When we engage staff now we do so in an environment where
uncertainty and diminishing employment security is the new norm for
all. This reflects the greater competition facing businesses both
from technology and the globalised environment. Yet it is
interesting how so many people believe that staff can be sheltered
from such uncertainty. Certainly the 170,000 Kodak staff who lost
their jobs in the space of 3 years, would testify that change can
be uncompromising – and, with the benefit of hindsight, they
might also say that acceptance of its inevitability (and therefore
preparation for it) is fundamental.
All this is looming at a point in the Australian business
narrative where we have never seen so much regulation sitting
around the simple relationship between employee and employer:
WH&S, workers compensation, anti-discrimination, pay and
conditions (the Fair Work Act and the awards), unfair dismissal and
adverse action, bullying etc. This plethora of legislation
complicates the simple matrix of relationships within
where, once, disputes between employees (whether on the same
level or between the manager and their report) would have to be
worked out between them within the normal framework for resolving
human conflict, there are now increasing legal options for
disgruntled employees to resolve what are often personality
employers are left increasingly catatonic in dealing with
problematic staff - too often, the complex legislation leads to
business retaining employees who should be let go. This is ironic
given that companies can afford less and less to retain
underperforming staff and are even less able to allow misbehaving
staff to expose the business to risk.
Adding to this entanglement for business are the tribunals which
make decisions in relation to the labyrinth of rights – these
tribunals are shifting responsibility for poor employee behaviour
onto the employer.
Take a recent example where disgraceful and offensive behaviour
by a senior male staff member towards female staff members at a
Christmas function was excused and blamed on the employer for
These tribunals (with the Fair Work Commission leading the
charge) are expecting and demanding employers to treat their staff
as children or moral imbeciles who have little or no accountability
for their actions.
This approach surely cannot be excused or sustained when the
market is demanding increasing levels of productivity and
initiative from all of us - managers and staff? No – the
massive disruption posed by technology on the continuation of so
many roles in the workplace will bring irresistible pressure to
bear on current structures – we are facing a tsunami of
change in the way people work and what jobs are available to them.
This is coming, and with Kodak 20:20 vision, we should be preparing
Australia needs to entirely re-think how we
regulate the employer/employee relationship in this country - not
to undermine worker's rights - but to ensure that we create and
nurture all the potential jobs of the future
However, it's going to get a lot uglier before any
Australian Government (of whatever description) sees itself as able
to introduce more flexibility into employment arrangements -
witness the current 'hoopla' over the proposal to reduce
Sunday rates only from 175% to 150%. We just have to hope it is not
left too late - because those who don't see it coming, or who
refuse to adapt in time, risk becoming "Kodak economies"
– mere shadows of their former selves...
An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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