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Leaving a job can feel like a leap into the unknown. Will your next career move give you the opportunities you want and does your future employer share your values? With what’s being called the Great Resignation sweeping workplaces around the world, and employees quitting in record number, more of us could soon find ourselves job hunting.

But you don’t need to take a gamble when deciding where to work next – if you know how to ask the right questions of your potential new employer. 

When considering a new employer or job offer, it's important to consider factors like company culture, job responsibilities, compensation, work-life balance, growth opportunities, and company stability. Here are some tips on navigating the recruitment and interview process to help you know if your next employer is a good fit and if the job offer is right for you.

What are the questions you should never be asked during a job interview? 

Interviewing for a new job can be a nerve-racking experience. However, an interview can also be an opportunity for you to understand more about your prospective employer.

If you are asked certain questions in an interview, this may be evidence that your prospective employer is making decisions which are discriminatory.

For example, questions you should not be asked include:

  • Whether you have plans to have a family in the near future.
  • Whether or not you are a member of your union.
  • Your religious or political beliefs.

This could be a sign these factors have a bearing on their decision making. If an employer chooses not to hire someone because they are planning to get pregnant, are a member of a union, or are of a particular religious belief, this is unlawful.

If you suspect you may not have been successful for a job because of a discriminatory reason, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

How to find out about work culture?

Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether or not your new employer shares your values and is open to offering a flexible working environment.

It is a good idea to find out about these things before you enter into a new contract with a new company, and resign from your old position.

One of the ways you will be able to get an honest idea about the culture of a new employer, is to ask some of its existing or former employees.

There are a number of websites where you can find employee reviews of a potential future workplace - its culture, management and other important indicators - which will give you an insider’s view.

Another way is to ask to see a copy of the employer’s flexible working and parental leave policies if these issues are important to you.

However, you should be aware, that an employer’s workplace policies are not usually enforceable against the employer.

If you want to ensure that benefits which are included in policies are contractually enforceable, you should get legal advice on any amendments that may be required to your employment contract.

How do I find out about if there’s a gender pay gap?

One of the most important indicators as to whether a workplace is a good place to work, is whether or not it is taking measures to combat the gender gap.

The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, makes it compulsory for employer with 100 or more employees to report on gender equality metrics (save for the Commonwealth Government and the governments of States and Territories).

If your prospective employer fits into this category, you can look up its reporting data by searching for the name of the organisation here.

What are your rights as an employee for flexible working?

Most employers will have their own policy when it comes to flexible working. But, regardless of that, some employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Specifically, s65 of the Fair Work Act says that an employee may request changes to their working arrangements in various circumstances including:

  • If you are a parent or have responsibility of a child who is of school age or younger.
  • If you are a carer.
  • Have a disability.
  • Are over the age of 55.
  • Are experiencing violence at home.

The request for flexible working arrangements must be in writing and must set out the reasons for the requested change.

Importantly, this section of the Act does not place an obligation on an employer to make those changes. Rather, an employer is obliged to consider those changes, and are only permitted to refuse them “on reasonable business grounds”. 

An employer is obliged communicate a decision within 21 days of the request.

In a post-COVID-19 world, denying working from home requests will be more difficult because, many employers have allowed their employees to work from home due to lockdowns.

It will be more challenging now for an employer to argue that working from home is incompatible with its business requirements in circumstance where its workforce has been working from home for a considerable period of time.

The great resignation is empowering employees

The Great Resignation is shifting power towards employees as employers are having to compete harder for talent.

In the past, employers held all of the power in negotiating new contracts of employment at the commencement of the relationship. If you would like advice about how to best navigate these negotiations, you should get in touch with Maurice Blackburn to obtain this advice.

It is always better to negotiate important clauses in your employment contract before signing, as it will otherwise be too late.

While salary and benefits packages can be easy to find, it can be worthwhile asking questions about work culture to satisfy yourself, your next step on the career ladder is the right one.

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