What if you could anticipate – and avoid – your next HR debacle?
Outdated policies and inadequate documentation can cause even the strongest companies to stumble when it comes to HR issues.
Have you thought about the risk to your business and asked yourself questions like these:
- When was the last time you updated your employee handbook?
- Are you sure the employee handbook covers everything it should?
- Is your screening process for potential new employees robust and appropriate for your business?
- Does your onboarding process ensure your new employee gains the right knowledge at the right time?
- Are the personnel folders for your employees compliant with legislation?
- Have you audited your payroll system and then checked your wages for compliance?
- Do you have the appropriate process to exit an employee?
Mistake #1 – Forgetting to update your employee handbook
The employee handbook provides a firm foundation for your overall business. It’s more than a how-to manual for how work is done. It’s a living document where policies, procedures, working conditions and expectations are defined.
Whether you have an outdated employee handbook or none at all, these are examples of what you may want to include:
- Statement of company culture
- Expectations around attendance and what to do when absent from work
- Professional conduct expectations
- Code of Conduct
- Policies for social media, communications, leave, privacy, performance improvement, discipline, termination of employment, workplace health and safety (including psychosocial safety).
- Workplace Behaviours policy (incorporating bullying, anti-harassment of any kind, victimisation)
Employee handbooks can help avoid misunderstandings with your workforce and minimise the risk of claims to the Fair Work Ombudsman. Many claims occur because of inconsistent application of processes or a lack of clarity around expectations.
Employee handbooks can provide expectations for the conduct of your workforce and create a framework to guide management – helping to ensure policies are enforced appropriately and consistently.
Mistake #2 – Lack of documentation for performance-based dismissal
Having candid conversations with employees who aren’t performing well isn’t easy. Documenting these conversations is important, especially when dismissal is the end result. You need a performance improvement policy where the aim is to improve the employee’s performance. Where behaviour is the issue, a robust discipline policy is what will support this process. Either process provides employees with an opportunity to improve and also provides supporting information when the decision is made to dismiss the employee.
If you don’t have documentation that shows a pattern of poor performance or bad behaviour and how it was dealt with, you are at risk of a claim for unfair dismissal or adverse action.
Mistake #3 – Mismanaging Employee Data
Managing employee personnel folders can seem time consuming. But proper employee recordkeeping can help keep you in compliance with regulatory requirements. Personnel folders should include:
- Job application, resume, referee comments
- Employee details including contact details, bank and superannuation account information, next of kin
- Driver licence number where a licence is required for the position
- Employee agreement, addendums etc
- Disciplinary / performance matters
- Pay details including industrial instrument (award, enterprise agreement, award-free).
- Training records and information on where needs to be renewed etc.
- Employee handbook acknowledgement.
- Leave for whatever reason (annual, personal/carers, long service, family & domestic violence etc).
Mishandling this information ranks high among inappropriate HR practices. Managed improperly and/or being accessed by people who should not have access could put an employee at risk and your company in hot water. You should have protocols for collecting, storing and maintaining your employee’s information.
Workers compensation records should be kept separately as an employee does not have a right to access them… however, they do have a right to access their own personnel records.
In addition to having a secure system, you should conduct an audit of employee personnel folders to ensure they are thorough and up to date.
Mistake #4 – Outdated interview and hiring processes
There’s a lot to consider when trying to avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate human resource practices – including hiring new employees. Your interviewing and hiring process needs to be deliberate, purposeful and consistent.
Here are some factors to consider when hiring:
- Skills – does your new hire possess the basic skills to carry out the job functions. What soft skills do they have / need – e.g. negotiating, persuading or emotional intelligence?
- Job experience – what is their job experience? How has what they’ve done in the past going to benefit your business in the future? How much training will they need?
- Education – do they have the education necessary to perform the duties?
- Team relationship – can they work alongside others, if needed, to reach a common goal? How will they fit in with the current team?
You also need to be aware of the questions you can’t ask during an interview – e.g. are you in a same-sex relationship? How old are you? What’s your ethnic background? What religion are you? Are you pregnant or planning to start a family? Who do you vote for? Do you have a physical or mental disability?
In the interview, asking questions that can help you spot potential red flags is key to a successful hire. It also allows you to know if the candidate would be a good fit with the team. You should also cover these topics in your referee checks.
Mistake #5 – Lack of job training
For employees to grow and help your business achieve its objectives, they’ll likely need professional development somewhere along the way. This can range from helping employees develop skills (e.g. Microsoft 365) to providing tools and training to become a great manager.
Unfortunately, lack of job training is one of the most inappropriate human resources practices that businesses fall into.
Training begins during onboarding when an employee joins your business. Proper onboarding training sets the right expectations and can prevent issues later. You’ll want to introduce your company culture, mission, vision, values and expectations.
Within your workforce, you might also find employees you want to develop into the company’s next managers. One big mistake small businesses make is promoting workers without adequate management training. You can’t just take that outstanding employee and drop them into a leadership role. Here are some skills they will need to be successful:
- Team building
- Conflict resolution
Mistake #6 – Unclear company policies
Clearly defined HR policies are fundamental to your company’s success. They protect your business and educate employees about what is expected of them, what they can expect of the business and what is not permitted.
If your employee handbook (including employee acknowledgement) clearly outlines the policies listed in Mistake #1, you are less likely to have processes inconsistently applied by management and your employees will have a clear understanding of your expectations.
Mistake #7 – Disregard for employment laws and regulations
Keeping up with employment law and industrial relations legislation can be overwhelming. However, ignoring compliance has the potential for costly litigation and penalties. Here are some key areas where keeping track is essential.
- Fair Work Act 2009 and subsequent changes
- Industrial instruments (modern awards, enterprise agreements and/or non-award employees)
- National Employment Standards (NES)
- State-based child labour legislation
- Workplace Health and Safety
- State and Federal anti-discrimination legislation
- Respect @Work legislation
- Bullying legislation
- Sex discrimination legislation
- Disability discrimination legislation
If you would like enhanced insight so you can be more proactive when it comes to managing your human resource and people management policies and procedures, contact Akyra for an obligation free conversation to discuss your queries and/or concerns.
Akyra’s Key Takeaways
- An outdated or nonexistent employee handbook can lead to misunderstandings and legal issues. Ensure your handbook includes important information like company culture, attendance expectations, professional conduct, policies for various areas, and workplace behaviors. Keeping this document up-to-date can help prevent HR problems.
- Documenting conversations related to employee performance and behavior is crucial. Having a performance improvement policy and a discipline policy in place can help you address issues methodically and provide supporting information if dismissal becomes necessary. Without proper documentation, you risk legal challenges related to unfair dismissal.
- Mishandling employee data or not complying with data protection regulations can lead to serious problems. Maintain well-organised personnel folders with necessary employee information, and conduct regular audits to ensure compliance. Employees have the right to access their personnel records, but certain information, like workers’ compensation records, should be kept separately.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.