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How do you save $13,100 on your employment bill this year?

Feedback raises the possibility that there is a substantial wave of post-lock-down personal grievances about to hit employers and go through the Mediation and Employment Relations Authority pathway.  Most are about issues that occurred during the national lockdown, but it is likely that some might be pre lock down.

A recent Employment Relations Authority decision permitted an employee to submit a personal grievance 14 months after his alleged unjustified dismissal due to the absence of a mandatory employment relations clause in his individual employment agreement.  This is way outside the 90 day limit.

We can help you avoid these likely costs of a grievance and save money this year.

Employment NZ report that the average employee compensation awarded was $13,100 for the  71 personal grievance claims before the Employment Relations Authority & Employment Court under section  123(1)(c)(i) of the Employment Relations Act 2000, during the period of July-December 2019.  This figure was slightly lower than an average of $13,300 for the 68 cases heard for the 6 months from 01 January to 30 June 2019.

These figures only showing settlement amounts and do not take into account meditation and legal fees or the time employers have lost in dealing with issues.

So how do you save $13,100 on your employment bill? The first step is to contact an expert to review your current employment contracts to ensure you are compliant.

The 5 Traps that organisations can fall into

  • Shoot the Guilty B…
  • Make up your mind to early based on insufficient information
  • Don’t follow due process
  • Don’t try to fix the problem
  • Don’t give the employee any opportunity for input

1.            Shoot the guilty B….  

In the heat of the moment, it’s very easy just to try and deal with an employment issue as quickly as possible. It’s easy just to say “Look I found what the problem is and I’m addressing that straight away.”

This can apply even if there hasn’t been an incident and you’re dealing with an ongoing performance related problem or a personality related issueIt’s very easy to finally reach a breaking point and see somebody that you don’t like having at work, and decide they have to go!

Tunnel vision means that you become focused on dealing with that particular individual and moving them from your organisation.

2.            Make up your mind too early based on insufficient information. 

Again, in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to make a decision just based on “The facts” that you have.  Speed is important to deal with the situation and move the person out of your organisation.

You rely on the past to colour your view of the person and yet you only tell the employee what is wrong right now.

3.            Don’t follow due process

A number of organisations have quite complex disciplinary processes and yet it’s easy not to follow those. 

Emotions get the better of good judgement and process.  Your imperative is to get rid of the problem employee.

4.            Don’t try to fix the problem

If you have a performance related issue or even a personality conflict in the workplace, you have to use a reasonable and fair process of working through the problem and giving the employee a chance to either perform to the required standard or to remedy the personality issue that is causing you concern. 

Some employers find that hard.  They think that just moving an employee on and finding another employee will solve the problem.

5.            Don’t give the employee any opportunity for input.

If an incident occurs at work and you believe the employee has caused that incident, it’s very easy to ignore the need to seek their input. What really happened at work?

Five ways that we can help organizations

  • The best way but we can help is to give you a little bit of time and breathing space and reassurance that an expert is involved.  If you are dealing with a performance or a personality issue where there isn’t the threat of immediate violence or a major health and safety issue, in most instances you have some time to deal with that.  When we get involved, it gives you the reassurance that you have an expert involved.
  • The 2nd way that we can help is to give you expert advice based on a risk management approach.  There are always a number of ways to deal with issues.

We keep you on track to follow a procedure that is fair and reasonable.   A process where you are complying with any written policies or statements that you have.   We will keep you on board with your own company HR policies, disciplinary statements in your individual employment agreement and of course the latest NZ employment legislation. 

You cannot subvert those rights and we can give you advice to make sure that that is the way that you proceed on the first step to dealing with an issue.

  • The 3rd way that we can help is to develop the standards of performance and behavior that you want as a base for the employment of staff.   It has been our experience that a number of employers employ people, but while they have clear expectations about what they should perform, don’t set these out clearly.

We can sit with you and if need be your employee to give you simple statements about what you expect at work.

For example, if you expect an employee to hand in their timesheet on Monday by 9:00 AM to make the Tuesday payroll processing deadlines, we can provide a simple statement about this. 

It might be that you would expect a certain standard of greeting for customers as they come through the door.  You might want customer service staff to follow up all customer inquiries within 24 hours of arriving at your organisation.

Writing these down can help your relationship with the problem staff, but also all staff in your organisation.

Whatever your standards are, it is important that you set these out.  You don’t need a book, but you must be very clear in both quantity and quality about what you want employees to contribute to your business.  If your business has only two or three employees, each employee is critical to making the bottom line.  How they contribute should be spelled out and what you expect them to do.

  • Incidents – we can help you interview people who are being involved in an incident at work.  Carrying out an employment investigation can be daunting, yet we can do it quickly and economically.  We are independent so we can get to what really happened.

We are used to providing a comprehensive interview process to get to the facts as much as can be established.

  • Advice and decision-making.  Our role is to advise you on the way that you proceed based on a risk management approach.  It is your final decision, but you will know what the risks are.

The pros of seeking expert advice

  • It’s our job to stay on top of employment law changes.
  • It’s more cost-effective – especially as you pay per project.
  • Your company gains specialised expertise – at a fraction of the cost.
  • It is quick.
  • You keep your focus on what is vital – your organisation’s operation.

Taking action (and how we can help)

If you find yourself in the position of not being able to navigate a grievance process and need expert help in ensuring your companies compliance to avoid unnecessary employment costs, we offer our services on an “as required basis” where no fixed costs are charged.

If you would like to talk, please contact Steve Newby on 0212621035; steve@newbyhr.com

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