Most workforces are comprised of adults and as such, we should be able to assume that they will conduct themselves in a manner befitting grown-ups. Right? Nope, not right. Unfortunately, you will always find that there are those who are willing and able to push boundaries, behave inappropriately and potentially endanger themselves or their colleagues. Sometimes it’s deliberate and damaging and sometimes it is a lack of understanding or naivete that causes the problems.
As a business leader, you need to be on the front foot with protecting your employees and your business from unacceptable behaviour. But how?
Laws, Laws, Laws
There are any number of laws in place governing most things that we do in life – including many that determine how we behave within the context of our work environments, as well as protecting both employer and employee rights. Discrimination, sexual harassment, annual and personal leave, workplace health and safety, superannuation, remuneration levels – the list goes on. You would think with all of this legislation, that there would be no further need to overlay anything else to ensure you have a healthy, happy, respectful workplace.
This is where policies become ever so powerful. They assist in reinforcing and clarifying the standards that are expected of all employees while also allowing employers to more effectively manage their people as well written policies will define what is both acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace.
Let’s look at something really simple. Everyone knows they are entitled to four weeks annual leave per year – it’s enshrined in legislation -but how do you manage requests for leave? Do they have to submit a form? Who approves the leave? Can multiple employees be on leave at the same time? Does your business allow for extended breaks when an employee has accrued a significant amount of leave? Is there a blackout period based on the needs of the business? What if you don’t have enough leave accrued and there is a shutdown?
Imagine being an employee and you have to guess the answer to all of these questions! You’ve probably already lived the reality that is being the manager that has to answer the same questions repeatedly. But get it all down into a well formulated policy that you make accessible to all in your team and you establish the expectations of the business whilst still protecting the rights of your employees. Everyone knows what is required of them when applying for leave, when the business is in shutdown, times that leave won’t be approved and expectations and behaviour are managed in advance of any problems occurring.
Covert Operators and an Unfair Dismissal
An unfair dismissal case heard by the Fair Work Commission in October 2018 underscores the need for clear policies that outline an employer’s expectation of employee behaviour. The case was based on the evidence of two covert operatives and whilst the idea of ‘covert operatives’ sounds very Black Hawk Down, they were simply employed to follow a suburban Armaguard random support officer (RSO) on one of his shifts. He was subsequently dismissed on the grounds that he:
Additionally, the FWC also determined that there was no evidence of reputation damage to Armaguard that the employee's failure to notice he was being followed was offset by evidence that road crew noticing such operatives was "extremely rare”. The result of the case was that the Commission determined that the report did raise "genuine issues that needed to be discussed", but a performance discussion should have occurred in place of immediate dismissal. The employer was ordered to reinstate the employee and restore his lost remuneration.
What we learn here is that solid policies defining the business expectations would have resolved this situation efficiently. With policies in place about expectations of behaviour while on duty and mobile phone use, the employee would have known what was expected of him and may have performed his duties to a higher level. Alternatively, had policies been established and communicated they would have supported Armaguard’s decision to dismiss the employee, saving them time and money in responding to the case.
Get it right from the very start
The process of inducting new employees should include providing your key company policies to help them adjust to their new workplace. Having these policies ready to go will help set your people up for success as they are quickly able to know the do’s and don’ts in their new workplace, acceptable and expected behaviours and their obligations and rights. Straight off the bat, your team will know what is expected and how you will respond if an issue arises delivering consistency for your business.
So you have written up your policies – or had the knowledgeable team from HR Staff n’ Stuff help you pull the applicable ones together that are in keeping with best practice and legislative requirements. Now what? Make sure you communicate them to your team. Ensure everyone knows what they are and where they can be found. You may choose to run a training session or introduce them at team meetings. However, you decide to launch them, make sure they are accessible and kept up to date. Policies are not a set and forget or they will be of no value to your business.
Naturally, if you need assistance establishing policies for your business – or updating your current one – contact the HR Staff n’ Stuff team as we are always here to help.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!