Your business has grown and employed a number of additional staff members. With this growth comes the additional challenges of deciding which tasks/duties to outsource, and which ones to handle in house.
One of the most common for small business to outsource or ignore altogether is industrial relations.
Both in house and outsourced management of industrial relations have their benefits and drawbacks, though how do you decide which ones to handle yourself and which ones not to?
When To Outsource
Even though I am of the belief that any competent manager should be able to adequately handle a majority of industrial relations challenges, there may come a time where outsourcing it, is the best option for the company.
On one side of the coin, you have business groups, and those pandering to that agenda telling anyone and everyone who will listen how Australia’s unfair dismissal laws are restrictive and holding business back from employing more people.
Then on the other side of the coin are the unions and The Greens who say that the laws don’t go far enough to protect workers.
With both sides getting time in the press, who is the business owner to believe?
Penalty rates. If you believe business and industry groups, they are restricting employment, holding the economy back, and are responsible for businesses closing their doors on weekend and public holidays.
Are they really the big bad evil that they are claimed to be, or do businesses deal with worse things?
If they aren’t that bad, what can be done to manage them?
About Penalty Rates
Something that seems to be forgotten or overlooked in the propaganda battle is that penalty rates are a penalty imposed on a business for doing a particular task that is outside of normal operations. This could be working on weekends, working overnight, working in the rain, or even in extreme heat or cold.
Two of the things that are often seen to be in conflict with each other, and have been the subject of an unknown number of discussions, and unfair dismissal complaints.
These have both come to national attention lately with the comments and subsequent termination of former SBS Football Reporter/Presenter, Scott McIntyre.
While I am not going to repost or repeat his tweet here, SBS found the numerous tweets to be inappropriate and in breach of both their Code of Conduct, and Social Media Policy.
What makes this example interesting is that every backyard lawyer is coming out of the woodwork saying SBS is silencing free speech. Actually, there are even lawyers and barristers saying the same thing.
In the previous article I discussed what workplace bullying is, and gave an example of a behaviours that could be classified as workplace bullying.
With this piece I will go over a few things that your business can do to minimise the chances of one of your staff members falling prey to a workplace bully.
With workplace bullying being a high profile subject at the moment, it seems that every second day there is some major headline about it. Depending on who you talk to, Australian workplaces are either a breeding ground for workplace bullies, or a random occurrence.
Capitalising on that, there are some who claim that doing X, Y or Z will prevent workplace bullying from happening.
Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that while you are employing humans who are able to think for themselves, bullying in the workplace may happen, though there are steps you can take to minimise your risk to it.
Industrial Relations is one of those interesting areas where despite very little changing legislation wise, there is always something happening in it.
As industrial relations professionals, we need to stay abreast of these changes, and developments. One of the easiest ways to do this is through the use of technology.
With this in mind, and in no particular order are 5 essential tools that I believe every industrial relations practitioner should be using.
Ever since I discovered this app in 2011, I have been a full blown convert to it, and would be lost without it. The software is useable across all platforms and devices. Something that you start on your Mac or PC can be synced with, and continued on your smartphone/tablet.
Not only are there browser plugins that will allow you to clip webpages to be stored in Evernote, there are apps that will allow you to draw free-hand, and even a smart notebook from Moleskine that has been created with Evernote in mind.
With both paid and free versions of Evernote available, it won’t cost you anything to try it out. In fact, if you follow the link IRSimplified.com.au/Evernote, and install Evernote on you computer, you will get free access to the premium version for one month.
There is a never ending battle for supremacy in industrial relations in Australia.
On one side of the battle ground you have the employer associations screaming at the government that Australia’s restrictive workplace legislation is killing productivity, blowing out wages, and restricting growth.
They also claim that the current Right of Entry provisions give the unions virtually unrestricted access to their business.
On the other side are the employee groups, or trade unions, and they are screaming the opposite. The legislation doesn’t go far enough to protect employees from unscrupulous employers or enshrine job security. And that the Right of Entry provisions are too restrictive and don’t allow permit holders quick access to workplaces to protect members when things go bad.
Both sides claim that only by joining their organisation will you be able to protect yourself from the evil that will soon come.
And yet throughout all of this, the poor business owner/manager and employee are quickly forgotten. The reality is that they are nothing more than pawns in a popularity contest to see who holds the most influence with the government of the day.
Members Are Being Lied To
The cold hard truth of the matter is that both employer and employee groups don’t want their respective potential and current members to be able to solve their IR problems themselves, because if they did, they would soon realise that there is no point in staying a member.
Whilst they do provide a ‘service’ to their members in the form of a contact line to seek advice on their IR related issue. Actual advice on how to prevent it happening again is scarce or vague at best.
Both sides tell their respective members and future members, that Australia’s employment legislation is extremely complex, and it is only with their expert help that the average person will be able to understand it.
Steve Knott, Chief Executive of AMMA, when talking about the Fair Work Act 2009 stated “… for too long employers have battled an ineffective and uncompetitive workplace system that creates barriers and distractions to leadership, innovation and productivity.” That unions were “…forcing employers to process a phone book of union claims, effectively excluding any real opportunity to look at ways to improve the competitiveness and productivity of the business”. He goes even further to say that “The system also leaves employers under a constant threat of strike action”
Is he right, making misleading comments, or showing his lack of understanding of Australia’s employment legislation?
It should be noted that the comments above were made in support of the Fair Work Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill 2014 which is currently before parliament.
These terms are two of the most common ones used as ‘proof’ that the Fair Work Act 2009 is a failure.
Those on the industry side of the fence are all too quick to point out that because productivity is the lowest that it has been in a decade, and wages growth is high, that the Fair Work Act has indeed failed.
Has the Fair Work Act actually failed, or are they just scaremongering to increase public awareness of their brand/increase membership?
If the Fair Work Act has indeed failed, how much of this failure is the fault of industry?
I think they have short memories when it comes to the wages that they offered at the start of the mining boom. Bribing potential employees with the high wages to prevent a skills gap when mining took off.
There has been a bit of a discussion of late around the requirement for ‘independent workplace investigators’ to be licensed as Private Investigators under relevant security providers legislation.
Whist some within the IR/HR profession do believe that it is required, there are others who are not so sure, and some who steadfastly refuse to even consider the possibility. This is made even more confusing by the recent article by Josh Bornstein in the Australian Financial Review where he claims that the field of workplace investigations is largely unregulated.
It isn’t unregulated, there is legislation governing investigations, it just isn’t enforced.
Whilst it is my belief that in Queensland, workplace investigations fall under the Security Providers Act 1993 and that those doing the ‘investigation’ need to be licensed, he does raise some interesting points about the quality of the investigation provided.
Licensing requirements aside, there appears to be a bizarre level of resistance by those from a Human Resource/Industrial Relations background to obtaining the minimum standard of training required to become a licensed investigator.