Fair Employment Seperation

Made redundant or fired?

When contemplating firing an employee, proper process must be followed otherwise there is the real risk of the employer facing an unfair dismissal claim.

To avoid the risk, some employers use ‘redundancy’ as an alternative to firing. It’s quicker, sounds nicer and is less painful to all concerned but often has a very poor outcome as happened in a recent Federal Court case.

The employer had sought to argue to the court that their principal motivation for making the employee redundant was financial, in that the Division in which the employee worked was running at a loss. It was claimed that they needed to make the employee redundant to cut costs.

Previously, the employee had had an ‘impressive’ career, but there had been some tension between the employee and their supervisor. A number of written complaints, including two accusations of bullying, had been made by the employee about the supervisor’s management practices.

Unfortunately for the employer, there was some evidence of animosity and information was found on the supervisor’s computer confirming that he had already begun making preparations for the redundancy of the employee.

The Federal Court found the employer had breached the Fair Work Act, fined them $37,000 and ordered them to reinstate the employee. The Court’s conclusion was the employee had unfairly been made redundant…”at least partly because they had been prepared to exercise their workplace rights by making complaints about the behaviour of their immediate supervisor”.

In a final observation, the Court warned the employer that the employee could have been entitled to compensation of up to almost $2million if she wasn’t reinstated.

How do you find good staff?

For decades, the employment section of the newspaper was traditionally the way job seekers got connected with employers…but that doesn’t work anymore! Job seekers, especially young ones, just don’t bother looking there.

The job-hunting space has been taken over by web-based employment agencies such as Seek and myriad jobs boards in niche industries, colleges and universities. Social media in all its forms also offers opportunities for employers seeking staff. With some exceptions, 21st century technology has seen the demise of newspaper classifieds as the conduit between a job seeker and their next job.

On the upside, internet-based employee hunting is proving a cheaper and more efficient way of finding that ‘ideal’ person.

On the downside, it can mean that employers will receive a large number of applications from people who do not have the required skills or experience. Reducing the deluge of applications to a short list takes a lot of time and resources.

An alternative is the recruitment company. They have extensive databases of ‘good fit’ potential candidates which enables them to provide suitable applicants at short notice. Recruitment agencies can be costly, however, a benefit is the ‘suitability guarantee’ that usually comes with the successful candidate.

Another difficulty for employers, especially in very small businesses (2 to 5 staff), is the many hats that an employee in a small firm needs to wear. The ability to multi-task with reasonable efficiency is not everyone’s idea of a perfect job. Fortunately, there are many individuals who thrive on the stimulation of job variety rather than the fixed, clearly defined job role description that starts ‘here’ and ends ‘there’.

Generally, people who are comfortable multi-tasking and working across different roles, are the diamonds that small business is looking for to provide the necessary flexibility, so essential in small business.