads the contract carefully and notices some things that Daniela had overlooked:

  • The relocation clause – The fine print includes an obligation for Daniela to repay the relocation costs if the employment ends within the 12 months for any reason. Her lawyer explains the clause has the effect of saying that Daniela has repay the costs even if she is unfairly terminated or made redundant.
  • The restraint clause –The contract includes a lengthy restraint clause under a heading “Business Protection”. Her lawyer explains the clause places various limitations on what she can do after the employment ends that Daniela should think through before signing up.  Daniela has some existing clients that she wants to bring with her to the practice.  Her lawyer points out that the restraint does not exclude those clients, and the employer could try to prohibit her from providing services to those clients if the employment ends.
  • The termination notice – The employment contract only has a 1 week termination notice period even though Daniela has to relocate to a new city to take up the position and re-establish herself there.

With advice from her lawyer Daniela negotiates those and other issues to a mutually satisfactory outcome and Daniela is thrilled to start packing to move for her new opportunity. 

Case Study – Responding to a Restraint of Trade Demand

Dan is a senior consulting engineer who was employed as a regional manager for a national engineering firm.  In the position Dan has managed the contracts for most of the firm’s major clients in the regional.  Dan has been headhunted by a competitor that wants to build its footprint in the region.  The salary is higher and Dan does not think twice before accepting it. 

News travels quickly in the mining services sector and soon Dan receives a letter from his old employer affirming ongoing obligations in his employment contract with them and complaining about a recent visit he made to one of their largest clients that has since transferred its business to Dan’s new employer.  The letter threatens an injunction application for breach of a restraint clause in the employment contract by which Dan was prevented from approaching their customers for a period of 6 months.   The letter also claims against Dan personally an account of any profits from the client’s work they may lose. 

Dan needs urgent legal advice about the enforceability of the threatened restraint and how he should respond.  

It turns out that there are fatal flaws in the restraint clause, including that the restraint area defined in the employment contract is fatally ambiguous and the definition of “employer clients” is unreasonably wide.  With a carefully worded response the threatened legal action is averted.  Dan has had a close call, and he would have saved himself a huge amount of stress had he taken advice much earlier about the risks arising from ongoing restraint obligations.

Case Study – Unfair Redundancy in a financial services business

A financial services business held meetings with staff about measures to ensure the financial viability of the business.

Subsequently the business decided to reduce hours of some staff and make others redundant.  Later that day the business told an administrative employee that they selected her position for redundancy and believed she would receive a higher income on JobSeeker.

The employee lodged an unfair dismissal claim.  Her claim was successful, for reasons including:

  • Her applicable modern award was not complied with because:
    • Information on changes were not provided in writing and so the applicable modern award was not complied with;
    • She was not consulted after a definite decision to make her redundant was made;
    • There was no discussion with her about measures to avoid or reduce the adverse effects of the changes;
    • Unlike other employees she was not given the option of reducing hours;
  • Saying that she would be better off financially by pursuing JobSeeker was not proper consultation and suggested a decision had already been made.

Her dismissal was unfair and she was compensated for the JobKeeper pay she would have received until the office was closed down.

Rachel Freebairn v Dandiie Pty Ltd and others [2020] FWC 3915 (27 July 2020) 

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