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General

Frequenty Asked Questions

General

General HR & payroll learning and information for Roubler customers and HR & payroll professionals.


What is candidate aptitude and ability testing?

The purpose of testing as a selection tool is to get an accurate picture of candidate levels of aptitude and ability in certain areas.

Selection tests may include:

  1. General ability tests which measure verbal, numerical, speed, spatial strength, coordination and perceptual skills.
  2. Specific aptitude tests (or work sample) such as technical accounting and finance specific knowledge and skills – these tests may relate to tasks, equipment, tools or technology specific to the role or organisation.
  3. Personality tests (also known as psychological profiles) which are designed to assess personality characteristics. These tests are often used in executive or leadership roles or those requiring personality traits suited to sales, negotiation, influencing etc.

As with interview questions it is important that the recruiter ensure the tests used are relevant to the role and will assist in identifying the right candidate for the role.

Employers must be careful in their use of such tests and in some cases, it may be appropriate for the tests to be formulated and administered with the assistance of HR and psychological science professionals skilled in this field. Issues associated with the reliability and validity of tests used need to be thoroughly explored to ensure they do not directly or indirectly discriminate against candidates.

The major advantage of using tests is that they may provide information that is not obtainable through any other selection technique, but the test should not be used as the only selection technique and it should complement other selection techniques used.

Conciliation in the Workplace

Conciliation is often used interchangeably with Mediation due to their similarities. Conciliation allows a more investigative approach. Such a process allows the third party to investigate employers once an employee has lodged a claim against them in relation to a legislative breach.

The Fair Work Commission is often used to a common form of conciliation. If parties have exhausted all efforts to resolve an issue, either on their own or with the assistance of a mediator they will seek to use conciliation.

Unlike a mediator, the conciliator will play a more active role in the conflict resolution process. They have the ability to provide assistance, encourage parties and to intervene where they feel they need to.

Workplace Mediation

MEDIATION
Mediation is a process whereby a third party is involved but not responsible for resolving conflict between two parties. The mediator is a neutral party who is used to manage and define the conflict resolution process. In other words they are used as a way to ensure that the parties involved ‘stay on track’ in resolving their issues.

The mediator will:

  • Ensure both parties remain focused on resolving the
  • Make sure all issues on the agenda are met and goals are achieved
  • Provide guidance to ensure the correct mediation method is enforced / followed
  • Clarify any grey areas
  • Assist in the decision making process and ensuring the parties come to a conclusion
  • Observe participants behaviours and feelings, and identify if any are causing roadblocks when trying to reach a conclusion in resolving conflict.

Typically, HR is involved in the mediation process as they are seen as the mutual force within an organisation. When HR is involved it’s known as internal mediation. There are instances where an organisation will involve an external third party to take HR’s place in the mediation process. This could be due to conflict of interest, HR not having the correct skill set or level of experience to handle the situation.

 

Performance Improvement Plans

PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLANS

Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) are a management tool used to assist performance improvement of underperforming employees or those employees who have demonstrated unsatisfactory behaviour and conduct in the workplace. PIPs should be implemented as a consequence of performance management/disciplinary counselling meetings or informal discussions with employees regarding their performance/conduct deficiencies. A PIP should not be issued to an employee without prior consultation of the worker and an opportunity for both parties to discuss and agree upon performance goals.

Essential features include:

  • PIPs should have a definite time-frame in which the employees progress/performance will be re-assessed to determine improvement or underperformance;
  • Clear, specific and realistically attainable goals should be emphasised e.g. employee to sign up 10 new customers per month;
  • Training of employees may be necessary to achieve performance improvement and should be included as a part of the PIP;
  • Regular meetings with supervisor to monitor progress towards goal achievement, provide support and ability to modify objectives where appropriate;
  • Re-assessment of performance at completion of PIP time-frame and management action accordingly.
  • PIPs should always be documented, including any progress meetings and the issues discussed therein and kept by the employer, copies should also be made available to employees for their records.

BENEFITS

PIPs are a useful tool for ensuring procedural fairness is observed when managing worker performance and provides benefits for both employees and their superiors. Used as a remedial tool when performance is deemed to be capable of improvement, PIPs provide employees with an opportunity to consciously work on their performance, to learn new skills and prove their commitment to their role and the organisation. A PIP combined with a formal disciplinary / performance management process is also used to put an employee on notice that if their performance does not improve in the designated time-frame in a specified way their employment could be at risk. For Managers, PIPs allow close monitoring of employee progress against specific standards within a set timeframe. This allows easier decision making in the future

and will assist in proving employees have been afforded procedural fairness if further disciplinary action or termination occur due to lack of improvement.

IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENT

When setting PIPs, it is important to keep environmental factors in mind as they will likely have an impact on the employee’s performance, albeit if even in a minor way.

External

Employers need to be realistic and consider the impacts of external forces when assessing employee’s contribution to organisational performance. Some examples may include:

  • The impact of the exchange rate on organisational performance;
  • The state of the national economy;
  • The state of the global economy;
  • Changes to government policy and funding / subsidies;
  • Increased competition;
  • Changing customer tastes and preferences;
  • Natural disasters and changes in level of supply of inputs; and
  • Changes to the laws regulating the industry etc.

Accordingly, employers need to fairly assess the likely cause for the underperformance / behaviour and refrain from taking rash action against employees for factors beyond their control.

Internal environmental factors at an organisational level may also have a bearing on how an employee is performing and/or their behaviour. Some examples may include;

  • New technology;
  • Department or organisation re-structure;
  • Job re-design;
  • Redundancies and survivor syndrome;
  • Organisational culture;
  • Conflict with other staff; and
  • Lack of clear goals set or misunderstanding of performance expectations.

PERSONAL FACTORS

It is also important to accurately assess the personal circumstances impacting upon an employee’s performance and/or behaviour in the workplace. These factors should all be assessed in the performance management / disciplinary meeting and discussed with the employee. For more information, please see the Template – Performance management meeting record.

Mapping Conflict in the Workplace

Mapping conflict is a method used by HR managers to better understand conflict. It’s common when trying to determine appropriate strategies in trying to deal with conflict. The idea behind mapping a conflict allows HR to mentally map the conflict in a way to better understand the following:

  • What is the conflict about?
  • Who was involved?
  • What stage the conflict has reached? Consider the following when mapping conflict.

Who

Understand who is involved in the conflict (directly and indirectly)

Needs

Determine the needs of those parties involved in the conflict

Values

Understand the values and beliefs which are important to each party and which they would be prepared to act upon.

Objectives

Define the objectives of each party and determine what they are wanting to achieve

Perceptions

Determine how the parties perceive each other and how they view the conflict.

Boundaries

Determine any negative implications or limitations for each party.

Expansions

How does each of the parties expand their views of the other.

Review

Ensure each party reflects and reviews their own attitudes and what do they need to change or act upon in order to help resolve the conflict.

Interview Techniques

Interviews are the most commonly used selection tool in the process of hiring new employees. An interview is a meeting (face-to-face, over the phone or virtual) with the candidate to ask questions in order to ascertain their suitability for the role. An interview can take a number of different forms from very structured through to the more informal and unstructured. Multiple interviews may be included in the selection process along with other selection techniques.

An interview provides the employer with the opportunity to gain additional information about the candidate about    their suitability for the role through discussion regarding their knowledge, skills and experience. It also provides the opportunity for the employer to assess things not able to be assessed from a curriculum vitae or application form such as behavior, fit for the organisation and personal qualities.

An interview provides an opportunity for the candidate to gain information about the organisation and the role they have applied for.

 

STRUCTURED OR DIRECTIVE INTERVIEW

A structured interview is one organized around specific questions and subject areas. The set questions do not vary between candidates interviewed except in response to candidate answers to the set questions (e.g. to request further information or clarification). Structured interviews are straightforward and seek information to assess the relationship between the applicant’s education, skills and experience and the job specification/description.

A structured interview will generally include an assessment or rating scale for use by the interviewers in quantifying the candidate response to the questions.

The advantage that a directive or structured interview brings is consistency. As all candidates in the process answer the same questions, it enables comparison by the interviewers of the candidates. Structured interviews are also easier to conduct for inexperienced interviewers and can be time effective in keeping to a set number of questions.

Structured interviews can be inflexible though and reduce the opportunity for interviewers to ask questions on areas which, while may not be covered by the interview, could provide invaluable information about the candidate and their ability to be successful in the role. The structured interview can be a less positive experience for the candidate too as it can appear one sided and may result in their reduced interest in the role.

Example questions for a structured interview

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to convey negative feedback to an employee about their performance. What was the situation? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  2. Tell me the switchboards you have worked with in your previous roles. What training did you receive on each? How long have you worked with each?
  3. What 2 or 3 words would your previous supervisors use to describe your work?

 

UNSTRUCTURED OR NON-DIRECTIVE INTERVIEW

Unstructured interviews are largely unplanned and guided by the interviewer based on the material introduced by the interviewee. The applicant tends to do the majority of the talking in an unstructured interview.

Unstructured interviews can mean the applicant is more relaxed and open providing less guarded or prepared responses and showing more of their themselves and their personality than can be achieved during a structured interview.

Unstructured interviews do require a more experienced interviewer in order to achieve what is required out of the interview process and be able to find points of comparison between applicants. Unstructured interviews are less controlled, and it may be more difficult to extract the pertinent evidence the interviewer is looking for to address selection criteria.

Example questions for an unstructured interview

  1. Tell me something about yourself
  2. Can you expand on that example?
  3. How did that make you feel? What did you learn from that?

BEHAVIOURAL INTERVIEWS

A behavioral interview is based on the competencies and behaviors required to perform the role. Questions tend to delve into specific life history events that give the interviewer insight into how the candidate would perform in the role. Candidates will be asked to give an example of a situation as they have experienced it and questions will be crafted around how the candidate responded in the situation, what the outcomes were and what they learnt from the experience.

Behavioral interviews allow the interviewer to look at the candidates past behavior as a predictor of their future behavior. The interviewer can probe the details of an example shared by the candidate. Behavioral interviews combine structured and unstructured interview techniques and allow the candidate to share examples from a variety of life experiences not just previous roles.

Behavioural interviews rely on the assumption that individuals repeat certain behaviour when faced with certain situations. An inexperienced interviewer may find it difficult to capture the pertinent points of the example the candidate shares and assess objectively.

Example questions for a behavioural interview:

  1. Describe a time in the past when you had to change someone’s mind about something. How did you go about it and were you successful?
  2. What has been the most difficult thing you have ever had to organise? What did you do?

PANEL INTERVIEWS

Most often used in larger organisation, panel interviews involve two or more interviewers questioning one candidate. Generally, the panel will include one or more HR representative along with the supervisor or manager of the role and other key stakeholders from the team or broader organisation. It is important that panel interviews are planned well to ensure each panel member understands their role and questions can be allocated accordingly.

Panel interviews can produce more unbiased and reliable outcomes as a consensus from the panel members is required, drawing on multiple opinions rather than just one or two in a standard interview.

A more informed view of the candidate can be gained through a panel interview as panel members can observe the candidate while other panel members are questioning or writing notes.

Panel interviews can be more costly and difficult to arrange with multiple individuals to coordinate times and dates. Panel interviews can also be intimidating to the candidate who may not perform as well as in a more intimate interview situation. It can also be difficult to gain consensus amongst a larger panel and create a situation where no or multiple preferred candidates are identified by the group.

Panel interviews may use structured, unstructured or behavioural interview techniques. Examples of who might comprise a panel interview:

  • HR Manager
  • Manager/Supervisor to whom the role will report to
  • Incumbent in the role and/or peer to the role
  • Key internal stakeholder i.e. internal client, project team peer
  • Departmental head sitting above Manager or Supervisor to the role
  • Employee in a similar role from another department or team.

GROUP INTERVIEWS

Group interviews are when an individual or panel interview a group of candidates for a role or a group of candidates are brought together and asked to interact while observed. More commonly used for bulk recruitment or graduate recruitment the group interview is used to identify candidates who display competencies such as leadership, problem solving and interpersonal skills. Group interviews often form part of an overall assessment centre to process multiple candidates when larger scale recruitment is required.

Group interviews can be economical and timesaving when selecting from multiple candidates and are an effective way for the interviewer to see how candidates interact with others.

Group interviews can be intimidating for less outgoing individuals and it is only suited to assessing specific interactional and interpersonal type competencies. Interviewers may overlook a strong candidate who does not operate well in such an environment.

Examples of group interview activities and tasks:

  • Work simulation activities – candidates are asked to participate in a discussion which simulates a task or activity they are required to do on the job i.e. brainstorm with other candidates on an idea, solve a problem or challenge.

Creating & Establishing Selection Criteria

The purpose of selection criteria is to assist in making objective decisions about the most suitable candidates for a position. Well thought out and constructed selection criteria can make selection decisions transparent and justifiable.

Selection criteria assists with identifying the factors considered to be essential or desirable to successfully perform the role you are recruiting for. The development of the selection criteria should be closely linked to the job analysis and design process and the position description used in the recruitment process.

In order to develop selection criteria, you will need to ask the following questions:

  • What does the successful candidate need? Establish what specific evidence of knowledge, skills, behaviour, education, qualifications candidates require to be successful in the role.
  • What level is required? Set the criteria and capabilities standards required drawing from the job requirements, position description and person specifications.
  • How important is it to the role? Determine which of the criteria are essential for the person to competently perform the job role and which are desired but not essential. This distinction is important in instances where no one candidate meets all the criteria or when all candidates meet the essential criteria and the desirable criteria can be used to assess.

Tip: When determining if knowledge or skills are essential or desirable, consideration should also be given as to whether the knowledge or skill can be easily learnt on the job. Those skills that can be easily picked up in on the job training or other development activities while still important to the role may be less critical to the selection process as it may not be necessary for the successful candidate to have the skill when they commence the role. This may widen the pool of appropriate candidates to include in the selection process.

The selection criteria can then inform which selection methods are used to identify the best candidate for the role.

DEVELOPING SELECTION CRITERIA

It is important to be clear on your selection criteria when using an external recruitment provider to ensure they understand what you are looking for from the candidates they recruit for you. While a position description is useful, it can be interpreted in different ways. A good recruiter will work with you to identify your selection criteria, so they feel confident in recruiting relevant candidates for your selection process.

The following is an example of selection criteria for a receptionist role

Conducting an Effective Interview

A key requirement of an interview is that questions must be job-related and have a legitimate purpose of discovery. This ensures that information which may cause the candidate to be discriminated against in the selection process is not sought. All questions should be relating to the selection criteria and pertain to the individual’s suitability for the role.

Tips for preparing for a good interview:

  • Interviewers should have a strong understanding of the role and what it requires.
  • Interviews should be held in an appropriate location – somewhere quiet, well-lit and without distractions, ensuring there is enough space for all parties to sit comfortably.,
  • Details of the interview should be conveyed clearly ahead of time including directions to the location and details of who will be involved. Information should also be provided as to what the candidate can expect from the interview, how long the interview will take and what the candidate should bring or prepare ahead of time.
  • Relevant questions should be prepared ahead of the interview, and the panel members should be briefed on the format. Ensure the interviewers are familiar with the questions ahead of the interview.
  • All interviewers should have access to the candidate’s application ahead of the interview and be familiar with it.
  • Ensure enough time is allocated to the interview. Where possible don’t run interviews back to back this will allow time for interviewers a chance to review after meeting each candidate.
  • Put the candidate at ease at the start of the interview with some small talk, offering a beverage and ensuring they have everything they need before you commence.
  • Use the selection criteria, position description and the person specification as the basis for the interview.

 

During the interview

  • Provide introductory information at the commencement of the interview about the organisation, the team and the role.
  • Introduce the interviewers and provide relevant details such as who the interviewers are and how they relate to the position.
  • Outline the process that will be undertaken, including any other processes that are being used to source information such as testing or reference checks. i.e. ‘Today’s interview is part of the first-round interviews. We are interviewing 5 candidates at this stage. We will have a second round of interviews with the CEO later in the week, after which time we will conduct reference checks. We are looking to make an appointment by early next week.’
  • Outline the structure of the interview. Explain to the candidate what will happen throughout the course of the interview. For example, “we will tell you a bit about our organisation, we will then ask you to tell us about your previous experience and we will end with some behavioural based interview questions.” This assists with putting the candidate at ease.
  • Keep the interview relevant and informative
  • The focus should be on objective information gathering
    • Skills and knowledge
    • Work history and professional experience
    • Education and training
    • Personal attributes and behaviour
  • Ask the same questions of each candidate. This ensures that you are maintaining consistency and improves your ability to evaluate effectively.
  • Give relevant details as to why the candidate has reached this stage in the selection process i.e. ‘We are impressed with the breadth of your experience in the industry and particularly your achievements in your current role’.
  • The interviewer should give the candidate their full attention without distraction or interruption and allow the candidate to qualify any answers to questions and talk freely.
  • Interviewers should take notes to assist them in recalling the key points about each candidate (especially where many candidates are being interviewed) while being aware these notes may be made available to the candidate under privacy law requirements.
  • Be polite and attentive – remember you are representing your organisation.

 

Interview questions

  • After the provision of introductory information, in the interest of establishing rapport, begin the interview with easy questions and gradually build up to more complex, probing questions.
  • Where appropriate, use open-ended questions which allow candidates to express themselves and not just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example “tell me about your previous job” is more likely to reveal more information than “did you work for company X?”
  • Start questions with “why”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “how”.
  • Make sure the exact meaning of your question is clear by using simple and appropriate words. Do not use technical terms or jargon unless both the interviewer and the applicant understand the meaning.
  • Do not ask leading questions which imply what the answer should be. For example, ‘You didn’t like the client liaison aspect of the job?’ could be more impartially phrased ‘How did you feel about the client liaison aspect of the job?’

 

What not to do in an interview:

  • Avoid making snap judgements at the start of the interview based on appearance or first interaction.
  • Do not be rude, aggressive, patronizing or inattentive. Remember you are also representing your organisation.
  • Do not use terms such as “boy”, “girl” or other terms such as “darling”, “sweetheart” etc
  • Ensure your questions are not inappropriate or discriminatory. (see guidelines for non-discriminatory interviews)
  • Don’t take over the interview. Allow the applicant to speak openly and do not cut them short unless necessary.
  • Don’t lead the applicant in their responses or finish their answer for them.
  • Don’t take too may notes during the interview – it may distract the candidate and cause them to lose concentration or interrupt their train of thought.

Giving Feedback in Difficult Situations

IF AN EMPLOYEE DISAGREES WITH OR REJECTS FEEDACK ON POOR PERFORMANCE

  • Ensure that feedback is timely, specific and directed at actual examples
  • Allow time for employee to digest, especially if the feedback is unexpected

IF AN EMPLOYEE BECOMES AGGRESSIVE

  • Maintain calm and rational approach, don’t react
  • Take a short break to allow the employee time to calm down
  • Reiterate your concerns and why they need to be addressed
  • Allow employee to explain why they are angry and ask questions
  • Terminate the discussion if health or safety is at risk and reschedule to continue at a later time

IF AN EMPLOYEE BECOMES EMOTIONAL

  • Allow employee time to collect themselves
  • Wait until they are ready to speak again before continuing with the discussion
  • Avoid ending the meeting
  • Don’t become angry or defensive

IF THE SUPPORT PERSON TAKES OVER THE DISCUSSION

  • Ensure you clarify the role each person has to play during the discussion
  • Remind the support person that they are for support and not to speak on behalf of the employee during the meeting if necessary

IF THE EMPLOYEE OR SUPPORT PERSON MAKES THREATS

  • Confirm employee rights in performance management process
  • Reaffirm the reason for the discussion and the importance of talking about the relevant issues
  • Encourage the employee to raise their concerns within the meeting

IF THE EMPLOYEE REFUSES TO CONTINUE THE DISCUSSION OR WALKS OUT

  • Make the request for a meeting in writing and importance of addressing your concerns
  • Continued avoidance of attending meeting can be grounds for a formal written warning

By making sure you are prepared with specific examples, you have planned your discussion agenda and are confident with the key messages you wish to provide to your employee will help you to remain calm during a difficult performance management discussion.
It is important to keep in mind that where an employee’s performance is unsatisfactory, it is best to act swiftly to address these performance issues as they arise (instead of leaving them to be addressed in the formal appraisal process which may take place months after the underperformance is first noticed). This will provide the employee with an opportunity to respond and to improve their performance before a formal performance appraisal process is conducted.

Formal & Informal Appraisals

The method of appraisal can vary from very informal to a highly formal and structured procedure. The type of appraisal system that best suits your organisation will depend on:

  • the size and type of organisation;
  • which employees and job types are being appraised;
  • training and development policies, procedures and resources;
  • the access and availability of appraisal expertise to provide input into the desired system;
  • the management capability and time available to make a formal system work; and
  • whether existing informal systems work adequately.

FORMAL

A formal appraisal system involves setting guidelines, meetings and interviews, forms, times for review, assessment systems and reporting.
For more information on this, please refer to our Template – Performance appraisal meeting record in this section.

INFORMAL

An informal appraisal approach relies on impromptu meetings and discussions, consultation, coaching, discipline and feedback. These all occur in a formal system as well and should be encouraged to create a healthy culture of open communication. A good example of a time when an informal approach is needed is where a supervisor has identified minor performance gaps and wishes to address the issue promptly without going through formal channels (ie the underperformance does not warrant a formal disciplinary procedure). This can also be helpful if a performance gap has been identified and waiting to discuss the issue until a formal process is undertaken could be to the detriment of the individual and their team.
For more information on discipline, please refer to our Managing Underperformance and Discipline section.

WHICH APPROACH?

The approach taken will depend on the organisation’s circumstances. For example, if there are few opportunities for promotion or career development within the organisation, a formal system may be unnecessary. On the other hand, a large organisation with several branches and several people making people management decisions will need a formal system to help with planning, consistency and employee development. Regardless of whether a formal or informal appraisal process is used (or both), individual performance needs to be appraised.

Training & Development Plans

Training and development are critical to the organisation in a number of ways:

  • they provide employees with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively perform their job role
  • they help keep employees stimulated and motivated, and can keep employees engaged and loyal to the organisation
  • they increase the capacity of the organisation to service its clients.

A personal development plan focuses on identifying and actioning the short, medium and long-term development requirements of the employee that arise out of the performance appraisal process. The development requirements should centre on the skills, knowledge and capabilities required of individuals to effectively undertake their job responsibilities both in the present and the future, and also to further their career goals.

When preparing personal development plans, the emphasis should be on employee self-development and the plans should include:

  • development objectives
  • the learning and development activities that will address the development objectives
  • the steps associated with any development initiatives
  • any resources required
  • a timetable for development
  • the commitment (financial and non-financial) required by the organisation.
  • Appropriate measure techniques – has development action has been achieved?

The development plan should include a description of the development activities that will be undertaken to achieve the skills and knowledge requirements (i.e. the development objectives).

The learning and development activities may include any number of the following:

  • On-the-job training
  • Internal training courses
  • External training courses
  • Online learning programs
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Shadowing/understudying
  • Job rotation
  • Job enrichment (more challenging tasks) or job extension (widening the range of tasks and opportunities related to the job)
  • Vocational or tertiary education, e.g. postgraduate study
  • Industry professional accreditation programs
  • Attending conferences and seminars
  • Work-based projects.

360 Degree Feedback HR Guide

Some organisations prefer to use 360-degree feedback as a form of performance appraisal. This process provides information on an employee’s performance from a number of sources – peers, subordinates and managers. Such appraisal should provide a wide range of information about skills, performance and working relationships.

360 DEGREE FEEDBACK

In 360-degree feedback, the peers, subordinates and managers fill in a questionnaire describing the employee’s performance. The questionnaire usually consists of a number of statements rated on a scale (e.g. from 1 to 5) and includes the opportunity to provide additional comment. The employee in question also completes the questionnaire to assess his or her own performance.
The process should be anonymous, and the feedback should be presented to the employee in aggregate or summary terms (i.e. as a feedback report).
To ensure the best possible results from the 360-degree feedback process, it’s important to ensure that:

  • the questions are short, clear and relevant to the person’s job
  • the respondents are credible to the person being appraised (i.e. they are deemed as being in a position where they can credibly provide input)
  • both the employee and those who will complete the questionnaires are adequately briefed on the process
  • feedback is never attributed to an individual respondent
  • it is clearly stated how feedback will be given and by whom
  • training is provided to those individuals who will provide the feedback and results
  • issues of confidentiality are clearly communicated detailing who has access to the data and for what purpose
  • the feedback report is concise, simple to understand and provides guidance on how the information can be used
  • the process is constantly monitored and evaluated.

Different Types of Warning Letters

There is no magic number of how many warnings an employee must receive before their employment can be terminated. A common misconception is that three warnings is the upper limit before termination procedures can be followed, however, there is no legislative requirement which reflects this. What employers do need to be mindful of is the risk of unfair dismissal claims being made by employees who feel that they were not sufficiently warned about their underperformance and received no opportunity to improve or respond before being terminated.

Some key points to note:

  • Generally speaking, warnings will not remain “alive” forever. Depending on the severity of conduct which triggered the warning being given, they will typically lose relevance once an employee has demonstrated improvement for a consistent amount of time. A good guide is six months’ before expiration. This will of course depend on severity of the triggering conduct and may be more or less time.
  • Warnings should always be documented. Even where a verbal warning is a verbal, it is best to make a note of this having taken place. This will help prove reasonableness if a subsequent termination decision is challenged and relates to an employee being afforded procedural fairness.
  • Warning’s needs to detail the type of underperformance with specificity and identify a timeframe for expected improvement. At the expiration of this time period the employees performance should be reviewed and further discipline be considered where appropriate. In addition to this, employees should also be advised of possible outcomes if their performance does not improve, e.g. further disciplinary action or potential termination.
  • Employees should sign a receipt or acknowledgment of receiving a warning; however, it is generally inconsequential if an employee refuses to do so. Where an employee does refuse, they should still be issued with a copy and a record be kept on their HR file / personnel file.
  • The process for issuing warnings should be detailed in a company’s policy and procedure documents and/or in an employee’s contract of employment or other industrial instrument.

 

VERBAL WARNINGS

Verbal warnings are appropriate when an employee first starts showing signs of underperformance, or where the conduct is such that it does not warrant a formal performance management process, but still requires addressing. The employee’s direct supervisor should issue the verbal warning and is best accompanied by an informal performance management process. The aim is for performance improvement, so an informal performance management process allows a supervisor to inform their subordinate of the performance gap, and ways to correct it. Further counselling, training or access to the employers Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may also be necessary depending on the nature of the underperformance and the cause.

Although oral in nature, verbal warnings should still be documented as being issued. This will assist employers if an employee makes any claims for unfair treatment in the future.

 

FIRST WRITTEN WARNINGS

A first written warning is appropriate in a number of instances. These include; where a previous verbal warning has been issued for a minor problem and the employee has not improved their performance, or where an employee has not previously been warned but their behaviour / underperformance is such that a written warning is deemed necessary.

Ideally a written warning will be issued in conjunction with a formal performance management process being followed. This will give the employee an opportunity to respond to the underperformance issues and work with their manager to jointly seek a solution to the problem.

The written warning should contain the following details:

  • What the underperformance / misconduct issue is and the corrective action required;
  • What action will be taken if the employee does not improve their behaviour;
  • Detail previous warning and date of issue;
  • Details and signatures of those present at the formal performance management meeting; and
  • Dates for performance to be re-evaluated.

A performance Improvement Plan may also be issued with the first written warning.

 

FINAL WRITTEN WARNINGS

The number of warnings issued before an employee can be dismissed will depend on the severity of the underperformance, behaviour or misconduct complained of and whether any improvement has been noticed. In some circumstances a final written warning may be the first warning which is issued to an employee if the circumstances are serious enough. Conversely, employers may choose to issue a final written warning to an employee instead of dismissing them where they have shown considerable improvement but still fall short of the desired performance standard. It is inadvisable to issue repeated final warnings, however the situation needs to assessed on the facts.

Setting Organisational Performance Standards

Effective performance appraisal relies on clear performance standards being established and discussed with employees. Using these standards, appraisal involves:

  • observing the employee’s work behaviour and results, and comparing them against the agreed standards
  • evaluating job performance and the employee’s development potential
  • acting on the results of the appraisal process, for example, through promotion, reward and recognition, counselling, training, or in some cases, termination.

Performance objectives describe what is to be accomplished by the individual and/or the team or department over a defined period of time. These objectives need to be SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) and agreed.

The performance standards define the standard of performance required to achieve the objective.

The following characteristics will help ensure performance standards are fair and useful. The standards should:

  • be based on work performance and objective outcomes
  • differentiate between successful and unsuccessful workers
  • accurately reflect performance and performance variations
  • be measured by someone who is at least partially in control of the person whose performance is being appraised
  • be based on observations which are documented and job-related
  • recognise the realities of the work to be performed
  • draw on a clear, well-written position description
  • be aligned to the organisation’s strategic and operational objectives
  • be agreed upon by all parties.

The performance standards set out the actions, behaviours or results to be achieved that are necessary for satisfactory performance.

Types of Performance Appraisal Systems

COMPARATIVE APPROACHES

RANKING

Method
The process of comparing employees’ performance against others and listing employees in order from highest achievers to lowest achievers. This can be a general ranking within the group or one which is separated out into different skill areas, or competencies required to perform the job.

Advantages
Generally simple to use and easy to implement.

Disadvantages
Highly subjective and can be inaccurate, particularly when the employees being compared are not performing similar tasks or where the manager does not have in-depth knowledge of the job requirements. There is no way of telling whether performance is objectively good or bad, it merely ranks employees against each-other, so they could all be high-achievers or low-achievers. High potential for bias and separating mid-ranked employees can also be challenging.

GRADING

Method
The process of rating an employees’ performance in terms of set categories, such as poor, satisfactory, or highly satisfactory by matching performance with the definitions of each category.

Advantages
Addresses each employee’s performance against objective criteria without comparing to other employees.

Disadvantages
Focusses on individual performance alone and does not provide a good idea of where the employees’ performance sits in relation to others. This can also be too simplistic and subjective.

FORCED DISTRIBUTION

Method
A variation of grading whereby a set proportion of employees must fall within set categories, similar to that of a normal curve/bell-shaped curve.

Advantages
Avoids managers rating all employees as satisfactory, unsatisfactory or exceptional due to the fixed percentages required in each grade. High performers and under-performers are easier to spot.

Disadvantages
Employees can feel this method is harsh, may damage trust and potentially create harmful rivalry between staff.

ATTRIBUTE APPROACHES

GRAPHIC SCALES / RATING

Method
The process of attributing an employees’ performance (including personal characteristics and/or work behaviours) to a representative numeric scale from 1 to 5. Unsatisfactory performance is usually denoted by “1”, and performance which exceeds expectations is usually rated at 5.

Advantages
Easy to use.

Disadvantages
This is a particularly unreliable method of assessing performance. Assessable criteria may not be suited to all jobs, criteria often overlaps and it can be hard to justify low ratings.

CRITICAL INCIDENTS

Method
The process whereby a supervisor keeps a journal of times when an employee has performed particularly well or poorly on the job over a period of time. The supervisor draws upon these critical incidents to assess the employees overall performance level.

Advantages
If the journal is kept over a long period of time, it can be an accurate and objective way of assessing actual work behaviour and outputs and provides transparency.

Disadvantages
Success will depend on the manager taking accurate, objective and timely notes, but largely focusses on past behavior and examples of high performance or low performance and when the manager chooses to record incidents.

BEHAVIOURAL APPROACHES

BEHAVIOURALLY ANCHORED RATING SCALES (BARS)

Method
An extension of the critical incidents approach, the BARS technique involves creating a list of job-specific behaviors (from highly desirable through to unsatisfactory) based on different elements of job performance, e.g. job knowledge, attendance, productivity etc.

Advantages
Job-specific and provides clear performance standards in a number of areas, is objective and more transparent by avoiding general number scales.

Disadvantages
Can be difficult to create, takes a lot of time to prepare and needs to be created individually for each job to be assessed.

Superior performance

Always early to work and completed preparatory tasks before opening time, including:

  • sorted mail and distributed deliveries to appropriate desks
  • checked phone messages, passed messages on to appropriate people
  • turned off phone night-mode
  • checked all emails and send to appropriate person / flag for revisiting
  • checked fax machine for new messages and distributed appropriately
  • looks professional and with a positive demeanour
  • checks that front desk looks neat and tidy, office plants are watered and area is free of any tripping hazards
  • cleans office kitchen area and unpacks dishwasher
  • turns “open” sign around on front door.

Very good performance

Mostly arrives early to work and completed preparatory tasks before opening time, and has:

  • sorted mail and distributed deliveries to appropriate desks
  • checked phone messages, pass messages on to appropriate people
  • turn off phone night-mode
  • checked all emails
  • check fax machine for new messages and distributes appropriately
  • looks professional and with a positive demeanour
  • turns “open” sign around on front door.

Good performance

Sometimes arrives early to work and completes preparatory tasks before office opens:

  • sorts and distributes mail
  • checks phone and fax messages and distributes to appropriate people
  • presentable appearance
  • turns off phone night mode
  • turns “open” sign around on front door.

Acceptable performance

Arrives on time to work and gets preparatory tasks completed as office opens:
• Checks phone and fax messages and distributes to appropriate people,
• turns off phone night mode and
• turns “open” sign around on front door.

Marginal performance Occasionally arrives late to work,
• sometimes forgets to turn “open” sign around and turn off night-mode switch.

Poor performance Is often late to work, frequently forgets to turn off phone night-mode, appearance is often unprofessional.

Unsatisfactory performance Often/always late for work, appearance is unprofessional, poor demeanour, forgets to/does not distribute mail, messages, faxes or emails to people, misses phone calls etc.

 

BEHAVIOURAL OBSERVATION SCALES

Method
The process of creating a list of preferred behavior required to execute a job gathered by the critical incidents method. Employees are assessed on how regularly they display these behaviors on a scale ranging from 1 to 5. “Almost never” equates to “1” and “almost always” equates to “5”.

Advantages
Similar to BARS (see above)

Disadvantages
Similar to BARS (see above)

ESSAY / NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION

Method
Involves a manager writing down their opinion of the employees’ work-related behavior in their own words. Generally descriptions will be provided in response to a few broad questions relating to the employees’ performance.

Advantages
This technique is useful when used in addition to other methods of appraisal to provide context and help qualify ratings.

Disadvantages
Is very subjective and impacted by managers writing skills and their ability to convey their opinion effectively. This can also be very time consuming and is difficult to find common trends in manager essays for performance comparison purposes.

MANAGEMENT BY OBJECTIVES

Method
A collaborative approach whereby a manager and employee agree on set objectives and responsibility areas and meet to review results at regular intervals. Performance will be evaluated depending on the achievement of goals.

Advantages
Job specific, is very clear and can be highly motivating. Ensures achievement of short term goals and continued improvement.

Disadvantages
Can result in a lack of freedom to be innovative and a lack of ownership of decisions and commitment. It is hard to compare performance, measure improvement and can lead to the setting of “easy to achieve” or short term goals.

FORCED CHOICE

Method
Selection of a number of explanations which reflect the employees work performance most accurately. Outcomes are graded by using a hidden formula.

Advantages
Manager prejudice is diminished due to the undisclosed formula used to assess employees.

Disadvantages
Needs to be implemented by experts so can be difficult, expensive and take a long time.

FIELD REVIEW

Method
A technique whereby appraisers and human resources specialists come together to discuss apraisee results.

Advantages
Effective in reducing Manager prejudice and analysing performance accurately and objectively.

Disadvantages
Can by very costly, time intensive and may be met by resistance from managers.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE

Method
A technique whereby groups of employees are assessed using a variety of methods, simulations and exercises. May also be valuable to identify performance potential.

Advantages
Is an impartial technique which can simultaneously be a training exercise to improve performance and identify talent.

Disadvantages
Can be very costly, time intensive and unsuited to small organisations given the use of simulations.

SELF-ASSESSMENT

Method
Where an individual employee appraises their own performance to be followed up with their supervisor to discuss results and compare appraisals.

Advantages
A collaborative approach with makes sure employees are involved in the process and can help in setting goals for future performance and improve commitment.

Disadvantages
Cannot be relied upon as the only source of evaluation, there needs to be a follow up with a manager. Employee ratings often don’t match supervisor ratings and can be a source of tension.

THE BALANCED SCORECARD

Method
Designed as an organisational performance evaluation tool, the balanced scorecard assesses performance from different perspectives comprising; the customers’ view of the business, the internal environment view, growth and learning and the financial perspective.

The Purpose of Performance Appraisals

The four objectives of performance appraisal are:

Assessment of performance

The organisation must be able to discern between those whose performance is effectively contributing to the achievement of the organisation’s objectives, and those who are not.

Reward

Those who are performing well want to be recognised and rewarded for their efforts. Outstanding performers should be identified and rewarded accordingly otherwise further outstanding performance may wane due to declining motivation.

Development

It is the role of performance appraisal to assist the employee to develop to achieve optimum performance and to remove blocks to improved performance.

Feedback

Communicating clear, specific expectations and giving both positive and constructive feedback are essential parts of performance appraisal.

BENEFITS OF PERFORMANCE APPRAISALS

A performance appraisal process provides numerous benefits for the appraiser, appraisee and the organisation as a whole.

For the Appraisee:

  • Recognition for good work performance provides a sense of confidence, self-worth, job satisfaction, commitment and motivation for continued improvement
  • Provides opportunity to re-assess work goals and discussion of what has worked well and what needs improvement
  • Opportunity to provide reasons for potential underperformance and discuss development points for improvement
  • Ability to air any grievances or speak about problems in the workplace
  • Opportunity to discuss career goals and future progression
  • Builds trust and facilitates relationship growth with manager through open discussion.

For the Appraiser:

  • Opportunity to gain insight into individual jobs and work teams
  • Opportunity to align individual, team, group and organisational goals and objectives and communicate that to each
  • Opportunity to hear potential grievances or issues to be investigated as mentioned by employees
  • Improved decision making ability
  • Identification of development points, training needs and forecasting for future
  • Increased job satisfaction, motivation and self-worth
  • Improved group performance
  • Opportunity to clarify expectations of individuals and teams, re-assess work goals and discuss what has worked well and what needs improvement
  • Improved quality of relationships with subordinates.

For the Organisation:

  • Fosters a culture where staff are valued and there is commitment to continuous improvement
  • Staff are more aware of organisational goals and values and can see how their contribution affects organisational success on a larger scale, building sense of commitment
  • Better employee relationships with managers creates a sense of cohesions and belonging
  • Managers are more in touch with individual jobs, teams and groups
  • Identification of training needs and opportunities for improvement at all levels (often discovered through consultation with employees)
  • Encourages managers to hone their leadership, motivation and communication skills, making them more valuable to organisation and creates a sense of job satisfaction.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS OF PERFORMANCE APPRAISALS

A performance appraisal process can have a number of potential drawbacks for the appraiser, appraisee and the organisation as a whole. Despite having a sophisticated performance management system in place, the success or failure of a performance appraisal process will largely hinge upon the validity and reliability of the judgements made by the appraiser. Oftentimes, this can be influenced by managers’ personal bias and attitude towards the appraisal process generally. Both of these factors can disrupt the accuracy of performance appraisal information. Some common issues are:

Management attitude
If managers are not committed to the performance appraisal process, this can have a significant impact on the outcomes. Common attitude problems include; not taking the process seriously, seeing the process as a routine activity or merely “ticking the boxes”, reluctance to tell employees face-to-face about underperformance and failure to see how the process will benefit on-the-ground work activities and organisational performance.

Halo effect
Where the overall appraisal of an employee is influenced by the perceived presence of one desirable quality, work behavior or achievement and can skew the rater’s ability to rate the employee objectively.

Horns effect
The reverse of the ‘halo effect’, whereby the overall appraisal of an employee is influenced by the perceived presence of one negative quality, work behavior or achievement and can skew the rater’s ability to rate the employee objectively.

Central tendency
Where a rater grades every employees performance in a similar way, such as ‘acceptable’ or ‘meeting objectives’ and fails to distinguish between high performers and low performers. The tendency to rate all employees similarly can arise due to the lack of opportunity to observe employee behavior and/or a rater’s unwillingness to explain high or low ratings and create more work for themselves.

Relationship effect
Where a rater’s ability to accurately appraise an employees’ performance is affected by the nature of the relationship they share and the length of time they have worked together. Whether the personal relationship between rater and employee is positive or negative, both have the potential to affect the objective judgment of the rater and can be an unreliable evaluation.

Leniency or strictness bias
Where a manager distorts appraisal accuracy by repeatedly rating employees as high or low despite actual performance. Rationales for higher ratings include; wanting to protect an employee from receiving a negative rating or permanent blemish on record, wanting to avoid an uncomfortable conversation and feeling sorry for those whose performance was unsatisfactory due to personal issues. Rationales for lower ratings include; wanting to encourage the employee to resign, to create evidence of underperformance to assist in disciplinary and termination procedures and/or to assert dominance and control over an unruly employee.

Prejudice/bias/stereotypes
Where a manager holds a personal prejudice (positive or negative) towards a particular type of person (be it nationality, gender, age, personality trait, occupation type or anything else) and allows this bias to cloud their judgment and ability to objectively appraise their performance. This can often be unconscious and difficult to identify unless a complaint is made against a manager.
For more information, please refer to our Information sheet – Legal considerations.

Recency effect
Where a manager is only able to recount instances of good or bad performance based on what is most fresh in their minds. This distorts the accuracy of an appraisal as often employees make a concerted effort to improve their performance in anticipation of the performance review process being undertaken.

Workplace Arbitration

Unlike mediation and conciliation, which focus on the interest and needs of both parties, arbitration is focused on legal rights followed by wants.

Arbitration involves both conflicting parties being heard by a third party. The parties are to present their case/matter, along with any supporting evidence.

The Arbitrator is used as judge and after hearing both parties they impose decision, which is legally binding. Given that both parties need to present their case and ultimately argue their point, arbitration can be seen as more confronting in comparison to mediation and conciliation.

In Australia, the arbitration process is often done by the Fair Work Commission or various State Industrial Commissions. Given the win/lose approach to the outcome, many organisations use arbitration as a last option should the Mediation and Conciliation fail.

Referee & Background Checks

Referee checks are when the recruiter contacts the candidate’s previous employers and asks questions that will assist in determining whether they are the right person for the role based on their performance in previous roles.

Some skepticism exists to the value of reference checks as candidates are able to supply the contacts of previous managers, employers or peers who are most likely to give a favorable report. Good questioning techniques can assist in getting value from a conversation with a previous colleague.

Referee reports and background checks of the preferred candidates should be undertaken before offering the position to a candidate.

When approaching previous employers for information regarding the candidate it is useful to have a short list of questions relating to:

  • Seeking confirmation of the term and type of employment
  • Confirming job role and responsibilities
  • Addressing previous employment issues raised by the candidate during the process
  • Confirming the reason for leaving the role

In addition to contacting previous employer contacts provided by the candidate at this stage in the selection process may also include:

  • Checking claims made on resumes in relation to previous employment history
  • Checking police and financial records for criminal records or bankruptcy etc.
  • Checking accuracy and authenticity of certificates, qualifications with educational institutions and training providers.

These types of checks are more important for some position types than others i.e. accountancy, finance, child care, medical roles, legal roles etc.

Job Related Performance Objectives & Performance Standards

Performance objectives describe what is to be accomplished by the individual and/or the team or department over a defined period of time. These objectives need to be SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) and agreed.

The performance standards define the required standard of performance required to achieve the objective.

Performance management involves a comparison of performance against the defined performance standards. Whilst the required standards will vary from organisation to organisation, there are a number of factors which can help guide the development of these standards.

The following characteristics will help ensure performance standards are fair and useful. The standards should:

  • be based on work performance and objective outcomes;
  • differentiate between successful and unsuccessful workers;
  • accurately reflect performance and performance variations;
  • be measured by someone who is at least partially in control of the person whose performance is being appraised;
  • be based on observations which are documented and job-related;
  • recognise the realities of the work to be performed;
  • draw on a clear, well-written position description;
  • be aligned to the organisation’s strategic and operational objectives; and
  • be agreed upon by all parties.

The performance standards set out the actions, behaviours or results to be achieved that are necessary for satisfactory performance.

ORGANISATIONAL CONDUCT AND BEHAVIOURAL STANDARDS

In addition to individual, team and department performance standards, employees need to be made aware of the expected level of conduct and behaviour that is acceptable in the workplace generally. These standards are communicated through HR policy and procedure documents and are re-enforced by management attitude and overall adherence to such. This will have a significant impact on organisational culture and will help to avoid situations where employees are unsure of what is considered “acceptable” behaviour.

Some examples of typical policy and procedure documents containing conduct and behavioural standards are:

  • Code of conduct policies
  • Alcohol and other drugs policies
  • Staff dress policies
  • Social media policies
  • Workplace bullying polices
  • Equal opportunity, harassment and discrimination policies
  • Workplace health and safety policies
  • Use of company owned property policies etc.

In addition to these examples, specific performance management, discipline and termination policy and procedure documents should set out the consequences of underperformance and breaches of other HR policies.

In order to ensure employee conduct and behaviour is aligned with organisational expectations, it is essential that employees are aware of specific policy and procedure documents and understand their contents. This is particularly important if an employer alleges that an employee’s conduct was a breach of company policy and/or procedure and they wish to counsel the employee for misconduct, issue warnings or terminate their employment. The burden of proving awareness and understanding lies with employers and may expose organisations to legal risk if not discharged.

Policies and procedures need to be clearly expressed, communicated and understood, applied consistently, offer a level of certainty for employees regarding workplace norms.

This can be summarised as the “Five C’s of effective policies and procedures”:

  • Clarity
  • Communication
  • Certainty
  • Consistency
  • Consequences.

Best Practice Tip: Employers may need to make company documents available in other languages, braille, or in audio format to cater to diverse groups of employees. The greater the lengths an employer goes to in communicating organisational values and standards, the less risk they will attract if relying upon these for performance management and disciplinary procedures in the future.

Legal Considerations – Workers Compensation

Each legal jurisdiction in Australia (Commonwealth, State and territory) has a statutory insurance scheme that indemnifies employers for work-related injuries incurred by their employees.

The scheme provides compensation to employees whose claims are accepted in three areas:

  • weekly benefits to compensate for earnings not received because of incapacity to work;
  • reimbursement of medical expenses; and
  • lump sum payments to compensate for the non-economic loss suffered by a worker form certain serious injuries (e.g. pain and suffering for loss of an eye).

This legislation usually restricts the right of injured workers to bring common law claims to recover damages for their injury. Absent these legislative restrictions, these common law claims might allow an employee to seek damages from a court for the employees’ breach of duty arising contract (ie the employer’s contractual duty to ensure the safety of employees) or tort (failure to take reasonable care to ensure worker safety, or negligence).

The right to bring a common law action is usually confined to a serious injury. The test for what is a serious injury is significantly high and usually requires validation by an independent medical panel.

Under workers compensation statutes in Australia it is an offence to dismiss an employee because she/he has taken steps to pursue a workers’ compensation claim.

Costs of Sexual Relations

Legal costs
If you receive allegations of sexual harassment you should obtain formal legal advice as soon as possible, so that you can determine your risks and appropriate courses of action. Otherwise you may act in a way which increases your exposure to other legal costs you may face down the track, such as defending claims by the victim or harasser or paying damages/compensation/penalties. See the section below under ‘Legal Aspects’ for further details.

 

Organisational costs
Properly managing sexual harassment claims will take time away from key staff including Human Resources and managers, in addition to the individuals involved (including the victim, alleged harasser and witnesses). Other organisational costs include staff turnover and reputational damage for your business;

 

Costs to individuals
Sexual harassment can be incredibly costly for individuals, including the victim, alleged harasser and even witnesses. Victims may suffer significant psychological harm from sexual harassment, which can lead to physical harm (related to or arising from the psychological harm, including self-inflicted harm). Employees can lose their jobs and/or ability to work at full (or any) capacity, or become disgruntled and resign.

 

Employment Contracts Statutory Requirements

An employment contract may be affected by the statutory safety net, comprising the National Employment Standards, the minimum wage, modern awards and enterprise agreements.

The existence of an employment contract is an important condition for the operation of rights and entitlements under industrial legislation and the industrial instruments operating under that legislation. These statutory rights and entitlements provide a ‘safety net’ for employees. Terms and conditions in an employment contract cannot undercut these statutory conditions.

Under the Fair Work Act (FW Act), the universal statutory safety net is provided by the 10 National Employment Standards (NES). The NES provides minimum conditions in respect of working hours, requesting flexible working arrangements, paid and unpaid leave, notice of termination, redundancy pay and the provision of a statement to employees about industrial rights and entitlements (the Fair Work Information Statement).

The NES is supplemented by the National Minimum Wages, which stipulate minimum base rates of pay for adult and junior employees, trainees and workers with disability. These only apply to award or agreement free employees.

For over 60% of the employers and employees subject to the FW Act, the safety net is also supplemented by a modern award or an enterprise agreement.

Fair Work Australia Record Keeping

FAIR WORK FACT SHEET

The information in this sheet only concerns employers which are covered by the national system.

The information concerns the employer obligations in relation to employee records and pay slips set out in the Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth) (Regs).

The Regulations do not contain any significant changes in relation to record keeping requirements from those contained in the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth).

EMPLOYEE RECORDS

The Regulations require that employee records must be legible, in English and a form that is readily accessible to a Fair Work Ombudsman inspector.

The Regulations also require that employers keep records in respect of each employee regarding the following:

  • The name of the employer and the employee and the nature of their employment (e.g. part-time, full-time, permanent, temporary or casual), the date on which the employment commenced and after 1 January 2010, the Australian Business Number of the employer;
  • Pay, specifically the following:
    • the rate of remuneration paid to the employee;
    • the gross and net amounts paid to the employee;
    • any deductions made from the gross amount paid to the employee;
    • if the employee is a casual or irregular part-time employee who is guaranteed a rate of pay set by reference to a period of time worked, the record must set out the hours worked by the employee;
    • if the employee is entitled to be paid an incentive-based payment, a bonus, a loading, a penalty rate, another monetary allowance or separately identifiable entitlement, the record must set out details of the payment, bonus, loading, rate, allowance or entitlement
  • overtime hours, including the number of overtime hours and when the employee starts and ceases working overtime;
  • any arrangement to average the employee’s hours of work;
  • the amount of leave that an employee takes and the balance remaining, any agreement regarding cashing out of annual leave;
  • superannuation contributions;
  • individual flexibility arrangements and guarantees of annual earnings; and
  • termination of employment (where applicable). In particular, the record must specify whether the employment was terminated by consent, notice or summarily and the name of the person who acted to terminate the employer.

There are also obligations on old employers and new employers in transfer of business situations. In particular, the old employer must transfer to the new employer each employee record concerning a transferring employee. If an employee of the old employer becomes an employee of the new employer after the transfer but before the expiry of three months, the new employer must ask the old employer for the employee records and the old employer must comply.

Employers must make copies of employee records available for inspection and copying upon the request of an employee or former employee to whom the record relates. The employer has three (3) business days within which to make the copy available after receiving the request or must post a copy of the record to the employee within 14 days after receiving the request. If the records are not kept at the premises where the employee works or worked, the employer must comply with the request as soon as practicable. Further, the employer must advise the employee where the records are kept, if the employee asks. An employee also has the right to interview the employer or an employer representative about an employee record that has or will be made.

An employer must ensure that a record that the employer is required to keep is not false or misleading to the employer’s knowledge.

An employer must correct a record that the employer is required to keep as soon as the employer becomes aware that it contains an error. If an employee record is corrected, the employer must make a notation on the record of the nature of the corrected error and the correction.

An employer must not alter an employee record, other than as permitted under the Regs or allow any other person to do so.

If a person knows that an employee record is false or misleading, the person may not make use of that entry.

PAY SLIPS

Payslips may be in electronic form or kept in hard copy. Each pay slip must specify the following:

  • Employer’s name;
  • The employee’s name;
  • The period to which the pay slip relates;
  • The date on which the payment to which the pay slip relates was made;
  • The gross amount of the payment;
  • The net amount of the payment;
  • Any amount paid to the employee that is a bonus, loading, allowance, penalty rate, incentive-based payment or other separately identifiable entitlement; and
  • On and after 1 January 2010 – the Australian Business Number (if any) of the employer.

If an amount is deducted from the gross amount of the payment, the pay slip must also include the name, or the name and number, of the fund or account into which the deduction was paid.

If the employee is paid at an hourly rate of pay, the pay slip must also include:

  • The rate of pay for the employee’s ordinary hours (however described);
  • The number of hours in that period for which the employee was employed at that rate; and
  • The amount of the payment made at that rate.

If the employee is paid at an annual rate of pay, the pay slip must also include the rate as at the latest date to which the payment relates.

If the employer is required to make superannuation contributions for the benefit of the employee, the pay slip must also include:

  • The amount of each contribution that the employer made during the period to which the pay slip relates, and the name, or the name and number, of any fund to which the contribution was made; or
  • The amounts of contributions that the employer is liable to make in relation to the period to which the pay slip relates, and the name, or the name and number, of any fund to which the contributions will be made.

What are the benefits of a HRIMS?

When a HRIMS is designed and utilised successfully it can prove a powerful and critical tool, aiding HR to perform a more efficient, effective and strategic role in the organisation.

A successful HRIMS can assist with planning and decision-making, with the aim of ultimately increasing performance and productivity. The ability to collect, measure, analyse and report on workforce information and data can have positive effects of strategic, operational and administrative processes for organisations, managers, employees and HR. Some of these benefits for key stakeholder groups are listed below.

FOR ORGANISATIONS:

  • Assists with compliance/reporting requirements of local, state and federal legislation
  • Reduction in administration and other overhead costs across the organisation
  • Employee and other workplace data can be stored securely (better meeting privacy laws), and easily accessed by those who are granted permissions (HR, senior and line managers)
  • Provides a tool for developing closer links between HR management and planning, and a communication platform for HR managers, line managers and senior management
  • Workforce trends can be monitored and addressed (e.g. external labour market, employee absence, turnover, wastage and career paths), and benchmarking activities undertaken
  • Future costs of targeted initiatives can be determined
  • Potential for better globalisation for geographically dispersed or multi-national companies, as all staff have access to same system and same information channels.

FOR MANAGERS:

  • Direct access to current employee information and data to better monitor individual and/or group performance (e.g. leave, absences, performance ratings/comments)
  • Direct access to work area data to assist with evaluation of programs or policies, and/or day-to-day operational issues
  • Support strategic decision making (decisions related to both people and processes).

FOR EMPLOYEES:

  • Ability to review and check accuracy of own information and data (e.g. pay, leave balances)
  • Ability to update own information and data as required (e.g. leave requests, personal contact details)
  • Some systems also allow for employees to connect with their manager or HR team online for confidential advice and assistance.

FOR HR:

  • More time to focus on strategic initiatives – less time tending to staff enquiries and workforce reporting preparation
  • Improved HR planning and initiative development (better alignment to business needs)
  • More efficient processing – focus on checking data, rather than preparing
  • Faster response times, more accurate information, less opportunity for human error
  • Direct access to work area data to assist with evaluation of programs or policies, and/or day-to-day operational issues

Streamlining and standardisation of HR processes saving time, money and confusion with team and across organisation (thus improving relationships between HR and other staff).

Managing Risks Associated with Outsourcing

Risks will be unique to each organisation and will depend upon the individual business goals, culture, size and location of the organisation and so forth.

While there are many potential advantages to engaging an outsourcing provider, there are also potential risks that an organisation should consider and address.
the following is not an exhaustive list of the potential risks, and instead provides an overview of the more common risks organisations face when considering outsourcing and the ways in which these risks may be managed.

• COST
While the primary reason organisations decide to outsource human resource functions is to reduce costs (through reduction of personnel and overheads), if not managed correctly outsourcing can end up costing the organisation more than what was anticipated due to scope creep, undefined pricing or other loose contract clauses.

It’s essential that the organisation has a written contract in place with outsourcing provider, and that the contract provides detail around pricing and scope of function and that it is reviewed regularly. (See: What should be included in an outsourcing contract? for more information)

• LEGAL OBLIGATIONS / POOR PERFORMANCE
Under key employment legislation such as the Fair Work Act 2009, and various state legislations such as Work Health and Safety Acts, a contractor is recognised as a worker and any work performed or managed by the contractor can be viewed in a court of law as work performed or managed by the organisation.

In turn organisations remain legally and ethically responsible for the work of the outsourcing provider. If the outsourcing provider is providing poor performance (through delay, incorrect advice, and administrative errors) it could result in a legal claim. Poor performance generally of the outsourcing provider may also cost the organisation time and money to fix, and could lead to poor employee morale and wider community reputation.

The contract between the organisation and outsourcing provider should detail the expected performance standards of the outsourcing provider, and what should be achieved by who and when. It is important to highlight any legislation and industry standards the outsourcing provider and associated contractors are expected to understand and follow when working with the organisation. This can also assist with the outsourcing provider understanding and maintaining any organisational culture requirements: e.g. what language (casual or formal) should be used when answering queries. (For more information, please view information sheet : What should be included in an outsourcing contract?)

• LACK OF CLARITY
If not managed correctly, an outsourcing contract can add confusion and frustration to internal human resource roles,
e.g. double-checking work of outsourcing provider instead of focussing on strategic, value-added services.

It’s important that the contract scope is well defined within the contract – highlighting who will be responsible for what. Organisations may also wish to include details around phases or rate at which outsourcing will be introduced noting the benefits, as well as the risk the outsourcing services pose. (See: What should be included in an outsourcing contract? for more information)

• ACCESSIBILITY
Often outsourcing providers will have more than one client and may not be able to perform the human resource function as quickly as if performed ‘in-house’. They also may not be able to be able to dedicate specific consultants/individuals to an organisation which could result in inconsistency of approach and advice.

As above the contract should specifically detail the expected performance standard, and what should be achieved and when it should be achieved by. It’s also important to maintain communication with the outsourcing provider, and provide any feedback received regularly. (See: What should be included in an outsourcing contract? for more information)

• CONFIDENTIALITY / INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Whether intentional or not, the more people sensitive information is exposed too, the higher the risk of information leaks. Organisations also need to be careful with ensuring any work performed by outsourcing provider while they are ‘on the clock’ remains the property of the organisation (intellectual property).

The contract should include a clause around confidentiality (or ‘non-disclosure) and intellectual property, and should be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains applicable. (See: What should be included in an outsourcing contract? for more information)

• COMMUNICATION
Any delay in communication and/or advice from the human resource function may result in staff frustration. For the internal human resource team (and other areas throughout organisation), outsourcing may also have a negative effect on morale: e.g. ‘what does this mean for my job?’

If managed and communicated effectively, outsourcing can be a powerful tool to review positions and realign roles against wider organisational need. Organisations should consider adopting a communication strategy to assist stakeholder engagement and buy-in early. (See Outsourcing communications strategy example for more information)

• DEPENDENCY/CONTROL
It’s important that the organisation is comfortable with the level of control and authority an outsourcing provider has over the human resource function, particularly if there is a need to stop or alter the contract in some way.

As above, regular and timely communication with the outsourcing provider will assist with ensuring the organisation remains aware of outsourcing activities and where applicable that detailed delegations are included within the

contract. Prior to engaging an outsourcing provider the organisation should also decide on what type of outsourcing model that wish to adopt. (See: Outsourcing models for more information)

• MANAGING ALL RISKS
It’s important to highlight here that a well-defined contract between the organisation and outsourcing provider will assist with mitigating risks. The contract acts as a legally binding agreement, and provides some safety to the organisation when contracting an outsourcing provider. However, beyond this, the most effective way for an organisation to manage risk is to maintain regular and robust communication with the outsourcing provider.

The outsourcing provider should be viewed as a business partner, one that will directly affect the human resource function and any stakeholders (managers, employees, customers etc) associated with it. And just as an organisation would an internal employee performing the function, the expectations expected of an outsourcing provider must be communicated and their performance managed, monitored and measured.

Off the shelf Vs Customised HRIS

There are a number of HRIMS vendors operating in the Australian marketplace. These vendors offer a

variety of off-the-shelf and customised systems. These systems range from simple automation of a few key HR processes to enterprise-wide HRIS that automate and manage a significant number of complex HR processes, analytics and reporting.

Regardless of its design, the HRMIS can become a tool which not only provides basic information, but also aids decision making. Nankervis, Compton and Baird (2008) suggest that the most effective HRMIS are those which:

  • Contain accurate employee and job data
  • Are sufficiently flexible to adapt to both present and future requirements
  • Clearly link with, and contribute to, HR plans
  • Are modular, but integrated in design, allowing multiple input and access
  • Allow clear control of human resource costs.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both off-the-shelf, and customised HRIMS – below provides an overview of these.

OFF THE SHELF ADVANTAGES

  • Usually a lower initial investment (money, time and resources)
  • Sometimes there will be a free trial or money back guarantee period
  • Usually quicker to implement and roll-out across organisation
  • May provide access to a community of users
  • Upgrades are generally available (at an additional cost)
  • Customer support should always be readily available
  • If a cloud based HRIMS, you will likely not require any installation of hardware/software.

OFF THE SHELF DISADVANTAGES

  • Designed to meet the basic needs of organisations, across a variety of industries – standard templates, interface etc
  • Unique HRIMS goal and business needs will likely not be met
  • Additional features may be provided that organisation does not need or want (but will still have to pay for)
  • The HRIMS may be a good option for today, but depending on a variety of factors (technology advancements, business structure change, acquisition etc) it may not met organisations future needs.

CUSTOMISED ADVANTAGES

  • Should be designed to meet HRIMS goal, and unique business needs
  • Should be able to be adjusted to meet future goals and business needs
  • HRIMS can be built to exact requirements – including templates, interface
  • In turn stakeholders often quicker to buy-in and engage with HRIMS – as designed specifically for them and their needs
  • Customised HRIMS is usually scalable and additional ‘compartments’ should be able to be easily added when organisation is ready

CUSTOMISED DISADVANTAGES

  •  Usually a higher initial investment (money, time, resources)
  • Potential that organisation will not get what was expected or paid for (why project managing is essential, and ensuring an experienced and capable developer crucial to HRIMS success)
  • No user community as designed especially for organisation
  • Unlikely to be able to simply return product if dissatisfied.

When considering the advantages and disadvantages of both off-the-shelf and customised HRIMS, keep in mind that if the product does not fit the goal of its implementation and the unique needs of the business, it isn’t the right solution, no matter how affordable it is. Couple the above information with a thorough examination of both solutions to ensure the most powerful platform is chosen.

Job Trials

The purpose of job trials is to give employers a better idea of how a candidate will perform in the role and candidates a realistic job preview of what they can expect from the role if they are successful.

Job trials are best used for roles where it is difficult to ascertain how a candidate will perform from other selection techniques and where it is possible for a candidate to step into the role with little preparation for a short period of time. Job trials are often used in customer service, hospitality and retail roles.

Candidates should not be expected to undertake a job trial without payment so employers should be prepared to remunerate a candidate for any substantial job trial.

A job trial is a good way to see a candidate in action and is often helpful in determining between two candidates of similar merit.

What steps can I take to prevent underperformance?

There are a number of things that can be done to attempt to prevent underperformance, these include ensuring the following:

  • Job descriptions are relevant and up to date
  • Clear performance standards are set and communicated to employees
  • Clear and detailed person specifications are set when recruiting, including skills, knowledge, qualifications, experience required
  • An appropriate recruitment process is conducted and is targeted at the correct audience

For a list of common performance issues, possible causes and specific corrective action, please refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Best Practice Guide for Managing Underperformance.www.fwo.gov.au

Who is responsible for managing underperformance?

Under-performance should be addressed by an employee’s direct line manager. Although a challenging and often uncomfortable process for both parties, under-performance needs to be addressed promptly and cannot be left until the formal performance appraisal process.

Possible negative effects of failing to address performance quickly include:

  • Underperforming employees mistakenly believing their performance is satisfactory without feedback to the contrary;
  • Underperformance may continue to decline which can infect the behaviour of others in the workplace; and
  • Employees who are performing comparatively well finding the lack of management action as demotivating; leading to a lack of moral, respect for their manager and disengagement.

In order to handle situations of under-performance, line managers need clear procedures to follow, support from their organisation and training in how to manage these sorts of situations.

How do i deal with an employee who is underperforming?

Discussing poor performance is difficult for both the manager and employee and it is not unusual for employees to react badly to news of unsatisfactory performance. By making sure you are prepared with specific examples, a planned agenda for discussion and are confident with the key messages you wish to provide to your employee, you will be in a position to remain calm during a difficult performance management discussion.

Managers are frequently setting unrealistic targets. How do we make sure that appropriate targets are set ?

Managers need to be realistic when setting performance targets. Sometimes targets are not achieved. Either the time limit is too short or the level of performance is too optimistic. It is important that both the manager and the staff member are fully cognisant of the staff member’s capabilities, the resources available, the timeframes for completion, other competing tasks etc. These will have a significant impact on target achievement.

How can we ensure that all important performance dimensions are addressed in performance criteria ?

Make sure your set of performance criteria is balanced. Include customers, stakeholders, staff satisfaction and internal process efficiency as well as financial matters in your scope. An objective way of dealing with this is to create a balanced scorecard.

We’re not providing adequate development support for staff. How can we provide such support?

Part of the performance management process is the development of staff to provide them with the capabilities to achieve their targets. This aspect of performance management should not be ignored; it should be given appropriate coverage in the performance appraisal process and in the performance development plan. Employees need to be engaged in the setting of their own development plans to ensure they have buy-in to what is being proposed and that it aligns where possible with their personal and professional development needs.

How can we avoid the performance management system focusing on strategic and business outcomes at the expense of individual performance?

Many managers prefer dealing with the big picture, big targets and external issues. Spending time with individual staff working through individual targets and performance can be seen as time-consuming and draining for the manager but it is essential. Strategic and operational targets only get accomplished if individual staff members meet their personal targets.

How do we make sure that managers and staff members plan and create performance targets properly?

A key component of performance management is measuring actual against planned performance. Performance targets need to be SMART (i.e. specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-based). If you do not plan performance by creating SMART targets, it is not possible to evaluate your actual performance. Conducting regular training on the performance appraisal process can help to ensure that staff and manager’s understand what is expected of them.

How do we successfully manage accountability for performance outcomes where more than one person is assigned to a task or project?

Every performance outcome should be made the accountability of a single person – even if they do not control all aspects of that outcome. Their job is to control what they can and influence what they can’t control.

How can we ensure that all aspects of performance management are integrated?

Make sure you sequence the process so that strategic performance cascades to business performance which cascades to team/department performance, which then cascades to individual performance. All the different performance levels should be aligned to achieve the organisation’s strategic objectives. Linking some of the performance outcomes to the organisational values can also help to create an organisation that “lives” their values, not just plays lip-service to them.

Nobody is accountable for the performance management system. How can accountability be introduced?

Appoint a project manager to implement the system or assign it to an employee or team in the HR function. Make this part of performance requirements or a standard part of the management team KPI’s.

A Number Of Managers And Staff Members Regard Performance Management As A ‘FAD’. How Can We Get Them On Board?

Make sure your organisation is ready to use performance management properly. All key players must understand the need for it. Think about which aspects are most important for your organisation. Do not simply apply an off-the-shelf performance management package without thinking about your organisation’s culture and needs.

I sell my business and the new owner offers to recruits my employees on the same terms and conditions. The new owner refuses to recognise service of transferring employees for the purposes of unfair dismissal laws, so that he has a full 6 months to see if he wants to keep the employees. Am I exempt under s 122 of the FW Act from making redundancy payments to transferring employees?

Probably not, because a condition for that exemption is that the new employer recognises prior service with the old employer.

I acquire a factory and recruit its production workforce. The factory workers are covered by an enterprise agreement. I already have a current enterprise agreement that covers the work of the transferring employees. Which agreement do I have to observe for the transferring employees?

The enterprise agreement that covered the workforce of the factory you have purchased, until you make and implement a new enterprise agreement.

I agree with an employee to transfer his employment from a subsidiary to a holding company but only on terms that the subsidiary company payout his annual leave upon transfer. Is that agreement effective?

No. The new employer in a transfer of employment situation can only decide not to recognise the transferring employee’s service with the old employer for the purposes of annual leave where the transfer of employment is between non-associated entities. The old employer could only cash out annual leave immediately before the transfer, subject to Fair Work Act rules (see section 94). If that occurs lawfully, then because the transferring employee has already had the benefit of annual leave calculated by reference to a period of service with the old employer, the new employer does not need to count that service when calculating the employee’s entitlement (section 22(6)).

I take over a gym and recruit the staff. However rather than recruit the staff to work in the gym I’ve taken over, I recruit them to work in another gym on the other side of town. Do I have to recognise the periods of service the employees had with the old operator?

No. The transferring employees have to either use the assets you acquired from the old employer, or there has to be some other relationship between the assets and their work, in order for the FW Act transfer of business provisions to apply.

On Monday I take over a Victorian café business and employ the wait staff and use the equipment left behind by the outgoing operator who ceased trading the previous Friday. I have not had any communication with the outgoing operator or anyone on his behalf. Do I have to recognise the periods of service the employees had with the old operator?

Only in respect of long service. In respect of other service-based entitlements the absence of any arrangement between the old operator and you permitting your use of the old operator’s assets means the FW Act transfer of business provisions will not apply.

I plan to retrench more than 15 employees who are not union members or covered by an award or enterprise agreement. Do I have an obligation to consult with employees?

No, but the Fair Work Commission may create that obligation. A union with relevant coverage over the employees being retrenched, or the employees themselves, can apply to FWC for orders requiring that consultation (section 531 Fair Work Act). The union can make this application even if it does not have any actual members affected by the retrenchments.

The enterprise agreement I made under the Fair Work Act does not contain a consultation procedure. Does that mean no procedure applies?

No. If an enterprise agreement does not include a consultation term, a model consultation term prescribed by the Fair Work Regulations (Regulation 2.09, Schedule 2.3) is taken to be a term of the agreement.

My organisation is proposing workplace change that is permitted by a modern award, but is still likely to have a significant effect on employees covered by the award, do I have to comply with the consultation procedure in that award?

No. Where the award makes provision for alteration of any of these matters an alteration is deemed not to have significant effect. For example, under the Clerks-Private Sector Award the employer can change the days on which a part-time employee works by giving one week’s notice of the change (clause 11.4).

e have bought a new business and are keeping some of their old employees. Do I need to issue a new Fair Work Information Statement to these employees?

Yes. The Fair Work Information Statement contains information about how transfers of business can affect an employees’ employment entitlements.

What will happen if I don’t consult with my employees about organisational change generally?

It depends what the change is, and whether your employees are covered by a modern award or enterprise agreement.

Award/Agreement covered employees:

Non-compliance with a consultation obligation arising under a modern award or enterprise will expose an employer to legal claims from either affected employees, a union representing those employees or the Fair Work Ombudsman.

In 2010 the Federal Court fined QR National $249,600 for its failure to comply with its enterprise agreement obligation to consult with employees about changes to employment arrangements flowing from its plans to privatise some of its operations. The relevant unions brought that proceeding. The evidence showed that the failure to consult did have a material impact on affected employees.

Award/Agreement free employees:

Whilst it is considered best practice to consult with employees about major workplace change, it is not necessarily an obligation set in place by the FW Act for those employees who are award and/or agreement free. Failing to consult with your employees in some situations (e.g. mergers with other companies, or acquisitions of other companies) may be a practical and deliberate necessity, particularly if there is a chance that confidential merger negotiations may be affected, or jeopardised as a result. On the other hand however, and in other less sensitive circumstances, failure to consult with employees may erode the trust which has been established between employer and employee and could have negative impacts on your business. These may include lowered morale, motivation and engagement.

What does “associated entity” mean?

Entity means a natural person (e.g. Bill Bloggs), a body corporate (e.g. BB Pty Ltd), a partnership (Bill Bloggs and Sons) or a trust (Bill Bloggs as trustee for the Bill Bloggs Family Trust).

Section 50AAA of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) defines associated entities. An entity is associated with another entity if they are members of the same corporate group, or if one entity has a certain degree of control over the other. For example, 2 companies are associated entities if one controls the composition of the board of another, such that the second company is a subsidiary of the first.

The control might also arise in other ways, such as under a business loan agreement by one individual to another which requires that the lender approve all significant financial and operational decisions that the borrower makes as part of his or her business. By reason of this control, the borrower and the lender are associated entities.

What does transferable instrument mean?

The Fair Work Act (FW Act) provides that certain industrial instruments are “transferrable” in a transfer of business situation and continue to apply to employees who transfer from the old employer to the new. Some examples of these “transferrable instruments” include:

  • Enterprise agreements
  • Awards
  • Workplace determinations
  • Individual flexibility agreements
  • Guarantee of annual earnings
  • Australian workplace agreement and ITEA.

Why do I need to know about transfer of business laws?

HR practitioners need to be across transfer of business provisions in order to manage the liabilities of their organisation appropriately and provide support and advice to key leadership about the risks and advantages of this form of change. Whilst it will vary from business to business as to whether HR professionals are directly involved in managing the process of planning transfer of business situations (be it a take-over, business sale, merger or otherwise), HR professionals will inevitably be responsible for managing the effects on employees which are triggered by such change, including; recognition of employment entitlements such as continuity of service, redundancy, long service leave and consultation obligations.

What is a transfer of business?

A transfer of business occurs if a number of conditions are satisfied. These are set out by the Fair Work Act and include:

  • There is a national system employee employed by a national system employer
  • The employee ceases employment with the first employer (the old employer) and becomes employed by another national system employer (the new employer) within 3 months after ceasing employment with the old employer (transferring employee)
  • The work the transferring employee performs for the new employer is the same, or substantially the same, as the work the employer performed for the old employer (transferring work).
  • There is a relevant connection between the old employer and a new employer. Relevant connections include:
    • Transfer of assets;
    • Outsourcing;
    • Insourcing; and
    • Associated entity relationship.

In order for the transfer of business provisions to apply, there must be at least one employee who has transferred from the old employer to the new employer.

We have a number of employees working under different modern awards. How can I be sure that I am paying them correctly, especially when overtime and penalty rates are involved?

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website has a section devoted to pay. It includes an application used for determining rates as well as deciphering award wages. Please visit the following link www.fairwork.gov.au

Please also refer to the Pay section of the Fair Work Ombudsman website for more frequently asked questions relating to remuneration and associated issues.

We are looking at introducing salary packaging as a benefit to employees. What things do we need to consider?

When introducing a salary packaging option to employees, there are a number of steps you will need to take to ensure the process is well implemented. Some things to consider are:

  • Have a clear understanding of current remuneration and benefit arrangements offered by the organisation
  • Discuss the possible introduction with the tax and/or finance team in your organisation to get their advice and support
  • Develop a fully costed proposal that outlines the positives and negatives of introducing remuneration packaging including benefits to be offered, how the administration will be handled and a detailed communication program
  • Seek approval from senior management for program introduction
  • Find a suitable outsourced provider to handle the administrative processes (if applicable)
  • Work through the communications program and ensure employees understand the issues associated with remuneration packaging

What is salary packaging?

Salary packaging offers employees the flexibility to structure their remuneration in a way that reduces the amount of tax they pay with limited cost increases for the employer.

For more information, please refer to our information sheet and checklist on salary packaging.

We are a relatively new business which has grown quite rapidly in recent times and we are now looking to formalise how we pay our staff. Can you please advise on how we can determine what the appropriate salary or wage rates are for our employees?

There are a number of ways in which an organisation can determine what rates to pay their employees. This will depend on a number of factors, including whether the employee is covered by a specific industrial instrument, such as a modern award or enterprise agreement (which will regulate the employment relationship and rates of pay), or whether in fact the employee is award/agreement free and has no such regulation.

Most professional employees and managers are award free; however there are some exceptions to this rule: professional engineers, professional scientists, architects and IT professionals are covered by the Professional Employees Award. Senior managers in the financial services sector may also be covered by the Banking, Finance and Insurance Award.

For those that are award covered, there are numerous resources on the Fair Work Ombudsman website, such as pay and conditions guides and other tools to assist in determining the appropriate rate of pay for the duties being performed.

For more information, please contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.

For award/agreement free employees (this will be the majority of professional employees) the methods of determining salary and wage levels include:

  • Job ranking – ranking each role within an organisation against each other usually according to level of job difficulty
  • Point System – a quantitativeapproach to determining pay by deciding on the factors which are compensable and then ascertaining which of these factors is present in the relevant jobs
  • Market Comparison – establishing rates according to what competing organizations or other organizations within the same industry pay their employees. Salary surveys are generally the most effective ways to ascertain industry specific pay rates. Generally a benchmark will be set on a particular job based on information gained from the salary surveys
  • Performance related – incentive pay for individuals that rewards employees based on the idea that there are different levels of contribution across an organization
  • Skills related – paying an employee for the level of skill they have including depth of skill, type of skills and capabilities that they have and are able to utilize

 

What is the difference between a salary and wages?

Wages are generally paid on an hourly basis. The amount paid per period changes based on the number of hours worked and whether overtime or penalty rates are included.

A salary is an annual amount commonly paid either fortnightly or monthly. In most instances the salary amount does not change even if the hours worked in a particular week vary.

We have accidentally overpaid someone for the last 3 months, are we able to get the amount in overpayment back?

If an overpayment has occurred, in order to deduct any amount from an employee, you must ensure that written consent is given by the employee. The only deductions that can legally be made from an employee are those pertaining to PAYE income tax deductions. Employers need to mindful that there are special rules regarding the deduction or withholding of monies from workers’ wages.

When notifying employees of overpayments, or where an employee does not consent to a deduction being made, it is a good practice to explain that an administrative error has taken place in processing their pay but, as a sign of good faith, these amounts will not be recouped. Employees should however, be notified that their rate of pay will be reduced to reflect the correct amount in future pay cycles. It is often useful to point to the particular source of wage information applicable to them (e.g. modern award, enterprise agreement, contract of employment etc.) to assist in explaining the correct rate of pay.

Where do I access information on industry salary levels?

Remuneration packages should be benchmarked against external market rates as well as internal rates which are paid to those employed at the same level within the organisation.

To establish what the market rates are for specific job roles there are two main sources of information:

  • Recruitment agencies
  • Published salary guides.

A recruitment agency can provide advice about current market rates. Even if your organisation does not use a recruitment agency, they still may be willing to provide suitable information, particularly if they are interested in establishing a relationship with your organisation.

There are a number of salary guides freely available online. Particularly useful guides are those provided by some of the larger recruitment organisations. They will provide a snapshot of salaries and employment market trends across Australia in a number of industries. The guides are designed to assist with decision making by providing a market overview, as well as the salaries companies have paid for positions across Australia within the preceding 12 months.

Can you please advise our obligations to grant Carer’s Leave in addition to Compassionate Leave after the death of a parent to assist with the care of the other parent. The employee has advised that a Stat Dec can be provided which advises that he was unfit for work.

Carer’s leave can be taken directly after compassionate leave where the employee is required to provide care or support to a member of their immediate family or household because that member is experiencing an illness, injury or has encountered an unexpected emergency (including the death). To be eligible for payment, the employee must provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person of the need to provide that care or support. A stat dec would suffice in this instance.

Are there any restrictions to an employee undertaking secondary employment with another employer whilst on parental leave under Fair Work legislation? Or is this be dependent on what is stated in workplace policies or the individual’s employment contract?

Generally speaking, an employee cannot take up paid work with another employer whilst on unpaid parental leave without their original employer’s consent. Although this is not specifically provided for in the Fair Work Act, the eligibility requirements for unpaid parental leave state that an employee must be the child’s primary caregiver. It is arguable that the employee ceases genuinely being in need of unpaid parental leave where they have taken up employment elsewhere as they are no longer taking the leave to primarily care for their child. If you wished to regulate this, you could state this in a company parental leave policy.

A case on Maternity Leave

We have had an employee go on Maternity Leave in August 2012 (and extend the period) until March 2013. She has requested to return to employment on a part time basis. We have been able to facilitate this request (on a short term, 3-6 month basis) but only in a different role within the team (different duties but at the same level and salary band). The employee is happy with this arrangement as obviously it gives her the opportunity to come back on a part time basis. We currently have a Fixed Term Contractor performing the employee’s old role.

Are we able to stipulate that we can only facilitate part time for a short period of time and then mandate that the employee has to return to full time work? If the employee doesn’t want to return to full time work after that period, would they be eligible for redundancy?

We would like to make the contractor performing in the employee’s old role permanent, but if the mat leaver does return to full time employment (3-6 months down the track), do they have the right to ask for their old role back at that time?

 

Unfortunately, there is no black or white answer to the query which you have asked and employers in this situation

should seek a professional legal opinion as to the best course of action to take. With this in mind, the following general points can be made: The question of whether you can request the employee to resume full-time work depends on the basis on which you offered the employee part-time work. Was it a permanent variation to the employee’s role and employment contract? If so, you cannot unilaterally change the basis for employment back to full-time. If you no longer required the part-time role it is a redundancy situation.

If the basis for the employee going part-time was under a flexible working arrangement, then you can end the arrangement on reasonable business grounds. If the employee declines to resume full-time work then it is treated as a resignation. The temporary employee’s rights depend on what was communicated to the employee and the arrangement made when they started the temporary assignment.

What constitutes “reasonable business grounds” is not specifically defined in the FW Act, however section 65(5A) of the FW Act provides some examples. Additionally, the Fair Work Ombudsman’s webpage on Flexible Working Arrangements, offers some guidance on this point. If you did decide that you wanted to refuse to accommodate the request, you would need to justify this decision. Accordingly, you will need to provide written advice to your employee (including reasons for the refusal) within 21 days.

How do I modify an employee’s job to make it “safe”?

This will depend on what the employee’s job involves, and what their medical practitioner has advised are safe duties for them to perform given their particular circumstances. If you have received an ambiguous medical certificate from the employee’s doctor that is ambiguous, such as “the employee can perform light duties”, you are entitled to seek clarification on what those light duties are in the context of their job description and requirements of the job. Once you have received this, you are able to make reasonable adjustments accordingly. This might include things such as; moving the employee to a desk job where they can remain seated and indoors.

We have an employee who has been working for us for less than 12 months and they have just advised they are pregnant. Are they entitled to unpaid parental leave? If not, what are they entitled to?

Under the FW Act, employees who have not completed 12 months continuous service with their employer are not entitled to take a period of unpaid parental leave. Despite this, State and Federal discrimination legislation still applies to protect employees from being discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy. These laws would require you to accommodate the employee’s pregnancy as far as it is reasonable. Ordinarily it would not be reasonable for you to provide an employee an extended period of leave after the birth.

Given the above, we would recommend sitting down with the employee to discuss possible alternatives to unpaid parental leave such as an agreed period of unpaid leave for a set period, or for the employee to take any accrued annual leave and/or personal leave.

An employee and her manager have agreed to reduce the employee’s ordinary hours of work due to her pregnancy related illness (the employee is entitled to unpaid parental leave under the FW Act). In accordance with the transfer to ‘safe job’ provisions in the FW Act, do we need to continue to pay the employee her ordinary full time hours/rate of pay? Or do we only pay her for the hours she actually works for the duration of the period?

When an employee transfers to a safe job in circumstances where it was unsafe for the employee to perform her original job due to pregnancy, the employer is required to pay the employee at the full rate of pay for the (i.e. her rate of pay in her normal job) for the hours she works in the safe job.

Our business is restructuring and we need to make positions redundant. Can we make a pregnant employee redundant? Can we make employees on parental leave redundant?

If the fact that the employee(s) are either pregnant or on parental leave has no bearing on the decision to make the role redundant, or the decision to select particular employees for redundancy then yes. However, pregnant employees and those on parental leave should be offered the same redeployment opportunities as a part of the redundancy process; otherwise employers may face discrimination claims on the basis of pregnancy, or carer’s responsibilities or other claims under the FW Act.

An employer is required to discuss with the employees changes likely to have a significant impact on the employee’s position. An employer is also required to give the affected employees information about proposed changes – this includes providing reasons for the decision. This is essentially because employees who are on parental leave during this period are at a natural disadvantage in respect of the consultation process.

We have a full time employee who is suffering a pregnancy related illness – her treating doctor has recommended she continues to work, but in a reduced capacity. The employee would like to reduce her hours of work to part-time from now until commencement of her unpaid parental leave. Is this Special Maternity Leave? And, can we simply agree to a temporary reduction in hours on the basis of her pregnancy related illness?

This is not ‘special maternity leave’ as provided under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) – special maternity leave requires that the employee be unable to work at all due to a pregnancy related illness.

If a pregnant employee cannot perform her job safely because of pregnancy-related illness, but has capacity to perform some work you should transfer her to a safe job (which may include part time work or alternative duties). If you don’t have the ability to provide a safe job for her then you should place this employee on paid ‘no safe job leave’.

A pregnant employee has provided a medical certificate stating that she is fit for work, but on restricted duties. The medical certificate is not clear enough on what duties the employee can perform, can I go back to the medical practitioner and ask for more information?

Yes. You should request the employee return to their doctor and provide them with a list of the duties inherent to the job so that the doctor can assess the risks to the employee and her unborn child’s health.

When can I request medical certificates from pregnant employees?

Pregnant employees may be required to produce a medical certificate to their employer at different junctures during their pregnancy, depending on the circumstances. These may include:

  • Where an employer has requested evidence of the pregnancy to support a request for unpaid parental leave (this does not have to be a medical certificate, but is commonly used as evidence);
  • Where an employer requests a medical certificate as evidence that a pregnant employee is required to be transferred to a safe job;
  • Where an employee on paid no safe job leave enters the six week period before the birth of her child, and employer requests a medical certificate setting out whether the employee is fit for work or not;
  • Where an employee continues to work during the six weeks before the expected date of the birth of the child; and
  • Where an employee takes unpaid special maternity leave.

Can a (pregnant) employee go on unpaid parental leave before six weeks of the expected date of birth of the child?

If an employee is unfit for any work due to a pregnancy-related illness they can take paid personal leave or unpaid special maternity leave. This period is not included in the 12 month parental leave entitlement.

An employer suspects an employee who is on parental leave is guilty of stealing. Can the employer investigate while they are on leave? How do you handle this situation?

Yes, but you need to make reasonable adjustments to the investigation process to give the employee a reasonable opportunity to answer the allegations.

A full time employee has gone on parental leave (12 months), and six months into the leave has requested that she be able to return to a different position on a part-time basis. Does the employer have to adhere to this request?

No.

Does time spent on unpaid parental leave count towards an employee’s entitlement to long service leave?

No.

Does an employee accrue annual leave while on parental leave?

Only during the period (if any) that the parental leave is paid.

prefer my contracted parental leave employee to the employee who is on leave. Do I have to let them return to their old job?

When parental leave ends an employee is entitled to return to the position he/she held before commencing leave. If that position no longer exists, the employee is entitled to return to an available position at an equivalent level or similar nature and pay to the former position.

We have an employee who is quite sick and has a medical certificate covering them for the whole week, however, the employee is choosing to attend work against the doctor’s advice. What are my obligations?

There may be exposure for an employer where they allow an employee to continue working whilst unfit for work, and particularly where they are covered by a medical certificate for the period. In this circumstance it would be prudent to advise the employee to return home for the remainder of the period, or to re-visit their doctor for a re-assessment if they believe their condition has improved and they are fit for work. An employer may consider paying for the costs of this re-assessment.

What does ‘inherent requirements of the job’ actually mean?

Assessing the ‘inherent requirements of the job’ involves an objective test as to what is actually required of that position. In the High Court case of X v The Commonwealth [1999] HCA 63, it was held that inherent requirements of a job means the essential elements of the job which does not typically include remote or peripheral tasks. This is not limited to physical ability or skill of an employee, and the assessment should contemplate the way the job is performed as well as terms of appointment. In this sense, position descriptions, contracts of employment and the nature of the business are particularly useful to determine the inherent requirements.

If an employee injures themselves on their own time (knee injury) and then as a result is unable to fulfill their duties at work as a result – what are our legal rights? Can we terminate him on the basis that he is unable to perform his duties and if so, what process would we follow? I am guessing it would be slightly different then the ‘opportunity to improve’ type scenario with letters of warning.

You must be extremely careful when terminating an employee who is sick or injured. However, if they are unable to perform the inherent requirements of the role, you may have grounds for termination.

To determine the inherent requirements of a role, consider:

  • The terms of any employment contract;
  • The job description;
  • The actual physical and mental tasks performed; and
  • The nature of your business.

Even if the employee cannot meet the inherent requirements, where possible and reasonably practicable you must make an effort to accommodate the employee by temporarily altering their role or implementing changes to help the employee during their time of illness/injury.

Therefore, dismissal on the grounds of incapacity is permitted if the incapacity prevents the employee from meeting the inherent requirements of the role and nothing you can reasonably do will enable the employee to meet those requirements. If this is the case, you must consult with the employee and give them every opportunity to provide relevant information about their capacity, and you must satisfy yourselves that you have enough evidence to prove that the dismissal is not unduly harsh when considering the employee’s length of service, employment history and the impact of the dismissal on him/her compared with the impact on your business.

Despite the above, the FW Act allows a dismissal of an employee if they are absent from work for 3 consecutive months, or 3 months in a 12 month period. However, during this period there should be reasonable consultation with the employee regarding their injury and position, including notifying them of the possibility of dismissal based on their absence for the required period.

What strategies can I use to improve employee attendance?

Depending on the cause of the absence, you can try to make the job more engaging (please see our section on Retention), address any workplace concerns they might have (e.g. see people development section for tips), and where necessary, you can potentially take disciplinary action against employees who consistently fail to present for work without a lawful excuse/do not comply with appropriate policies/procedures (please see our managing underperformance and discipline resources under the people development section).

Who’s responsible for dealing with absenteeism?

Often lawyers can get involved to help manage absenteeism by:

  • Disciplining employees for not following applicable rules when they take personal/carer’s leave
  • Disciplining employees taking personal/carer’s leave because the condition for exercising the right to take the leave did not exist (e.g. the employee took sick leave when he/she was not actually unfit for work due to illness or injury), or
  • Managing the causes of the absenteeism (e.g. disability or impairment) consistent with legal requirements.

However, lawyers will not give you solutions to excessive absenteeism. This can only be achieved through affective human resource management.

Some of the solutions suggested include:

  • Building good relationships, respect and trust between management and employees, which includes effectively dealing with underperformers and rewarding those behaviours that are desired
  • Affording flexibility with working hours, the ability to work from home and varied leave options, which focus on work effectiveness rather than time worked
  • Measures which achieve proper balance in work and personal lives, e.g. part time, flexi-time, staggered working hours etc.
  • Reducing generous overtime provisions which may entice employees to call in sick on the days that they do not get paid overtime, whilst working those where they do

Do you have an absenteeism problem?

Collecting data on the patterns of employee absence is essential to determining whether absenteeism is a problem in your workplace. Monitoring absence trends can assist you to:

  • Identify if you have a problem with absence levels in your workplace
  • Categorize the type of absence that usually occurs in your workplace, e.g. Monday ‘sickies’ or cases of longer-term sickness, and
  • Highlight patterns in employee absence levels, e.g. are absence levels higher in one particular team or at a specific time of year?

What commonly triggers learning and development activities?

  • Employees and/or positions new to the company
  • A person moving to a new job (within or from outside the company) or gaining new job responsibilities
  • A person (or a group f people) underperforming in their current job
  • A person wishing to develop competencies to extend their performance in their current job and further develop their career
  • A change event (new strategy, new process, new system etc.)
  • An external influence

Do I have to pay for my staff training? Do I have to give my employees time off to complete training courses?

Generally speaking, if you require a staff member to attend a training course or participate in learning and development activities, you should pay your employees for their time. Where the training can be seen as a learning opportunity open to employees to attend if they wish, and therefore voluntary (e.g. a product information night to enhance ability to sell a product your business stocks) then this does not usually have to be paid. Similarly, where employees wish to complete training, or other self-initiated learning and development activities, it is at the discretion of the employer as to whether or not study leave or other assistance is provided. Any financial or time allowances/assistance provided will of course have likely flow on benefits to the organisation in terms of morale and retention rates.
However a business wishes to approach these issues, details should be included in a relevant policy (e.g. Leave Policy including Study Leave) to avoid ambiguity.

Why do I need to keep a record of learning and development activities?

It is a good idea to keep a record of learning and development activities for a number of reasons. Firstly, if an organisation is paying for the L+D activities their employees are attending, there will need to some sort of financial reporting and accountability mechanisms put in place. Records of this nature will also be relevant for evaluation, return of investment and learning and development statistics which will be used by the HR department and senior management. Aside from these, records can be relied upon in performance management processes and disciplinary procedures. It will be particularly beneficial to rely upon specific training being offered to help address a performance issue and where performance has not been improved, considering alternative action which may include termination (depending on the circumstances of course).

What learning and development needs is coaching suitable for?

  • Management development;
  • Leadership development and grooming for senior positions; and
  • Focus is more on the development
  • Helping technical experts develop better interpersonal or managerial skills
  • Developing an individual’s potential and providing career support
  • Developing a more strategic perspective after a promotion to a more senior role
  • Handling conflict situations so that they are resolved effectively

Are all employees suitable for coaching interventions?

No, necessarily. Some individuals lack self-awareness and emotional intelligence which are essential to successfully participatomg in coaching activities. As well as this, some learning and development needs are not well suited to coaching, including completing repetitive tasks and particular and specialist skills which require practice and specialisation.

What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

The main differences between coaching and mentoring are; the goal setting process of each, the type of advice given, the time frames for the relationship to exist and the skills or attributes of the mentor/coach.

Coaching focusses on the acquiring new skills and/or refining performance of specific tasks in the short term. The coach usually sets the goals to be achieved and gives constructive feedback to refine techniques to improve performance. The coach is someone who is able to assist learning of new skills and abilities. In contrast to this, mentoring focusses on longer term career and capability development of an individual, as opposed to short term skill acquisition. The mentor is normally someone who is highly experienced in the field and can provide insights from personal experience and offers a more comprehensive view in terms of the mentees career progression. Mentees can largely set goals to be achieved and mentors can offer feedback and suggestions.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring focuses on helping employees’ long-term development and emphasises an individual’s career progression. Mentoring involves an experienced, knowledgeable person (the mentor) assisting a lesser experienced person (the mentee) with development in any or all of the following areas:

  • Technical skills associated with the practical application of the mentee’s proficient expertise in accounting and finance
  • Personal effectiveness skills which develop the communication, interpersonal and self-management skills required in the workplace
  • Business skills expected of an accounting and financial professional in the business environment
  • Leadership skills which develop the ethical, governance, planning and decision making skills required to realise potential as a leader.

A mentor is an experienced person who provides assistance, guidance, advice, encouragement and support to a lesser experienced person (the mentee) as a means of fostering the mentee’s professional development.
Mentoring relationships can be conducted with the mentee’s direct manager, outside the mentee’s direct reporting line, or with an experienced professional who is external to the organisation.

The role of the mentor is to:

  • act as a sounding board and provide information
  • share knowledge and experiences
  • challenge the mentee where appropriate
  • provide the mentee with guidance in relation to their career development

Mentee

A mentee can be any person – ranging from a graduate recruit to a senior manager – with an identified career development need.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a widely used development tool and performance management technique – it can be used for a number of purposes: one-on-one developmental coaching, team coaching, executive coaching and business coaching. The structure and techniques of coaching may differ based on the manager’s personal style; however all techniques will have one unifying feature: the coaching approach will predominantly be facilitated by the coach asking questions and challenging the coachee to learn from his or her own resources.

The coaching process is underpinned by established trust in the coach. This two-way trusting partnership will assist an employee to achieve growth.

Coaching utilises the work situation as a learning opportunity. It focuses on developing a person’s skills and knowledge to improve job performance. Coaching is effectively ‘learning by doing’ under the supervision of an experienced person. By undertaking a task on-the-job and under the direction of the coach, the coachee acquires skills and knowledge required for their job role.

The coach is generally one of the following:

  • The coachee’s direct line manager or a supervisor with considerable expertise in the relevant field
  • A dedicated internal coach who may be a line manager or a human resources (HR) specialist,
  • An external person specialising in coaching

The selection of the coach will be dependent upon the coaching need.

The coachee is a person who has been identified by the line manager, supervisor or HR practitioner as having a learning need to improve the knowledge or skills required to perform their job.

How do I do a TNA?

The training needs analysis is quite a complex task and should be tailored to the organisational setting, the job which is being performed and the individual who is performing it. As a basic guide to conducting a TNA, HR Mangers should follow these steps:

  1. Analyse the job;
  2. Analyse the person’s current skills and knowledge;
  3. Decide on the skills/knowledge gaps;
  4. Identify training solutions; and
  5. Evaluate performance after training.

Three levels of a TNA

  1. Organisational: Considers where resources should best be invested in learning and development activities to help achieve organisational strategic goals and objectives. This level of analysis also incorporates things such as an organisation’s culture, HR objectives and external influences.
  2. Task / job level: Considers what specific skills, knowledge and abilities are required to perform particular jobs within the organisation. This is largely related to the workforce planning process as it looks back to the position description and job analysis as a basis for analysing excepted standards of work outputs.
  3. Individual level: Considers the actual performance of an individual compared against the expected performance standards to analyse whether training is an appropriate solution to address any deficiencies. Common examples of assessing this performance are the performance appraisal, customer feedback and by using the person specification to assess an individual’s performance.

Sources: Tovey & Lawlor, PD.

What is a training needs analysis? How do I do this?

A training needs analysis (TNA) is the first step in the Learning and development process and should be completed following the job analysis and design process.

A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is the systematic problem solving exercise of identifying a gap between the current skills and competencies of the job incumbent compared to the ideal skills and competencies needed for a particular job. Once a gap has been identified, a decision needs to be made as to whether this deficiency can be rectified by training, or if in fact it is something which requires alternative action (for example counselling for underperformance and discipline). It is essential to correctly identify training needs in order to design, deliver and measure value to the organisation accurately and demonstrate return on investment.

Who is responsible for Learning and Development activities?

earning and Development is a process which requires shared support and responsibility from a number of sources. Depending on the size and structure of an organisation, the following are usually responsible for the learning and development activities and outcomes within an organisation:

  • The organisation: Support at board level for learning and development activities is crucial to the success of any learning and development program and should be tied in with the businesses strategic objectives. Related to this the organisation’s vision, culture and willingness to invest (by way of time and financial resources) in the continuous development of staff to better face future challenges and remain competitive.
  • Line managers: Line managers play a pivotal role in the success of learning and development activities in that they are not only accountability for the performance of their teams, but are in an advantageous position to observe and identify the knowledge, skill and ability gaps of their subordinates better than anyone else. Adding to this, line managers are furthermore able to monitor employees’ improvement following learning and development activities.
  • HR Department: Some larger organisations may have a dedicated Learning and Development team within their overall HR Function, however if this is not the case, the HR Manager will be responsible for coordinating learning and development activities. The HR Department is responsible for the effective analysis of training needs, overall design, structure and delivery of training programs as well as demonstrating return on investment of all learning and development activities.
    • Included in this category are also the training facilitators / instructors themselves. Whether learning and development be offered in-house as a part of a structured organisational development program, or offered out-of-house from a specialist trainer, the impact upon the overall training success largely hinges on how effectively material is communicated.
  • Employees: Whilst the most obvious participant in learning and development activities within an organisation it is often overlooked just how important an employee’s level of commitment to training and development is to the success of such programs. Through promotion by line managers and the HR department, employees should be able to easily identify the benefits training activities will have on their ability to perform their jobs more efficiently in the future. Aside from the organisational context, employees need to take ownership of learning and development opportunities to better equip themselves with the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to remain competitive in today’s changing business environment and to keep up with those around them if they are to progress career-wise.

As with many HR activities, learning and development is a process of collaboration and cannot be viewed in isolation from all other activities. Who is exactly in the learning and development process will depend on the size of an organisation, and in particular, the level of dedicated HR personnel to manage the learning and development function. Whilst it is quite common for larger organisations to have a dedicated learning and development team within the HR Department, smaller organisations may only have one manager who is responsible for all staff and need to manage the learning and development activities of everyone within their business. Regardless of size restraints however, in all circumstances the two main roles responsible for learning and development are the direct managers and individual employees.

When do learning and development activities need to be carried out?

Ideally, learning and development should be seen as a continuous activity which is fundamental to achieving continual improvement of individuals and organisations. On a practical level however, the need to train and develop employees is usually triggered by one of the following scenarios:

Employees are new to the organisation and require induction and socialisation. This is sometimes referred to as the “on-boarding process” whereby new recruits become familiar with the organisations cultural norms, expectations, rules and procedures.

For more information please see the

  • Employees changing job roles (e.g. promotions, transfers or secondments) which require different skills, knowledge and abilities to carry out the new job related tasks.
  • A change in organisational strategy which dictates the need for new training and development initiatives to align staff skills, knowledge and experience with business goals.
  • As a result of changes to the workforce makeup such as changing demographics and workforce composition and recruitment initiatives which may have long term effects on learning and development needs.
  • As a result of new technology or changes in how work is organised to achieve results more efficiently.

How do I work out which learning and development method to use?

Conduct a training needs analysis. Consider the types of skills and knowledge that need to be acquired – this can help you determine whether a work-related learning technique is suitable, or whether off-the-job learning is required.

How does the organisation make clear the different responsibilities of the line managers and the human resource managers in promoting and organising learning and development activities for staff members?

The learning and development policy should clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of each party in terms of all processes and procedures associated with learning and development activities of the organisation. Human resource employees are pivotal in creating the learning and development framework for the organisation, and managing the learning and development function across the organisation. The line managers access and use the framework and its structures to identify appropriate learning and development for themselves and their staff members. Line managers also play a major role in helping those within the organisation learn – by coaching, mentoring, delivering training etc.

How do we combat poor attendance and ‘no shows’ at pre-booked learning and development programs?

Some options to combat poor attendance include: communicate the benefits of learning and development; strengthen the links between attendance and the performance appraisal process; explicitly acknowledge attendee completion of learning and development programs; assess the relevance and currency and learning and development activities to ensure they meet the needs of staff members; encourage line managers to reinforce the importance of learning and development programs in building skills and knowledge. In some instances where it is believe that non-attendance is a means of “getting out of work” it may be appropriate to include this behaviour as a form of unauthorised absence from work and could be referred to the unsatisfactory workplace performance policy and procedure for resolution.

What should the organisation do if senior managers are reluctant to invest in learning and development programs for their staff members and they are concerned about the amount of time staff members may need to be away from the workplace to participate in training programs?

HR Managers should take the following approaches when dealing with this issue:

  • Reinforce the link between learning and development and achievement of the organisation’s strategic and operational objectives.
  • Endeavour to promote learning and development as an important recruitment and retention tool that will help the organisation secure and retain highly skilled and knowledgeable accounting and finance professionals.
  • Outline the tangible benefits of learning and development to managers, e.g. acquisition of current industry knowledge and skills, the appeal of highly skilled and knowledgeable employees to customers and clients.
  • Also try to show managers how learning and development can assist in turning around poor performance in staff members.

How can we ensure that learning and development initiatives are relevant to staff members, their job roles and career aspirations?

Make sure training needs analyses are undertaken. These analyses should include analysis of position descriptions and person specifications. Also give consideration to the alignment of learning and development initiatives with the organisation’s strategic and operational objectives. Evaluate learning and development activities to ensure transfer of learning back into the workplace, and ask staff for feedback regarding training needs.

How can we promote learning and development in our organisation?

Promote learning and development initiatives through line management in the first instance and make professional development a visible component of the performance management process. If you have the means at your disposal, also consider using the organisation’s intranet to promote learning and development by: (a) having a dedicated learning and development portal; and (b) publicising the successes and achievements of staff members in the area of learning and development. For organisations without such systems, an office notice board, or even a rewards scheme for those employees who achieved the highest results in a training course are good initiatives to boost staff buy-in.

What Is Hr’s Role In Leadership Development?

HR plays a key role in driving coaching and leadership development activities within organisations. HR must lead by example and provide guidance, support and help to drive leadership initiatives. There are many activities which HR must be part of when it comes to implementing successful leadership development activities.

Are There Different Leadership Skills Involved In Managing Virtual Teams?

A growing proportion of employees now work at a distance; from home or on a different site to other employees within their team. This is increasingly common in organisations and as such, leaders and managers need to develop skills to best manage challenges that arise from remote team members and virtual teams. There are similarities in leading virtual compared to those located in one location. However, leaders managing virtual teams need to be more conscientious, deliberate and well planned when communicating and connecting with their team.

What Is Coaching And Why Is It Important In Leadership Development?

Coaching is a form of development activity which leaders can benefit from. Coaching leaders and managers can enable them to increase work performance and also to enhance their awareness of social/work/personal behaviours. Coaching aims to help another person learn in ways that encourages them to keep growing. Coaching tends to be based on asking rather than telling, and helps to provoke thinking rather than giving directions.

What Types Of Leadership Development Activities Can We Run?

HR can select from a range of activities to help increase leadership capability. There are internal and external development activities to enable individuals to develop their leadership skills. Internal development activities include; on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring, conferences, job rotation & secondments, higher duties, networking, informal learning sessions, attending workshops, reading articles etc. External development activities include; formal training sessions/workshops and Executive Leadership training programs.

Emotional Intelligence Is Popular In Leadership Development. What Does This Involve?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they are feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. The more that a leader can manage each of these areas, the higher their emotional intelligence and thus effectiveness in leading their teams.

Who Is Responsible For Leadership Development?

Leadership excellence should be driven from the top down and thus the CEO and senior management team should be the champions of a leadership culture. HR is also in the driving seat when it comes to advising, designing, supporting and guiding leadership development activities and programs. It is critical that HR partners closely with the senior management team to help implement effective strategies for leadership building within the organization.

What Is The Difference Between Management And Leadership?

There are many different views on what constitutes management and what is required for leadership. Management involves managing and controlling a group to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute towards organisational success.

How Important is leadership in organizations ?

Leadership plays a vital role in organisational success, retention and engagement. Much has been researched and written about the impact leadership has on organisational performance and productivity. Developing strong and effective leaders provides a competition advantage and has a direct link to increased results and employee engagement. It is important that HR assists management to develop their leaders and embed a leadership culture.

I have been working as an HR generalist for 15 years and after playing a key role in a number of performance management projects am keen to try my hand at consulting in this area. Where do I start?

You have a number of options to try.

One and most obvious is to go out on your own. Get an ABN and decide on a name for your new consulting business. The problem with this option is that unless you have very good networks that will help to promote you around the business community or you are particularly good at business development, it could take a while to get your first couple of jobs. To make this option work you will also need to have a ‘product’ that is marketable, innovative and credible.

Secondly, you could simply ‘contract’ your services out to different organisations by visiting different companies home pages where they tend to advertise contract roles for specific purposes. You will still need an ABN and you will have to scout around for where performance management is the need.

Thirdly, sell your contracting / consulting services through an established consulting firm or recruitment firm. They find you work, they take a commission off your daily rate and you invoice them. Yes, you still need an ABN but you don’t have to do the leg work or business development.
The downside on all of these is that you really should not limit yourself to just performance management if you want to work on a fairly steady basis. My view, get out there – take the HR project roles that are interesting and make sure you push performance management whilst you are working in the organisation.

The bottom line is having a number of strategies and contingency plans.

I have been working in HR for some time and am ready to step up and take on more responsibility. However, I have no formal qualifications so my applications keep getting overlooked. What would you suggest I do?

It is not unusual for people to have grown ‘within the industry’ versus enter it as a result of having studied HR but sometimes qualifications can be a blocking point. The AHRI Professional Diploma of HR is the perfect course for people who have at least 2 years’ experience, with little or no formal qualifications. This course is a post-graduate program, which means you don’t have to invest years getting a bachelors’ degree in HR and can leverage off your practical experience. If you are feeling very enthusiastic to continue your studies, from this qualification you can go on to study a graduate diploma or masters of HR. For other higher education programs, you can visit the AHRI website for accredited courses.

I have been working in administration roles since leaving high school and over the last year or two have taken on a number of HR related tasks as part of my job i.e. advertising jobs, leave forms, contracts etc. It is an area that I am now quite keen to move into further. Can you provide advice on what I can do to make myself ready for this type of role?

To increase your potential for moving into an HR role, an entry qualification such as AHRI’s Foundations of HR or an AHRI accredited VET course can give you a taste of the HR industry and its many facets. The combination of work experience and a qualification will be a great sign to your current employer (or prospective employers) of your interest and enthusiasm.

I have recently completed my business degree majoring in HR and am keen to enter the workforce. Apart from graduate opportunities, what are my best avenues for securing a role in HR?

A pathway into an HR career is not always direct. Graduate positions aside, you will find a wide range of HR entry level positions, such as HR administrator and HR officer. In addition to these roles, your access may be via a PA or office manager position with some HR responsibilities such as workcover administration, rostering, administration for HR processes or WHS. Alternatively, resourcing or administration roles in recruitment firms may offer entry into recruitment or HR consulting roles. Of course temporary contracts in HR are another good way to build up your experience for your CV and often can convert into permanent roles.

 

I am finishing my final year in high school and wish to choose a university degree which will help me to move into HR in the future. Please can you provide advice on (1) what courses I would be best to take and (2) what other activities I should do while at university to give me the best chance at getting an HR role when I leave?

Many universities now offer HR qualifications from under graduate to PhD level. AHRI, as the industry accrediting body for HR qualifications in Australia, provides a list of those courses which meet the accreditation requirements.

A recent AHRI survey of more than 1800 HR and non-HR professionals also rated general business, psychology and law degrees as offering suitable background for more specialised areas of HR.

In terms of ‘other activities’, as a full-time student, you are eligible to free student membership. Via this membership, you will have access to a wide range of activities that will supplement your studies, including joining specialist forums to form important relationships with people already in the industry. Finally, we would also strongly encourage you to seek opportunities for work placement to supplement your studies.

Does Roubler support the storage of scanned images e.g. Signed Contracts, invoices etc?

Roubler’s software provides an employee profile management portal where all employee information, including employment agreements and contracts are located. These are able to downloaded and printed as required

Are weather forecasts and local event knowledge incorporated into the Roubler displays?

Not at present, but we are working on it! In the near future Roubler will provide weather forecasts and other information in rosters and other displays. This provides the user with information to assist in understanding the staffing demands and is particularly useful in food retailing.

Does Roubler import and analyse sales transaction history?

Roubler’s integration with various POS providers allows Roubler to report on and analyse this data in real time analytics presented on Roubler’s dashboards. Roubler’s Business Intelligence module is used to provide unique dashboard reporting on metrics that are required by our customers.

Can Roubler import existing POS data from through an integrated API connection?

Roubler integrated with a number of leading POS systems. Please speak with your Roubler representative to find out how to integrate. If Roubler does not currently integrate with your particular POS system, we are more than happy to dedicated resources to make this connection. Expected delivery for this integration would be 4 working weeks.

Can Roubler store the image of a signed contract?

Roubler’s software provides an employee profile management portal where all employee information, including signed employment agreements and contracts are located. These are able to downloaded and printed as required

Can Roubler print an employee contract?

Roubler’s software provides an employee profile management portal where all employee information, including employment agreements and contracts are located. These are able to downloaded and printed as required.

Can Roubler distribute an electronic version of an employee contract to the employee and accept electronic acceptance of the contract?

At the completion of an employee onboarding the employee is emailed a copy of employment agreement along with policies and procedures they have electronically signed during the onboarding process. These documents are also stored within the employee profile section on the Roubler platform that are accessible by employer and employee.

Does Roubler integrate with other HR systems?

Roubler manages the entire life cycle of employees from recruitment, onboarding, employee profile management, employee rostering, time & attendance through to payroll processing. We will also offer Learning Management through our e-learning platform. Roubler replaces the need for multiple software platforms. Roubler can import existing employee details from existing HR systems. Roubler will provide a file format to receive this information.

What type of payments do you accept?

We accept credit card, debit card and direct debit payments for Roubler. You will be invoiced and charged as per the agreement you have signed up to. If you choose to pay annually you’ll also receive a discount. Please ask your Customer Success Manager for more information.

Can I customise Roubler to suit my business needs?

Roubler offers a wide range of options to accommodate the needs of your business. If there is something you need Roubler to do that is currently not within the system functionality then please talk to us about customising fit your business requirements. Roubler is not like other software companies. Given the sophistication and investment in our technology, we do not wait for releasing quarterly updates. We embrace customer feedback and are continually improving and updating our system. On average we release 2 updates per week with improvements and new features for our customers.

What is Roubler implementation, and is it required?

Roubler’s Implementation is required. In our implementation, a professional implementation specialist schedules a series of appointments to set up and implement Roubler. We also offer onsite implementation at your location for an additional cost. A more in depth overview of the implementation can be found here

How many employees can use the system?

Roubler can be used to manage your workforce of 10 to 10,000+ employees

Can Roubler HR & Payroll software be white labelled?

Yes, Roubler can be completely white labelled with your branding proving your employees with instant connectivity and building your employer brand.

Does Roubler provide a mobile application?

Yes, Roubler provides a free mobile HR app supported on both Apple iOS and Android marketplaces. Roubler’s HR & payroll app provides flexibility and connectivity for both employers and employees anywhere, anytime on any device

Does Roubler offer separate modules?

The power of Roubler is in its fully integrated all-in-one solution which controls the data throughout the employment lifecycle in one database and sophisticated HR platform. Therefore we do not sell Roubler in “modules” as this would reduce the value of the software for our users. This end to end software solution provides significant cost savings in no longer requiring multiple HR systems and the endless integration and data transfer issues associated but also eliminates data entry.

What is the difference between a HRIS and HRMS?

A Human Resources Information System (HRIS) and Human Resources Management System (HRMS) are often confused and although HRIS is the more common term used in the HR industry, there are many platforms which are genuine HRMS which provide workforce management solutions to both large and small workforces and HR departments.

What is the cost of Roubler?

Roubler is a flexible cost based on the number of employees submitted for payroll during the payroll period. The cost depends on frequency of payroll period and the number of employees. The cost includes all software updates, continuous improvement and development of features, all server costs, unlimited admin users and much more. Roubler’s cloud based HR & payroll is all charged on a monthly subscription basis.

What is a Human Resources Information System (HRIS)?

A HRIS is a HR related software system which is used to manage employees. The Roubler all-in-one HRIS is unique in that it manages the entire employment relationship from job board advertising, candidate selection and onboarding through to employee scheduling and time & attendance and payroll. Roubler is the only platform genuinely providing a end to end platform

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