This is our last E Bulletin for 2013.
We take this opportunity to wish all of you – our valued clients – a safe and happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year. We look forward to assisting you in 2014.
Our Office will be closed from the 23rd December to the 3rd January inclusive – reopening on Monday the 6th January.
Our landlines will be diverted throughout this period – if you have an urgent matter you can still call for assistance and advice.
More and more, we are seeing and hearing about electronic surveillance in the workplace and not all of it is positive news for employers. There are the results of prying cameras and imprudent use of recording devices spread all over the news, the web—take the cases of recent school yard fights uploaded to the web for all to see, and there’s worse, but we won’t go into it here.
- Do YOU know your obligations as an employer in regard to workplace surveillance?
- Do you know what resources you are legitimately allowed to use in the workplace?
- Do you know when you are legitimately allowed to use surveillance devices in the workplace?
- Do you know the consequences of getting it wrong?
In our Western Australian workplace the use of electronic surveillance equipment is governed by law. The Surveillance Devices Act 1998 (WA) came into being after a previous Act was found not to take into account the introduction of new technologies—like cameras!.
Generally speaking, it is an offence to use, install or maintain:
- listening devices to record or listen to a private conversation;
- optical surveillance devices to record visually or observe a private activity;
- tracking devices to determine the geographical location of a person.
The Act, doesn’t prevent employers using surveillance devices; it does however limit the use of devices in regard to recording or listing to “private activity” and this is one area where employers have fallen foul of the legislation previously.
What should you do?
Call Workwise of course; particularly if you would like assistance in preparing, amending and introducing policy / procedure.
If you have already, or are about to install workplace surveillance, including security cameras, CCTV, telephone monitoring, Email and internet monitoring or tracking devices; OR
If you have existing policies on workplace surveillance, email/internet/social media usage or telephone (including mobile telephone) usage, or are considering instigating policies, then call Workwise now for information and support.
One of the things all employers need to remember under the current legislation is that no matter how well you manage the termination of a worker you cannot deprive that worker of the right to take an unfair dismissal (UFD) against you.
Even under the most amicable of separations we have clients who receive UFD applications against them in Fair Work Australia because – in so many cases – the affable ex employee to your face is a very different animal once they are cut loose from your employ.
Remember that at the end of the day it’s all about ‘process’ and paperwork. You have to be able to clearly demonstrate that you have dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s if you are going to build an effective case to refute these sorts of claims. There are examples every day of businesses – even with large HR Departments – who get it nearly right but make costly errors in process resulting, in some cases, with large payments to settle matters.
One of the first things that so many employers utilise poorly is the statutory period of time you have when employment commences, when you can terminate without fear or favour simply because the employee has no right to bring a UFD against your business. By now you should know that this is 12 months for a small business and 6 months for all other businesses – remember a ‘small’ business is one with less than 15 employees, more than 15
employees the legislation treats you in a different way.
Too often the duties of a position are either poorly specified or not specified at all with an employee except in the vaguest terms – whilst this may not be an issue when things are going smoothly the absence of these relatively simple documents can become a real can of worms when performance and disciplinary issues raise their heads – as they do in all businesses from time to time.
So……what are some ground rules?
Utilise the first 6 and 12 months to evaluate an employee’s performance and DON’T leave it to the last minute;
Have a Job description Form (JDF) or Duty Statement that defines the role and responsibilities;
Meet and discuss employee performance – even a simple chat over a coffee – to celebrate the positives DON’T just appraise when there’s an issue;
MAKE SURE you follow a proper process and keep notes of all meetings held with the worker;
Do give employees a timeline to improve and spell out WHAT they have to do to attain a satisfactory standard;
DON’T address these matters simply on a verbal basis when there are issues – the ‘have a chat’ is a waste of your time and theirs;
Do have a disciplinary policy and Code of Conduct you can rely on;
MAKE SURE your staff have read and understood your policies and performance expectations;
DON’T play the game of ‘guess what ‘s in my head’ when it comes to duties and responsibilities, unless you potentially want to fork out big dollars when a dispute is on foot.
Confused? – make sure you utilise your membership to get advice and support when you need it.