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Letting a Person Go, Doing it the Right Way

The recent publicity regarding Channel 7 allegedly sacking a cadet journalist certainly caught my attention. Without knowing all the facts, based on media reports, it seems that the journalist was not afforded due process. As a result, Channel 7 were under-fire from unwelcome media exposure because of this incident (you would think a media company understands the damage caused by negative publicity). This got me thinking about some of the stories I have been told or heard when talking to companies and interviewing candidates, leading me to believe that in some situations processes for performance management/dismissal are flawed or non-existent.

Whether the Channel 7 case can be classified as an unfair dismissal or sacking is up for debate. Regardless, it reinforces the need for following due process, so that the interests of the employee and employer are protected. Here are some tips and advice:

Unfair dismissal cannot be claimed in the first 12 months of employment with a small business or 6 months minimum employment for large businesses. If the employee is released due to downturn, genuine redundancy or given reasonable notice and evidence for the dismissal, unfair dismissal does not apply.

The claim needs to occur within 21 days after the dismissal in effect through an application form that will be sent off to the previous employer so they have the opportunity to explain the situation. If unfair dismissal occurs in a small business, the employee can have another person present to assist with disputing the incident.

What needs to be done:

  • The employee needs to be given the opportunity to improve or given feedback on what is required in terms of a change in behaviour. It is important the discussions are documented for the benefit of both the manager and the employee.

  • If the employee has breached legal or contractual obligations, the case needs to be investigated and handled in a consistent and fair way, in accordance with the contract of employment. This breach needs to be explained to the employee and the company’s response clearly communicated and documented

  • Personality clashes cannot be the determining factor for someone’s dismissal. If the employee doesn’t get along with the manager, you can’t sack them. Differences should be sorted out through discussion, involving HR as a constructive and objective third party.

Social Media Engagement:

Rules and boundaries need to be set for social media. It has become common for organisations to set social media policies, which will need ongoing review in the rapidly changing social media landscape. Like any policy, the breaching of it can lead to dismissal depending on the severity. Common policies for employees are: avoid posting derogatory comments about the company and its staff/products, bullying and harassment and publishing confidential information to name a few.

Take Home Message:

The primary objective for organisations is to keep their employees and have them be successful. When this is not possible, its important to have procedures in place for letting employees go and is handled the right way. If dismissal is based on performance and attitude, the person needs to be given the opportunity to change and improve, before this step is taken. It is possible to manage out under performers or employees who do not abide by the terms of their employment contract, if the process is handled correctly and the rights of the employee are respected.

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