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VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter: January 2018

Is workplace romance ever good for business?

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and, with love in the air, there’s every chance cupid could strike at your business.

Many people spend more hours in the workplace than anywhere else so it’s not surprising romance occasionally blossoms between co-workers. In fact, a survey by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed 43% of HR staff had experienced an office romance.

There can be an upside for your business when colleagues start dating. Couples who fall in love at work collaborate well and are more understanding of the challenges they each face in their roles. They’re likely to approach work with enthusiasm and a positive attitude – both of which boost productivity.

But, it can also be problematic when co-workers become romantically involved – especially if the relationship is between a supervisor and their subordinate. Perceptions of favouritism can upset other team members, causing them to feel unhappy about the relationship and reducing productivity.

While all workplace romances have the potential to generate sexual harassment or discrimination claims, the risk is higher between supervisors and subordinates.

According to SHRM’s survey, 99% of workplace romance policies ban relationships between supervisors and their direct reports. And 45% forbid relationships between employees of vastly different rank.

Of course, when a workplace romance ends, the former couple still has to work together. The person who didn’t want the breakup might struggle to perform or even show up. They might behave inappropriately or choose to resign which is disruptive for your business.

It’s clear that a romance between colleagues, whether fleeting or long-lasting, can unsettle your workplace. Yet research reveals only 12% of company managers receive training on managing workplace romances. So what can you do if you’re concerned about how a workplace romance might affect your team dynamic?

A good starting point is to give all your employees the tools to negotiate the good, the bad and the downright ugly of workplace romances. Training for managers and a carefully developed code of conduct can make life easier for you and your team. Contact us for help on this delicate issue.

Don’t let small workplace spats lead to big pay-outs

Ignoring little workplace spats can have big consequences, especially if you run a small business. A recent case before the Fair Work Commission highlights the need to nip small workplace disputes in the bud before they escalate.

In this case, a café employee, Phillip Coffey, referred to his boss as a ‘racist bitch’. A colleague overheard him and reported his comments to the boss, Marii Stanley and the business owner, Kristie Foreman. At a later date, Mr Coffey was told there were no more shifts available for him.

According to Mr Coffey, the comments came after he had already emailed a complaint to Ms Stanley and Ms Foreman about the ‘cultural exclusion’ he felt was occurring in their workplace.

Mr Coffey advised that the Eastern European employees, who shared Ms Stanley’s background, received preferential treatment. He complained that they often spoke to each other in Estonian, which excluded English speakers like him from participating in the conversation.

Mr Coffey lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission and was awarded $3,898 plus superannuation. Fair Work Commissioner Michelle Bissett ruled that sacking Mr Coffey was an overreaction.

She said that he used language that “can at best be described as inappropriate and unprofessional” and which “warranted some reproach and warning”. But she was “not convinced they warranted dismissal”.

Ms Bissett acknowledged Mr Coffey contributed to the frustration Ms Foreman experienced over the dispute. However, she felt the business owner had not managed the issue properly, early on.

The best way to avoid or manage workplace disputes is to develop a clear code of conduct for your business.

3 HR trends expected to shape 2018

If you want your business to have a healthy, happy, more productive workforce with lower staff turnover, pay attention!

Based on their latest research, global HR think-tank, Reventure has predicted three overarching HR trends for 2018:

Health & well-being
With 25% of Aussie workers choosing improved well-being over perks, it’s clear that feeling better at work is a priority. For 85% of workers, combating workplace stress is considered an employer’s responsibility.

New technologies
Small businesses seeking to make wages savings could trigger an increase in automation-related redundancies.

Purpose and meaning at work
44% of Aussie workers and 77% of millennials said a sense of meaning was important to their well-being. This is one of the top reasons people change jobs.

Reventure believes the key to improving your workplace lies in making changes that deliver genuine long-term benefits to your employees. In other words – avoid fads and focus on outcomes your workforce cares about.

5 steps to help you manage a bullying claim

When an employee claims they’re been bullied through their performance management, you have to take it seriously. A thorough investigation is required before any further action is taken – especially termination.

It’s important to follow these 5 steps.

  1. Acknowledge receipt of the complaint and advise the employee that an assessment is being conducted. Clearly explain the process.
  2. Treat the performance review and the bullying claim as two separate issues.
  3. Determine whether an investigation is required – including whether the claim, if substantiated, would be deemed bullying.
  4. If proceeding with an investigation, don’t use the manager involved in the claim – pick someone independent. An external investigator is even better.
  5. Follow your investigation policy and procedures. Keep a paper trail and be consistent.

Don’t risk a visit to the Fair Work Commission. Get expert advice on managing employee performance. Contact us today.

Is there room for more diversity in your recruitment practices?

How diverse are your hiring practices? Australian businesses are being urged to recruit with diversity in mind, as statistics show the employment gap for Indigenous Australians is widening.

The Close the Gap initiative created in 2008 hasn’t reduced inequality between the numbers of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the workplace. Research suggests the scheme underperformed because it lacked clarity and failed to adequately involve Indigenous community members.

Going forward, the government may consider implementing quotas and constitutional reform to compel businesses to improve diversity. Norway adopted this approach to address gender bias in company boards. Although controversial at first, it’s been highly successful in increasing the number of women on boards.

Does diversity feature in your approach to recruitment? If you need help to review and update your recruitment practices, get in touch.

47% of Aussies return to work wanting a new job

If you’re hiring, here’s some good news. According to research by Seek, many workers are contemplating job changes in 2018. Here’s a snapshot of their findings:

  • 47% of Aussie workers are thinking about a new job – with 38% focused on moving up the career ladder
  • 24% want a similar role in a different company
  • 23% are seeking a complete career change – of these 39% plan to undertake further education to help them achieve that goal

Job sites in Australia are expecting a huge boost this January. Call us to learn how our recruitment services can help your business.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter December 2017

Sacking by text is bad news for everyone!

If you need to dismiss an employee, the message from the Fair Work Commission is clear. Don’t do it by text! The Commission has ruled on several occasions that sacking by text goes against good practice.

In March this year, a specialist tour company sent an employee a single text message that read, ‘Your services are no longer required.’

The company believed the woman was running her own business during working hours. They claimed she told them in January 2017 that she hoped to start a business. But on her LinkedIn profile she was listed as a Personal Concierge and Lifestyle Manager for her business from December 2016.

The company claimed her behaviour at work changed and she increasingly stepped outside the workplace to take private phone calls. The woman denied any misconduct and filed an unfair dismissal claim. The Commission found the dismissal was harsh, unjust and unreasonable stating:

“It was harsh because (the employee) had not engaged in the alleged misconduct. It was unjust because (the employee) was denied procedural fairness by (the employer) and was given no opportunity to defend herself.”

By taking a shortcut and sacking their worker by text, the company failed to:

  • Follow a process to investigate and verify their claims about the employee’s behaviour
  • Provide evidence to back up allegations of serious misconduct
  • Allow the employee an opportunity to defend herself against the claims
  • Inform the employee of the reason for her dismissal before sending the text

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Mark Stone AM said:

“Even with the benefit of a robust investigation process, it is a fundamental part of the unfair dismissal process to give the employee an opportunity to respond before any conclusive decision is made on disciplinary or dismissal action.”

The message to employers is clear. Have a process in place, complete a thorough investigation and gather strong evidence BEFORE you attempt summary dismissal.

We can assist in developing rigorous disciplinary and grievance policies to help you manage cases of suspected employee misconduct. Contact us on 1800 473 378.

Perth electrician foils employer’s GPS tracker!

A Perth electrician accused of putting his love of golf ahead of his $110,000 per year job, has lost his claim for unfair dismissal!

Last year, Aroona Alliance received an anonymous letter about one of its employees, Tom Colella. The letter stated Mr Colella had repeatedly been seen on the golf course when he should have been at work.

The company began an investigation. It discovered that Mr Colella frequently placed his GPS tracking device inside a foil Twisties bag to block its signal and mask his location.

They were unable to prove that he’d been spending work days on the golf course. However the investigation uncovered 21 occasions in the first half of 2016 when Mr Colella claimed he was at work but failed to swipe into his workplace.

He disputed these ‘fraudulent work claims’ by suggesting he’d merely used an alternative entrance that didn’t require a swipe card. Aroona Alliance determined that Mr Colella had been absent from work on at least three of the 21 days. He was sacked but filed a claim for unfair dismissal.

Commissioner, Bernie Riordan stated that Mr Colella ‘openly’ stored his work GPS device in a Twisties packet. As an experienced electrician, he knew this would interfere with the GPS and had acted to deliberately distort the tracking data.

The Fair Work Commission rejected Mr Colella’s unfair dismissal claim and ruled Aroona Alliance had given him a fair go.

While you can’t always eliminate dishonesty from the workplace, a staff handbook sets clear expectations relating to employee responsibilities. For help reducing your risk of employee disputes, speak to us today.

Performance ratings up 8% for every extra 10 hours of leave taken!

When you need to improve workplace performance, encourage your staff to go on holiday! According to accounting firm Ernst & Young, employees’ annual performance ratings increased by 8% for every additional 10 hours of leave taken.

If your business is quiet over Christmas, you might close for a fixed number of days or weeks. The average Australian only has five days’ holiday remaining at the end of each year. But, around 5.3m workers will take, on average, 8.3 days of enforced leave this Christmas.

Compulsory time off means some employees see their leave balances dip into the negative. This makes it harder for them to take time off throughout the year, and it presents a financial risk for your business.

One solution is to develop flexible working arrangements for your employees, so they stay refreshed and productive all year long. Get in touch to discuss how flexible working arrangements could benefit your business.

Research reveals best incentives to increase productivity

Have you wondered about the best incentives to increase productivity or encourage specific behaviours in your workplace? Getting it wrong can be costly and can cause the opposite outcome, leaving staff feeling unmotivated and less engaged.

UK print company, Purely Digital decided to poll workers around the nation to learn which incentives were most valued. Here’s what the survey revealed:

  • 39.1% ‘Small financial reward’
  • 36.9% ‘More annual leave’
  • 16% ‘Activity days’
  • 15% ‘Free product’

More money and leave are rewards that give workers greater freedom of choice, which could account for their popularity.

But, regardless of the rewards, does a short-term employee incentive scheme bring about real change or does it only produce short-term results?

If you’re looking to increase productivity and workplace engagement over the long-term, consider offering options such as flexible working. Ask us how to develop rewarding employee benefit schemes.

Staff money worries cost businesses $33bn in lost productivity

Although, ‘Christmas comes but once a year’, for some the financial hangover lasts longer than the festivities.

After Christmas, staff can feel worried and anxious about their finances as they face the reality of their seasonal spending.

This can affect their productivity and behaviour at work, or even their ability to go to work. AMP’s most recent Financial Wellness report reveals Australians experiencing financial stress lose 6.9 hours of productivity per week. And they miss four days from work each year due to stress-related illnesses.

If you want to support your staff and reduce the impact employee financial stress has on your workplace, why not consider:

  • offering flexibility on pay dates after Christmas
  • offering payday advances
  • talking to staff about practical ways your business can help them focus on work and worry less about money

As you head into 2018 – don’t forget your recruitment planning

As Christmas approaches, don’t forget about your staffing requirements for 2018! Adding this to your to-do list now can save you time and help you get organised for the new year.

Ideally, forecasting staffing levels and recruitment needs should form part of your business planning for each new year. It can also serve as a prompt to review your onboarding processes while looking for opportunities to improve or streamline them.

We can assist with recruiting and onboarding new staff. Why not give us a call? We’ll help you get the new year off to the best start possible.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter November 2017

Don’t flush money down the toilet – keep employee information safe!

Recent compensation paid to a teacher whose health information was revealed to her colleagues, is a timely reminder to all employers. Regardless of your intent, if you don’t adequately protect your employees’ personal details, you risk steep financial penalties.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training learnt this the hard way. They were ordered to pay $11,000 to a teacher whose health information was accidentally disclosed.

An acting school principal wrote a note during a call to a Department of Education legal advisor. The note contained short prompts relating to the teacher’s work history, request for a compassionate transfer and complex medical history. The teacher’s name wasn’t mentioned.

However, the note was later found in the staff toilet by another teacher who shared it with a colleague. Based on the information included, they guessed the employee’s identity and left the note in her pigeonhole. When she discovered it, she was so upset she left work and did not return.

The acting principal couldn’t explain how the note ended up in the staff toilet, so it was evident the information had not been properly protected. Consequently, through its employee’s actions, the Department was deemed to have breached Health Privacy Principle 4 under the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).

The case went before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. They ruled that the loss and subsequent disclosure of the health information caused the teacher distress, prevented her return to work and harmed her mental health. They ordered the Department of Education to pay her $11,000 in compensation.

This case demonstrates how failure to protect your employees’ personal information can hurt them and your business. Apart from financial penalties, you risk damaging the trust between you and your workforce. The flow-on impact to staff morale can be just as costly if it causes reduced productivity or an increase in staff turnover.

Our cloud-based application, HR Dept PeopleHub is the perfect solution to keep your employees’ information safe and secure. Contact us on 1800 473 378 to find out more or to arrange a demonstration.

Should paid parental leave policies contain compassion?

According to the Stillbirth Foundation, six babies are stillborn every day in Australia. This tragic statistic highlights the fact that stillbirth is a common social issue that could affect one of your employees. Sadly, when this happens, people who have been preparing for their new baby’s arrival are suddenly faced with organising a funeral instead.

When things go wrong for your employees, you want to be as supportive as possible. But you might not know what assistance to offer someone dealing with a loss of this magnitude.

It can be difficult to assess how to accommodate their needs and wishes, especially as everyone grieves differently. Flexibility is key. Some people will want to get back to work as soon as possible. Others will need a longer absence before they feel ready to return.

In times of high emotional distress, you might find it hard to discuss workplace practicalities. But you still need to manage your business and take care of the rest of your workforce. A clearly defined parental leave policy will enable you to start the conversation. It will help you and your employee to understand the support and return-to-work options available to them.

Employer-funded paid parental leave policies are often written with the sole focus of supporting new parents to care for their baby. The Stillbirth Foundation suggests these policies should include provisions for people who have lost their child to stillbirth. These inclusions would help align business-funded policies with existing government-funded paid parental leave schemes.

The HR Dept can help you develop comprehensive policies that make difficult situations easier to manage. Get in touch today.

Workaholics aren’t good for business!

A dedicated team with a strong work ethic is every employer’s dream. But an employee that seems to prioritise work ahead of everything else in their life risks burn out. That’s not good for them or your business.

People who never switch off from work will eventually become exhausted and unhappy. Despite long hours spent in the workplace they’ll struggle to be productive, which will cause them more stress.

If you have a workaholic in your team, here are 3 practical ways you can help them find some work-life balance:

  1. Encourage them to take their lunch break away from their workstation. If they make time to relax, they’ll come back feeling refreshed and energised.
  2. Offer them assistance with their time management so they can identify urgent tasks and prioritise accordingly.
  3. Remind them that although extra hours are sometimes necessary, this is only a temporary requirement – not a long-term situation.

It’s a dog’s life!

Last year, the Australian Veterinarian Association estimated there were at least 24 million pets in Australia. With many Australians believing their pets are important family members, should employees be allowed sick leave when their animals are unwell?

Last month, a judge in Italy said ‘yes’! An academic took her employer to court after she was refused paid sick leave when her dog was ill. Her lawyers argued the university’s policy permitted absences for ‘serious or personal reasons’. The judge decided the dog’s illness constituted a valid personal reason for the woman involved.

For many, the idea of using sick leave to care for animals is controversial. Ultimately, the expensive tribunal in Italy could have been avoided with clearly defined policies and a touch of compassion.

Call the HR Dept for help in developing policies and handbooks to avoid controversy and tribunal hearings.

An unfair dismissal claim happens every 3 minutes

Every day in Australia, 127 unfair dismissal claims are made against employers – that’s around one every three minutes.

Alarmingly, a Fair Work Commission report reveals Australian employers defending an unfair dismissal case have a success rate below 40%. It’s never been this low before!

Unfair dismissal claims always outnumber other Fair Work Commission applications, but the number of claims has never been so high.

Recently, several controversial decisions by the Fair Work Commission have gone against employers who believed they had valid grounds for dismissal. But, it’s clear any employer who terminates an employee must comply exactly with the Fair Work Act. Otherwise, they risk an unfair dismissal claim.

Our HR Solution comes with an insurance policy designed to protect your business from possible employee claims resulting from disciplinary or grievance procedures. Contact us to learn more.

AECOM introduce flexible work hours to return lost talent

How often have you watched talented employees walk away from successful careers to focus on their families? Now, global infrastructure giant AECOM has launched a flexible work scheme to entice them back.

AECOM chief executive for Australia & NZ, Todd Battley said there is a significant pool of talent who have stepped away from the industry because they were unable to nurture their families and their careers at the same time.

Commencing in 2018, AECOM’s pilot program offers flexibility to new and existing employees across Australia and New Zealand. Their term-time contracts include 12 weeks of school holiday leave!

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter October 2017

Do you have a social media policy?

Have you heard the old saying you should never discuss politics, religion or money in polite company? A modern adaptation of these cautionary words would probably include, ‘on social media or in the workplace’.

The sacking of a Canberra-based employee who posted her opinion about marriage equality on Facebook shows that employers can and do take notice of their staff’s social media activity.

Most employers research a potential new hire’s social media accounts as part of their recruitment process but tracking existing employee social media use is a huge task. Often, controversial posts are only discovered when an employee shares them with their colleagues.

The Canberra sacking has attracted national attention because of Australia’s ongoing marriage equality debate. However, when an employer perceives their business and/or their reputation has been damaged by an employee’s social media activity, they’re likely to react strongly and dispense some harsh consequences.

Sharing political or religious views in the workplace might not reach the same audience but it can also cause upset and disruption.

Of course, we are entitled to hold different viewpoints to our colleagues and employers. But it’s not appropriate to engage others in debates, or worse, arguments about these topics at work. It can result in people feeling bullied or harassed if they hold conflicting views. It can also negatively affect workplace harmony and productivity.

In some industries, employees receive a financial benefit from their employer for using their own device for business purposes (such as a mobile phone or laptop). Often, the user’s activity is then monitored to ensure they aren’t sharing any sensitive material.

Recently, a young banker was fired when messages he sent via a dating app on his own phone were read and deemed inappropriate by his employer. Once again, this case demonstrates individuals can be held accountable by their employer for behaviour outside the workplace.

When you have clear policies in place to manage social media use, it’s easier for employees to understand what’s appropriate and act accordingly. For help with your employee social media policy, talk to us.

Childcare strike emphasises need for flexible work arrangements

Childcare union, United Voice, estimates 10,000 families were affected last month when childcare workers went on strike to highlight their poor pay conditions. Parents were forced to make other arrangements or leave work early as childcare centres closed their doors at 3.20pm.

While parents and carers were given notice of the planned industrial action, many struggled to find emergency childcare alternatives. The strike demonstrates the need for employees to have access to flexible working conditions.

According to Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman, requests for flexible working arrangements form part of the National Employment Standards (NES).

This means employees who care for children of school age or younger can request flexible working arrangements. These requests can only be refused on the basis of ‘reasonable business grounds’.

For assistance in developing family friendly and flexible workplace policies, employee contracts or handbooks, talk to The HR Dept.

It’s too damn hot – why we need to talk about menopause

With around 46% of the Australian workforce now made up of women, more consideration is being given to menopause-related health and well-being issues. There has even been some debate about introducing menopause leave.

It’s controversial. However approx. 17% of women in the workplace are over 45 which means many will be struggling (or soon will be struggling) with the unpredictable and sometimes debilitating symptoms of menopause.

By introducing simple changes such as providing employee education, flexible work practices and access to fans and cold water, employers can help these women maintain their physical and mental well-being while at work.

Payroll Fraud – Are You at Risk?

A recent court case revealed Sally Woodall, a former payroll manager, regularly and repeatedly committed payroll fraud. Over a combined period of nine years, she stole $737,000 from her employer but her offence was not discovered until after she left the organisation!

Woodall is now facing three years in jail but, in addition to losing the money, her employer, Hassell, also experienced reputational damage due to the media attention surrounding the court case.

According to Tracy Angwin from the Australian Payroll Association, while most payroll professionals approach their work with honesty and take their position of trust extremely seriously, payroll fraud regularly occurs in Australia.

Protecting your business from the risk of payroll fraud is challenging. You want your payroll staff to work efficiently without feeling they are under suspicion. Here are 4 practical tips to help you.

1. Recruit staff carefully – don’t rely on a solid looking résumé and good references alone – Woodall had both! Payroll staff may have access to your funds and your employees’ bank details. Ask for a police clearance before you engage any new payroll professional.

2. Develop thorough payroll processes and procedures – this will ensure your payroll personnel understand their role and responsibilities when preparing and managing the payroll.

3. Implement robust checks and balances – reviewing the payroll should be more than a box-ticking exercise. There should be another person who checks the details and they should have a sound understanding of your payroll process.

4. Outsource your payroll – engage an independent payroll specialist to manage your payroll requirements.

The HR Dept offers cost-effective solutions for managing every aspect of your payroll. Call us to explore your options.

Bigger fines for employers after Victoria amends OH&S laws

Employers in Victoria will now face hefty penalties if they flout workplace health and safety laws after the state parliament passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The Act has increased fines – up to $38,000 for individuals and up to $190,000 for corporate entities. These fines relate to significant safety breaches such as failure to preserve the site of a serious accident or failing to report an incident to WorkSafe.

Victorian Minister for Finance, Robin Scott said, “It’s our priority to protect the health and safety of all Victorian workers and to support them if they get injured. Safety must always come first.”

While the majority of employers are dedicated to prioritising employee well-being, managing your State’s complex safety laws is challenging.

October is National Safe Work Month, so it’s the perfect time for you to assess your safety policies, procedures and practices. Need some safety management help? Contact the HR Dept.

Global Leaders in Workplace Diversity

CEOs in Australia and New Zealand are more likely to have Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategies than their global counterparts.

According to a worldwide survey of over 2000 senior executives conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates, 60% of Australian and New Zealand companies are focused on creating a diverse workforce. Globally the average is just 47%.

Further research has shown diverse teams that include people of different ethnicities, genders and races are more likely to perform well. However, implementing Diversity and Inclusion policies can be tricky for SMEs. Here are 3 tips to get you started.

1. Lead by example – when leadership teams are actively engaged in D&I initiatives, they are more successful.

2. Understand diversity – diversity includes race, culture, community, gender and LGBTI.

3. Get professional help – to build D&I into your recruitment and staff retention strategies.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter September 2017

The place of employment references in SME businesses. 

Let’s face it, we all ask potential new staff members for a reference. However, when it comes to giving a reference for a past employee, a business does need to be aware its obligations and risks.

Providing a fair and accurate assessment of an employee should be foremost in the mind of the referee. It may be tempting to give a past colleague a glowing report but if the report is inaccurate there is potential to leave the business exposed. The same can be said for a maliciously negative or damaging reference that cannot be supported by objective evidence.

A question arises as to whether a reference is a right of current or past employees. In general, employers are entitled to exercise an option not to provide a reference. This approach by-passes either providing a false-positive or negative reference and potential liability to the worker or potential employer. There are only limited circumstances where an employer is obliged to provide a reference. Generally, where a worker, in the absence of a reference, is unlikely to find employment, the courts may rule that the right to a reference is implied.

Before providing a reference ensure:

  • Statements either positive or negative can be supported by examples
  • Use neutral comments where necessary; thus allowing the interviewer to form their view
  • Consider omission rather than providing false-positives
  • Avoid any response where worker safety may be at risk
  • Remember that you too expect accurate references
  • Provide good judgment and accurate information, do not hype, exaggerate or denigrate a former employee when the reference call is put through.

Follow these simple tips to minimise business exposure and avoid potential problems.

How good is your onboarding

According to some sources, a total of $A47bn is lost annually in the UK and US on unproductive employees who don’t understand their job. After a quick online search of poor onboarding, it’s easy to see why. We came across one lady describing how, when she arrived at her desk on her first day, she was immediately told to visit HR to sort out paperwork… in a different building. When she got there, they didn’t even have her name on file!

One employee stated how they were escorted to their desk without being introduced to anyone or shown around. Another described an onboarding session consisting of the owner talking non-stop about themselves – for eight hours.

For a meaningful employer-employee relationship, it’s important to take time to settle new starters. And don’t forget to tell them what their job is! Need help with onboarding? Give us a call.

Tidy desktop, Tidy mind 

Let’s consider clearing out our digital space. Do you have spreadsheets gathering cobwebs on your hard-drive? Are your Microsoft Windows in more need of a clean than the windows of your premises? Maybe your computer desktop is cluttered beyond belief with files? One way to dust your digital space down is to switch your HR files to our neat and tidy HR Dept PeopleHub and PayHub. This cloud-based system intuitively sorts out much of your HR admin, freeing you up to deal with other things.

Catching out the great Australian tradition of the “sickie” 

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently ruled that a former employee of Tassal, who was terminated for calling in sick after drinking too much alcohol on Anzac Day, be awarded more than $8,000. FWC found the termination was valid however she was treated harshly, resulting in the settlement.

Possibly there has been no more famous excuse for a sickie than after Australia won the Americas Cup in 1983, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke said, “any boss who sacks a worker for taking the day off tomorrow is a bum”. It’s uncertain how many people relied on this as a defence.

Some may recall this, again from the 1980s. A man requested and was granted time off to attend his grandmother’s funeral. The problem came about the next day when his picture, in a rowdy state with several mates, appeared on the front cover of The Telegraph. His boss was most surprised but not as much as his very much alive grandmother who was heard to quote Mark Twain saying “Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”.

Now it’s social media catching people out too. A barman who took two sick days around New Year’s Eve was sacked after the boss saw a Facebook photo of him celebrating the occasion. Or Sydney call centre worker Kyle Doyle who made headlines after his boss caught him bragging on Facebook about chucking a sickie, with an email exchange between the two going viral.

However, amusing as these anecdotes may be, the reality is that the great Australian Sickie is extremely disruptive for the business and unfair on the other staff that have to pick up the extra workload. While there are no reliable statistics on unjustified “sickies” overall employee absenteeism is estimated to cost the Australian economy $33 billion in lost productivity.

Most people who ask for time off when sick have a genuine need, however, the introduction of return to work sickness interviews and measuring tools, as well as training managers on how to use them, can lead to a significant improvement in reducing “sickies”.

Workplace Body Language – Recognising Stress

Alan Pease is Australia’s definitive body language expert; writing numerous books and giving many an introduction to the science of Body Language.

There are some staples that everyone can pick up on. Eye contact, fidgeting and a favourite, the handshake: the power-projecting crusher grip, the wishy-washy dead fish or the intimate double hander.

Body language cues can help managers in other ways. Some can give you an indication that staff are suffering from stress, even if they won’t tell you directly.

An eyelid twitch, hair loss and changes such as acne or recurring illness, can all be signs of underlying stress. Notice them early and you could intervene before an employee reaches breaking point, thus reducing their suffering and disruption to your business. Many of these warning signs are quite personal, so it’s crucial to handle them sensitively. For guidance on dealing with stress in your workforce, speak to The HR Dept.

Gone to Lunch 

Do you or your employees take an actual lunch break? If the answer is “No” you are not alone. Apparently, the average lunch hour now only lasts about 26 minutes and almost half of workers take less than 20 minutes (at their desks). Making such sacrifice equates to losing 19 days’ pay a year. The motivation is obviously to get more done – not enough hours in the day and all that – but is it a false economy? Do the costs outweigh the extra time gained?

There are undoubted benefits to taking the time to have a decent lunch break. Experts say that eating the right foods like oily fish, whole grains and avocado can boost afternoon brainpower, while some downtime away from a desk helps to sustain concentration. Worth reflecting on next time you consider your office culture.

VIEWCLOSEExpand panel 'People Matter' Newsletter: People Matter August 2017

Joint responsibility for employment practices on the horizon for franchisors and franchisees

There are 79,000 franchise units in operation in Australia with a whopping 470,000 people employed within the sector. That’s a lot of small businesses and a vast amount of employment practice to get right, and unfortunately many franchisees in many franchise systems have fallen way short of the mark.

So, the Senate has recently been debating the Protecting Vulnerable Workers Bill which aims to provide mutual responsibility, with Franchisors to be held accountable for franchisees’ conduct regarding employment practices.

The Bill has come about due a number of high-profile cases involving franchise businesses underpaying workers. If the bill passes un-amended franchisors will be held liable for the breaches committed by their franchisees “where [they] should reasonably have been aware of the breaches and could reasonably have taken action to prevent them from occurring” likewise franchisors will be held accountable where their business model leads to bad employment practice.

Take the much publisised 7-Eleven case; according to former consumer watchdog, Professor Allan Fels, “The [existing]Fair Work Act system just imposes fines and very limited compensation on the individuals whose cases are considered. But the court system works quite badly for systematic underpayment of thousands of people”. While 7-Eleven’s head office was not held responsible for the conduct of its franchisees that had underpaid workers, it volunteered to repay workers what they were owed in back pay. Fels went on to say “The far stronger deterrent effect for others is if they know they have to make up the underpayments in full – in this case $110 million plus, compared to if they just have to pay a fine.”

If you are a franchise owner your franchisor will be looking to limit their liability and may start to expect a lot more from you in terms of your compliance and reporting when it comes to your employment matters.

In reality, franchise owners should be ensuring they get this stuff right anyway, whether the franchisor wants evidence of it or not! It is the right thing to do by staff and the business. If you want to get ahead of the game before this bill passes, get in touch for a free HR health check today.

Science of seating plans 

How much thought do you put into where employees sit? If the answer is not much, then you could be missing a trick. Mixing things up can have a dramatic effect on productivity. Flexi-desks, also known as hot desks, are one way to ensure that people do not get too cosy in established spots.

However, if you want to get more scientific, research from Cornerstone On Demand – a US-based consultancy – will be of interest. They categorised workers into three camps:

1. High productivity, low quality

2. Average productivity, average quality

3. Low productivity, high quality

They found that if you sit 1’s and 3’s together it helps them bring out the best in each other – improving quality in 1’s and productivity in 3’s. The same benefit was not seen in 2’s, so they are best seated together. They found that adopting this method could lead to a significant 15% boost in organisational performance. Worth investigating!

What’s causing the absence?

It’s essential for a well-run organisation to manage absence effectively, and often helpful for employees’ well-being too. However, the cause of absence may not always be down to the employee.

When examining absence data, it’s helpful to look for patterns beyond the behaviour of individuals. For example, do people from one team display more absence than average? That could point to a bad line manager, causing absence through poor management technique.

Where this, or other factors, might be the underlying cause, the quicker it’s identified the better. We run training courses on managing absence. Get in touch for more information.

Employers recount the worst interview

A recent Reddit post asked employers to reveal some of their most painful experiences with interviewees. And the results might astound the most seasoned of hiring managers. We selected some of our favourites to highlight just how interesting the world of HR can get!

One manager asked a candidate, “What would you do if you had a conflict with another co-worker?”. The applicant responded with an anecdote about how a previous co-worker had had an affair with his then-girlfriend and he’d had to encounter him every day at work and “resist beating his ass”. The candidate then felt the need to follow this statement with, “I mean, I got him outside of work, but I never touched him at work!”.

Another hiring manager reported the downright brashness of one candidate who said, “You guys would be lucky to have me. Google is trying to recruit me too!”. The manager promptly wished him the best of luck at his job at Google.

During an interview for a restaurant position, one candidate was asked to give an example of his leadership abilities. The candidate replied by telling the interviewer how, in his previous job, he disliked the head chef so much that he organised the kitchen staff to walk out during the Friday night rush. There’s no denying this shows leadership qualities – but maybe not the right kind!

The hiring process can be just as frustrating for those on either side of the table. If you need advice on how to avoid car crash interviews, contact The HR Dept.

A Coffee a day means productivity is here to stay

Want a 7% increase in productivity? Get a coffee machine! That’s according to Survey Partner ONE. And there are plenty of other indications that coffee can be the lifeblood of the workplace:

It fights off sluggishness – It’s well-known that caffeine is a stimulant that enables employees to remain focused for extensive periods of time.

It can lower the risk of depression – Of course it is a serious condition, but a Harvard study found that women who drink four or more cups of coffee per day have a 20% lower risk of developing depression.

It improves employee relations – A chat over a coffee is the perfect way for employees to develop good relationships – and that’s according to MIT.

It could even maintain integrity – Fortune reports that employees are less likely to adopt unethical practices if they are awake and alert

 Flexible working 

Working from home is a great perk. Although sometimes we can get distracted – perhaps the TV or the cat wanting to be fed.

Several millennials believe they do their best work outside the office. Flexible working has also become an identifier of a good employer, demonstrating their compassion for employee needs – particularly for those with families or a difficult commute.

You may be a little anxious about introducing flexible working, due to the potential for your staff to push the boundaries of their freedom.

But, having a consistent approach in line with your documentation is recommended. Also, keeping in touch regularly, allows you to identify if any changes to the arrangement are needed.