Quizzically Musing

Watching the madness

Liberals are at it again

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This report is actually quite interesting on several fronts.  First is the backpeddling.  Didn’t Abbott vow not to fiddle with industrial relations law because business needed a break from change?

Second is the actual fiddling being considered.  Total revamp of unfair dismissal laws.  Having been an manager responsible for hiring and firing I know that in the past trying to remove an unsatisfactory employee from one’s employment was expensive and difficult.  I don’t know the details right now as these days I’m a very happy technocrat and can happily leave that to others to worry about.

The question of dismissal from employment is always a double edged sword.  Both sides have rights, even if those rights are not reflected in any legislation current at any given time.  I phrase it that way simply because the goal posts keep shifting. 

Surely any employer has a right to decide who should and should not be a member of staff?  On the other hand, employees are entitled to protection against unethical and/or immoral treatment by employers.  How do we balance the needs of both groups and not set up the sort of litigious environment that is depicted by Ms Collier in the article?

We have all heard of situations where employees are terminated a week before their three month trial period ends.  Some employers do this routinely: nothing to do with the actual employee’s merit or lack thereof.  Women terminated or made redundant just because they became pregnant (yes, it still happens).  Fred fired simply because of interpersonal friction. 

Actually, the last is a valid reason, in my personal view.  However, assuming there are not other reasons to terminate Fred, the employer should at least act responsibly and ensure Fred is not impacted negatively (i.e. about to become long-term unemployed).  One thing a workplace needs to be is a pleasant place to spend eight plus hours a day.  We don’t have to love our fellow employees, but at least we should be able to get along with them.  If there is one employee who just doesn’t “fit” and that impacts the whole team or work environment, then it is logical that the employer should be able to resolve that situation with impunity.   And, I venture to suggest, responsibility toward the employee.  After all, the employer made the hiring decision – if the employer got that wrong, that is not the employee’s fault.

If the figures in the article are accurate, I do have to wonder about a 63% increase in unfair dismissal applications.  It indicates something is slightly amiss somewhere.  Or is it a case of something was amiss and correcting that has lead to the increase?  I don’t know the answer, but I agree that as a nation we need to know the answer.

I am not too keen on the “fire at will” principle.  We see it at work in the USA and it doesn’t work too well over there.  Why would it work well here?  A modified version with adequate safeguards might, but what do those safeguards need to be?

This is not something that should be subject to the party line.  There should be a bi-partisan approach to this so Australia can get some industrial relations laws in place that  can stay in place and not change every time there is an election.  We need to stop shifting the goal posts every five minutes.

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Written by Robyn Dunphy

December 26, 2010 at 11:05 am

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