What’s the tea

Settle down and get comfy because I’m about to spill some tea.

Tea Spill GIF - Tea Spill The GIFs

Last month I was visiting a friend and we were all chatting, her husband, who works for one of the bigger employers in town, was telling me how the organisation had sent out an employee feedback survey.

The workplace has quite a low morale, pays are low compared to the rest of the industry and there are quite a number of FIFO workers. The sentiment amongst the residential workforce in general is that the big bosses are more concerned with putting profit over our community.

So the crews are assembled in the meeting room and management start discussing the terrible feedback from the employee survey and they ask if anyone would like to make a comment on the issues (let’s not lose sight of the fact that these types of surveys’ sole purpose IS for employees to make a comment – this is information they already have).

Silence………. nobody speaks a word. Then finally a voice pipes up “People are too scared to say what the issues are” discussion ensues and a couple of people, respectfully, share their input.

The meeting ends and those who spoke up are pulled aside and given a bollocking for what they said.

😳🤔 Do you think they get the irony of their actions?

Anonymous employee surveys are an excellent way to gain insight into the workplace culture, employee morale and what you are doing both right & wrong – as long as the organisation, and by that I mean management, is mature enough to accept the good with the bad and take action to make meaningful changes for the better.

All too often you see companies invest heavily in “yay team” training sessions or social activities in an effort to improve culture while failing to address the real issues.

Organisational culture is accepted behaviour, not expected behaviour

Culture flows from the top down

A strong & positive culture comes from strong & positive leadership. Words don’t change a culture. Displaying company values around the premises & in communications, or imprinting mugs, mouse pads, note pads, or key chains with the (company’s) values might be nice reinforcement, but these things do not define or change a culture.

Culture change comes from concrete and noticeable changes in leadership behaviour: what they do; who they hire; who they ask to move on; who they listen to and emulate; where they spend their time; what they talk about in meetings; what they measure; how & where they invest their $$.

When you listen to employees talk which pronoun do they elect to use when talking about the company? “We” or “They”? “They” suggests disengagement and at its worst, alienation.  While “we” suggests that employees feel as though they are part of something meaningful and significant.  They are engaged, productive & proud employees.

Do people want to work for your company and what do they write about you online? High turnover & finding it hard to attract quality talent (or keeping them) is a sure fire sign there is something wrong within your organisation, or within a particular department.

Going back to my story at the beginning of the post, I did a Google search to see what employees had to say about their experiences working there, here are snippets from the 5 most recent reviews;

“Your Employees Matter Too, Not Just Shareholders”

“Over worked, under paid and no real sense of being appreciated”

“Only management and share holders matter workers are nothing”

“The people working there are essentially good shame about the management”

“Upper management being very detached from daily struggles in the working environment and low pay rates”

Ouch! Now think about my reference to the FIFO workforce, the Kalgoorlie mining community is small and bad news spreads fast, the FIFO community draws from a much bigger pool. The number of FIFO onsite kinda makes sense doesn’t it?

Want to learn more about workplace culture? You can find more blogs here, here & here.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day

Simone Pickering | The People & Culture Office

IT’S TIME FOR HR TO MOVE BEYOND POLICIES, PRACTICES AND PROCESSES. THE PEOPLE & CULTURE OFFICE CAN PARTNER WITH YOU TO GAIN A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE THROUGH PEOPLE & CULTURE INITIATIVES CONTACT US TO ARRANGE AN APPOINTMENT TO DISCUSS WHAT SOLUTIONS WE CAN PUT IN PLACE TO DRIVE ACHIEVEMENT OF YOUR STRATEGIC GOALS.

Rethinking social media at work

Employee Instragram | HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office Kalgoorlie

Posting inappropriate memes. Instagramming lunches. Facebooking a few office selfies. Browsing instead of working. Snapchatting Sharon trying to fix the printer.

These are the events companies imagine will takeover the work day if they let employees use social media on the job. Unfortunately, for businesses that ban the use of social media in the workplace, it is likely your employees are using it regardless of your policy (after all, thanks to smartphones we all have access to Facebook, Insta & Snapchat 24×7 without reliance on the work internet connection). Instead of wasting time and energy policing social media use at work, lets take a look at how business can leverage it to their advantage.

Social media use for marketing, communication or customer services purposes is no longer the new shiny thing, it’s been here for a while and it’s here to stay.

Recently Sonia from Scribe & Social wrote this post on Elevating your Social Media, click through to learn how to create an authentic voice for your business.

When I think about the case for social media in the workplace, there are many opportunities to leverage these tools as we become a more mobile and visual workforce that is literally always on the go. Social media is poised to become the office and workplace productivity tool of choice. I see 5 genuine categories where social media can be used at work helping to improve productivity, work flow and overall communication between teams, managers and business leaders who are tasked with reaching an audience of employees who are overwhelmed, disengaged and bombarded with tasks and responsibilities more than ever before.

  • Distribution and Communication. You want to reach your audience quickly and through multiple channels to ensure that the message and information is received and mostly absorbed by your employees.  Workplace by Facebook is a tool to connect employees via IM, video chat and groups to share work related information. I was lucky enough to take a look at it in practice at a local business in Kalgoorlie not long ago and was impressed by how they were using it as a communication tool. However, social media, just like any other comms tool, quite simply, will work for some businesses and not for others. It depends on the culture, the demographic and how much you can invest into it.
  • Recruitment and Hiring. Employers should look to their current workforce first to fill job openings. What better way that setting up social media or digital communication channels for employees to receive job openings to their mobile phones via instant message, direct message or by text. Social media is also a great source for engaging candidates externally. So while we are on the subject, take a look at your business Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram pages through the eyes of a potential employee, a potential employee who’s likely to be a Millennial. Do you like what you see? Is your content a good mix of sharing what you do and a touch of the personal? Does it speak in an authentic voice? Does it speak to your demographic?
  • Research and Personal Development. Social media such as Linkedin allows you access to peers, experts and individuals providing you networking opportunities, insights into experiences and most importantly personal development.
  • Employee Recognition and Engagement. Do you give out quarterly awards for employees who go above and beyond at work? Tell your social network about it! Not only are you giving a very public shoutout to the employees in question you are actively showing employees & visitors to your pages you value your employees & the work they do. Content sharing can be really powerful for spreading your message, your employees are likely to have connections that sit within your target demographic. If you can identify the active social employees within your business and recruit them to become social media champions, they can have a huge impact on sharing content to build your brand & following.
  • Employment Branding. Social media and recruiting has evolved into almost a science where candidates are reached through campaigns just like your business marketing, except this strategy is focused on the job seeker long before they apply for a job and become a candidate. Employment branding is complex like most marketing strategies and involves an understanding of the candidate you are trying to reach, your industry and geographic locations as well as experience working in HR and recruiting. I’ve written more about employment branding here and here

The most important thing to consider with social media, is that you will only get out of it what you put in. It’s really important to listen to the conversation taking place and find ways to engage your employees, by creating and sharing relevant content.

As use of mobile technology rises, it is important for businesses to give content human appeal and make the message sound genuine. Social media isn’t rocket science but you have to try things out until you find a way that works for you.

It’s time for HR to move beyond policies, practices and processes. The People & Culture Office can partner with you to gain a competitive advantage through people & culture initiatives Contact Us to arrange an appointment to discus what solutions we can put in place to drive achievement of your strategic goals.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day

Simone Pickering | The People & Culture Office

BASED IN KALGOORLIE, THE PEOPLE & CULTURE OFFICE IS AN INDEPENDENT HR CONSULTANT WHO CAN PARTNER WITH YOU TO OFFER A ONE STOP HR SOLUTION, WE ONLY CHARGE YOU FOR THE WORK WE PERFORM; NO CONTRACTS, NO ANNUAL OR MONTHLY FEES, JUST QUALITY SERVICE. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Why employee benefits should be on your radar

Indulge me if you will

Let’s pretend you are looking for a new job, you’ve just been for 2 interviews for comparable jobs. Both jobs are great, the companies appear great, your potential new boss come across as great – everything was great. Great, great, great.

Employer A discussed salary and benefits; flexibility with hours – yep sure it’s 12 hour shifts and the work is dictated by the client but if you want a few extra days off here and there to go away it’s no drama, they understand you want a life. They also offer salary packaging, discounts on everyday items like gym membership and a monthly lunchtime BBQ if you’re in the workshop. HECK YEAH!

Employer B only offers a salary, don’t get me wrong it’s a very, very competitive salary so you ask a few questions to try and get an idea of how they stack up against Employer A. “You mentioned that quite often you work 14 shifts on 2 shifts off, can you request extra unpaid days off to have a better break” “Only if you book it as annual leave well in advance because we can’t really afford to not have people at work” hmmmmm, “Do you offer any extra benefits at all?” “No” End of conversation.

Which job would you choose?

The dynamic of the workforce is changing, the days are long gone when employees expected very little from their employers except for their wages at the end of the week. 

These days, increasing numbers of skilled employees expect a lot more from the companies that they work for. With many companies offering impressive perks and benefits for their workers, the pressure is on for businesses of all sizes to up their game and to offer something more to their staff than simply the satisfaction of a job well done.

In-fact, millennials, more so than any other group, prioritise access to additional benefits as a driving factor towards choice of employer, and before you chalk this up to yet another reason for you to (unjustifiably) hate on millennials consider this – millennials make up 50% of the workforce. You can no longer bury your head in the sand. The workforce is changing, you either change with it or ring the bell and get off the bus.

In Australia, employment opportunities remain strong and employers are grappling with a talent shortage, Australian workers enjoy a high degree of choice of employer. Quite often business owners & leaders can overestimate the loyalty of their employees, and their ability to source new ones if and when required, with a significant gap in perceptions of the employer – employee relationship. 

Numerous Australian studies reveal employees prioritise workplaces that offer benefits over higher salaries that trade off against additional perks. Big ticket items are a healthy balance to life; favourable working conditions & health & wellness benefits. Financial savings; discounts on everyday items, access to wealth creation strategies. And career development opportunities; access to relevant workshops / seminars / training and / or acting or promotional opportunities.

And now comes the sell, you may have received one of these babies in the past fortnight or saw it plastered it all over social media.

I am working on pulling together an Employee Benefit Program to assist my clients with the attraction and the retention of employees. What I was hearing & seeing from clients was the lack of ability to compete against the bigger employers in town with their deep, deep pockets. And quite often the salary on offer was comparable, if not equal to the big companies, but the the lack of capacity, for whatever reason, to match the additional extras hit their efforts hard.

So I’ve taken the guess work, and hard work, out of getting a program in place, and taking a proven, proactive measure against the hiring difficulties for small – medium businesses in the Goldfields.

I mean, after this who wouldn’t want to be my client!! 🤣 But seriously, the ability to participate in this program is reliant on you being an ongoing client of mine, so engaging me to implement your HR framework or implement a performance management program, a comparatively small cost for a potentially large return on investment.

If you are a retailer or service provider and you haven’t received the flyer as yet, and you love to join to have another avenue to drive sales to your business please contact me today! The more diversity & variety the program can offer the greater the chance of it being a success.

It’s time for HR to move beyond policies, practices and processes. The People & Culture Office can partner with you to gain a competitive advantage through people & culture initiatives Contact Us to arrange an appointment to discus what solutions we can put in place to drive achievement of your strategic goals.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day

Simone Pickering | The People & Culture Office

BASED IN KALGOORLIE, THE PEOPLE & CULTURE OFFICE IS AN INDEPENDENT HR CONSULTANT WHO CAN PARTNER WITH YOU TO OFFER A ONE STOP HR SOLUTION, WE ONLY CHARGE YOU FOR THE WORK WE PERFORM; NO CONTRACTS, NO ANNUAL OR MONTHLY FEES, JUST QUALITY SERVICE. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Is your recruitment strategy killer, or just a buzz killer?

Continuing on from our series of blog posts about Strategic Human Resources Management, this week we take a look at Recruitment & Retention Strategies. You can play catch-up with our previous posts here, here & here.

Right now, the reality for many businesses is that quality candidates, or just any candidates for that matter, are hard to come by. Whether that be because of a skills shortage, geographical location, that the vocation lacks a bit of “cool factor”, ineffective recruitment practices or the reputation of the employer; businesses approaching their talent acquisition efforts without having some sort of plan in place is an inefficient use of financial & people resources.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

Hiring the right candidate for a role has never been more important as Millennials and Gen Z rapidly become the cornerstone of the workforce. Their fluid and transient approach to employment is a far cry from the ‘job for life’ attitude of the Baby Boomers, and as a result there is a continual flow of employees. And it means organisations have their work cut out for them.

You have to have a killer Recruitment & Retention strategy in place in order to thrive in today’s hiring quandary. Business has to be proactive, not reactive, to overcome the big challenges that modern-day recruiting faces.

An effective Recruitment & Retention strategy should focus on 3 key areas; how you source candidates, how you recruit candidates and then the clincher – keeping them, we drill down into this a bit below:

Create a (healthy) culture & brand – All companies need a strong identity & a part of that is cultivating a positive workplace culture. And it’s about showing this off to potential employees. Use your social media & website as your companies CV. Build a brand online & tell people about yourself, sell yourself as somewhere people will WANT to work. Want to read more on workplace culture? Click here. Looking for info on building a brand? Check out this post.

A killer digital strategy – Attracting candidates today is largely based on digital marketing. Create a strong digital campaign to showcase your brand and what it can offer for employees, use your social media accounts to leverage your message and to widen the net.

Make it easy for people to apply – People can be put off by a tedious or long-winded application form and drop off can be high on digital applications that ask too many questions that aren’t relevant.  Number 1 candidate bugbear is to have to basically copy & paste from their resume into the online application process. Also consider if the position really needs the applicant to address a 10 point selection criteria, yes they can be effective for more specialised roles to gain an insight into the candidates level of knowledge prior to interview, but if your HR department can’t determine a great administrator or labourer just by reading the applicants resume then there is something very very wrong. How long is your lead time from advertising – interview – offer? Drag your heels and you’ll not only miss out on that great candidate but turn people off from applying again. I’ve written some super informative blog posts about the recruitment process here, here, here

Make them want to stay – OK, you’ve got them through the door but what strategies are you engaging to make them want to stay? And it’s not all about dropping some serious coin; what opportunity are you offering employees? Are you helping them develop their skill & capacity? Do you offer the tools for them to do their job safely? Are your leaders the right people for the job? check out this blog on retaining top talent, and this one on employee recognition to learn more.

The strategy should also contain the following core aspects:

Growth Plans – In order to scale up your workforce, you’ll need to hire – which takes time and resources; identify which areas of your business will benefit most from increased headcount.

Skills Audit – Use your business objectives to identify developing areas of the business, then decide on the skills you will need to succeed; Your recruitment strategy should include ways to find and bring new skills into the company

Flexibility – Your strategy should include a plan for temporary staff and contractors to cover projects that are likely to change at short notice

Finding the right person for the job doesn’t need to be a difficult task. It’s just about having the right strategies in place to make it as streamlined as possible. The People & Culture Office can partner with you to develop your people & culture strategies to drive business success. Contact Simone today for further information.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day

BASED IN KALGOORLIE, THE PEOPLE & CULTURE OFFICE IS AN INDEPENDENT HR CONSULTANT WHO CAN PARTNER WITH YOU TO OFFER A ONE STOP HR SOLUTION, WE ONLY CHARGE YOU FOR THE WORK WE PERFORM; NO CONTRACTS, NO ANNUAL OR MONTHLY FEES, JUST QUALITY SERVICE. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

In celebration of International Women’s Day

I spent the ’90s in my 20’s and was fed the “you can have it all” message on a steady stream from womens magazines. From Cleo to Marie Claire the message was the same, the modern woman is a superwoman; kids, career, a home lifted from the pages of Home Beautiful. It was all there for the taking and there was an expectation you would.

Never a shrinking violet or raised to be subservient I embraced the message with gusto, I had my boys at 20 & 22, built our first family home at 21 and was promoted to my first senior position at 23. As far as the rhetoric was concerned I had it all.

Around the turn of the millennium I started to revolt on the message, much preferring the “you can have it all but not at the same time” message. Instead of killing myself to be the perfect wife, mother, homemaker I started spreading the load, my husband left his job with a local contractor that saw him work 15 hour days, sometimes for 40 days straight, for a position working an even time roster so he could spend more time with our children. Now upper primary school aged, our boys were taught how to use the washing machine & basic cooking skills. Everyone started to ensure our home life was more equal, and that’s what International Women’s Day (& feminism) is about – Equality.

International Women’s Day is a time for everyone, regardless of gender, to celebrate the progress women have made towards equality and to remember how much further there is to go. Male support, especially when men are prepared to use their privilege to support gender equality, is a welcome amplification of women’s voices. And remember, feminism isn’t just about improving the lives of women, it’s about dismantling ALL damaging gender stereotypes and roles. Achieving gender equality should be as important for men as it is for women. Greater work / life balance is about creating policies that benefit everyone, not just women.

Removing gender stereotypes at work is equally about negative stereotypes of males in predominately female industries such as nursing, hairdressing, care giving and childcare as it is vice versa with females in male dominated industries such as mining, science & technology and mechanical trades.

Equality is an issue for everyone. It’s a societal issue built around how workplaces and job roles are structured; the gender stereotypes our children are fed via our beliefs, the toys and games they play and media imagery they are presented with. The shift starts with you.

So grab a cuppa (or wine) & settle in to read what a bunch of amazing women have to say about IWD.

Footnote – my intent with this post was to have equal amounts of males & females from a variety of age groups sharing their thoughts or experiences as they relate to International Women’s Day. Well, you may have noticed a distinct lack of males in the 30+ age group, and it’s not from lack of trying. When I put the call out to half a dozen or so males it was done thinking that these males, whom I’d so respected within the business world, shared a desire for equality, they were all in senior roles, they all had females in their teams, never once in my interaction with them was I given pause to believe they held slightly sexist views. And here-in lies the problem, you probably got to the stat about the gender pay gap remaining virtually unchanged for the past 20 years and thought, WHAT THE HECK! WHY? HOW? Well when the change needs to be made at the top first and fed down as a cultural shift from our business leaders, and business is predominately led by males aged 30 + age group , and then you consider that 100% of my admittedly small sample size of the population declined to write something, then you start to see why.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day

BASED IN KALGOORLIE, THE PEOPLE & CULTURE OFFICE IS AN INDEPENDENT HR CONSULTANT WHO CAN PARTNER WITH YOU TO OFFER A ONE STOP HR SOLUTION, WE ONLY CHARGE YOU FOR THE WORK WE PERFORM; NO CONTRACTS, NO ANNUAL OR MONTHLY FEES, JUST QUALITY SERVICE. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

It’s gonna take money, a whole lot of spending money

The People & Culture Office

Just incase I drew you in with my clever use of a George Harrison lyric, you can read the first 2 blog posts in this series here & here. This week we are going to look at Compensation & Benefits * queue a chorus of groans from all the bean counters out there *

According to a recent Employment Hero report 63% of employees say that remuneration is one of the top 3 considerations when selecting a new role. But it is not the make-or-break factor it once was, when it comes attraction and retention of employees additional benefits such as flexible work arrangements, training & development, salary sacrifice, reward programs & perks such as free snacks (🐷) go a long way to singling your business out as an employer of choice.

How an organisation pays and rewards its people has a big impact on its ability to attract the best talent, ensure that they are challenged and motivated and whether or not they will stay with your organisation. One of the first steps in making this happen is to develop a remuneration strategy.  The objective of a remuneration strategy is to support the overall organisation strategy, the HR strategy and the desired organisational culture. 

A successful compensation & benefits strategy will ensure that you are able to recruit the right people, with the right mix of skills, to ensure that your organisation can meet its business outcomes. To be effective, the strategy needs to consider the internal relativities between roles; the organisational needs & values and the external market.

Without an experienced HR professional in place to create a strategy SME’s can struggle with not only putting together a total compensation package, but, benchmarking a base salary that is competitive in the current market. The most fundamental stage in the overall management of remuneration is to ascertain what is an appropriate rate or amount to pay employees, and to ensure that this process is fair and objective whilst taking into account factors such as the industrial instrument, market availability of the relevant skill set, fairness & objectivity and whether the organisation links pay to performance.

The organisation’s structure, the market in which it operates, the culture, its position in the organisation’s life cycle and taxation to mention a few areas all impact on the strategy for the organisation. For example; a charity is unlikely to have a strategy with a high base salary, instead offering a base salary in the 25th – 50th percentile range in-conjunction with FBT free salary sacrifice arrangements or other benefits it can offer for free or at very low cost for the organisation.

Organisations also need to consider where they want to position themselves in the salary market – does your organisation want to be highly competitive? or rather, does your organisation want to be in the medium range of the market, but able to offer other non-monetary benefits such as working from home or flexible start / finish times? Where you position yourself can depend on both internal and external factors. For example:

  • capacity to pay high salaries
  • demand for, and scarcity of, skills now and in the future
  • competitors; and
  •  other pressures e.g. turnover, difficulty in attracting talent etc.

On that note, organisations are only as successful as their approach to hiring the right people, setting clear expectations, managing performance and recognising and rewarding employees for a job well done. If you would like a compensation & benefits strategy to tailored to your specific business needs contact Simone today.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day 😂

HR Strategies & Planning | The People & Culture Office

BASED IN KALGOORLIE, THE PEOPLE & CULTURE OFFICE IS AN INDEPENDENT HR CONSULTANT WHO CAN PARTNER WITH YOU TO OFFER A ONE STOP HR SOLUTION, WE ONLY CHARGE YOU FOR THE WORK WE PERFORM; NO CONTRACTS, NO ANNUAL OR MONTHLY FEES, JUST QUALITY SERVICE. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Stop ghosting your candidates – the vlog

HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

I love recruitment, out of all the HR functions it’s my favourite, I tell people it’s because it’s mostly a positive experience, you know, up until you have to tell someone they were unsuccessful for a job.
A lot of companies and recruiters deal with this by just not getting back to candidates, whether by the old “only shortlisted candidates will be contacted” or just obvious ghosting, but what damage are they doing to their brand in doing so?
Want to learn more after watching the vlog? Read Stop Ghosting Your Candidates here.

Like what you see? Click around and discover how partnering with us can give your business a competitive advantage by aligning strategy with people & culture, or, give us a like on Facebook for regular updates on industry trends, blog posts & photo’s of me having coffee at my regular haunts and / or my dog & cat disrupting my work day 😂

BASED IN KALGOORLIE, THE PEOPLE & CULTURE OFFICE IS AN INDEPENDENT HR CONSULTANT WHO CAN PARTNER WITH YOU TO OFFER A ONE STOP HR SOLUTION, WE ONLY CHARGE YOU FOR THE WORK WE PERFORM; NO CONTRACTS, NO ANNUAL OR MONTHLY FEES, JUST QUALITY SERVICE. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Constructive dismissal; what is it and have you been guilty of it?

Employee Working Contract| HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

“It would be a good idea for you to leave before we have fire you” “Times are tough and everyone needs to take a pay cut of $20,000 per year” “Tamara keeps complaining that Karen is bullying her, I mean that’s just Karen, we all know that, Tamara should just leave if she can’t handle it” “We need to change your work days & hours, I know you’ve said before you can’t work these days because you can’t get childcare but we need to make the change regardless”

Constructive dismissal, or forced resignation, is when an employee has no choice but to resign because of the conduct of the employer. The employer may expressly ask the employee to resign, or the employer’s conduct may leave the employee feeling that he or she has no other choice but to leave their employment.

This conduct generally involves an employer engaging in a serious breach of the employment contract or indicating that it no longer wishes to perform its side of the employment contract. This can include taking actions to make unauthorised variations to the employment contract such as extreme pay-cuts, demoting the employee, dramatically changing their working hours or relocating the employee. It is irrelevant that the employer’s insistence on the employee’s resignation was based on good intentions, for example to save the employee from embarrassment, or, to make it easier for him or her to find future employment; or whether the employer intended or anticipated that the employee would quit their job.

It is not always evident that an employee has resigned involuntarily. It is therefore essential for you, as an employer, to review the events leading up to an employee’s resignation. For example, if an employee resigns in the ‘heat of the moment’, they may argue that they felt they had no other option but to resign. Where a resignation is given in the heat of the moment or under extreme pressure, special circumstances may arise. An employer may be required to allow a reasonable period of time to pass and / or the employer may have a duty to confirm the intention to resign if, during that time, they were advised that the resignation was not intended.

Whether a principal contributing factor in the termination of the employment relationship was an act, or failure to act, on the part of the employer always depends on the individual circumstances of the case. Some examples of constructive dismissal can include:

  • where an employee resigns because he or she is told to resign or he or she will be sacked;
  • where an employee is subjected to ongoing sexual harassment or discrimination;
  • where an employee is subjected to systematic humiliation, verbal abuse or put-downs and adequate proof of this treatment is available;
  • where there is a serious and ongoing failure to provide a safe and healthy workplace, the employee has notified the employer of the problem and there is no improvement;
  • where an employer actively campaigns to force an employee out of work by acting in such a way as to make it impossible for the employee to continue to do his or her job and adequate proof of this treatment is available; and
  • where an employee has been demoted and the demotion involves a significant reduction of the remuneration or duties of the employee.

A clear example of constructive dismissal is found in the case of Hobbes v Achilleus Taxation Pty Ltd ATF (the Achilleus Taxation Trust). Here, an employee resigned after he was paid under half of what he was owed over a period of 4 months. It was decided that it was clearly a situation of forced resignation due to the conduct of the employer, and therefore instead amounted to a dismissal by the employer.

A situation where constructive dismissal was found not to exist was in the case of Bruce v Fingal Glen Pty Ltd (in liq). This concerned an employee who resigned after the employer repeatedly paid wages late, and failed to make any superannuation contributions. The payment of wages were usually 1 to 2 days late, but on occasion were paid even later. The Commission found that while the employer’s conduct was improper, the employee was not in a situation where they were left with no other option that to resign. Therefore, the employee could not argue constructive dismissal.

A leading Australian case on constructive dismissal is that of Mohazab v Dick Smith Electronics. Mohazab was an employee of Dick Smith Electronics. During questioning about the disappearance of stock in the store the employee was told that he was to either resign or face a police investigation. A letter of resignation was prepared by the employer and given to Mohazab to sign. After this occurred, Mohazab brought an unlawful termination claim, and Dick Smith argued that Mohazab had voluntarily resigned because of his concerns regarding the police. The court decided that the decision to resign or face police investigation amounted to termination at the initiative of the employer. This was because Mohazab had no effective or real choice but to resign, and it was only because of his employer’s action that termination had occurred.

In a case published by the Australian Government’s Comcare agency, an employee developed a psychiatric condition following persistent bullying as a result of her being promoted to a management position in a restructuring move by her employer. The worker did not receive any management training prior to her appointment as team leader, and there was widespread bitterness in the team about the removal of the previous team leader. Several team members reportedly engaged in increasingly hostile behaviour towards the new team leader, including spreading rumours, disobeying requests, making offensive comments, being rude, and failing to help to the team leader when she was very busy and clearly required assistance. The team members then convened a meeting (too which the bullied employee was not invited), where a document listing complaints about the new team leader was drafted and given to the team leader’s manager. The manager accepted the document, and refused to intervene in any meaningful way when requested to do so by the bullied employee. The bullied employee sought assistance from other managers, who did not intervene, until finally she was forced to leave her position due to the development of a psychiatric condition. The bullied employee took legal action, where a judge found that the employer was negligent in its duties to create a safe working environment. It was found that the managers involved had the capacity to take action that would have prevented the damage caused to the bullied employee, but failed to do so.

The bullied worker received compensation of $339,722 at the expense of her employer as a result of psychological injury acquired in the workplace. This case demonstrates the clear need for employers to be responsive to bullying complaints so that these sorts of cases do not occur. Bullying is an issue that gets worse the longer it is left unaddressed.

All constructive dismissal cases make it clear that employers need to carefully consider their actions and their legal obligations when they decide they wish to be rid of an employee. There is rarely a low-risk shortcut that can substitute proper redundancy discussions or performance management.

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