I tend to find things happen in clusters and the current cluster seems to be a rise in the number of personal grievances (PGs). I'm not sure whether this is just a weird phenomena or a trend.
Often a business owner or employer will talk to me about a situation that has turned bad with a (usually) ex-staff member. While I'm only hearing one side of the story, these situations occur because something has soured in the employment relationship and the employer has taken action. Invariably these cause trauma for both parties and from the employers perspective, means seeking legal advice and managing their response to a PG.
I know of one client who caught an employee (on camera) stealing money from the till and instantly dismissed them. They were then served with a PG and at mediation ended up paying a settlement to the ex-employee for unfair dismissal.
Invariably the process of dealing with a PG takes the focus off day to day operations of the business. This is not an ideal situation for any business owner to be in, especially in times when the business environment is challenging.
Key Messages when facing a Personal Greivance
Consult an Employment Lawyer
If you receive a PG, consult a lawyer and preferably one with employment experience. There are employment specialists who only work for employers.
Check your Employment Practices & Contracts
It is important to have robust employment practices and contracts to avoid or mitigate the chance of employment issues. I am still surprised to hear of business that do not have employment contracts in place or haven't updated them for some time.
In a recent discussion one of my clients phoned me about a contractor they had used for a 2 week period (and had initial discussions about the possibility of employment in the future). My client had been served with a PG after the ‘possibility of employment in the future’ didn’t come about.
Remember the 90 Trail Period is not a Silver Bullet
The 90 day trial period is also not a silver bullet to save you if a new staff member doesn't work out. There are still steps you must follow during the 90 days, so make sure you are up to date with what is required.
Read Up on Bullying
I'm seeing an increase in the number of PGs relating to bullying. Bullying is a very serious matter in the work place and you may be surprised about what can constitute bullying. WorkSafe have put out a guide on this which can be viewed at http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/all-guidance-items/bullying-guidelines
Consider your Options
There are insurance products available to cover you. Directors and Officers policies can include cover for Employments Disputes or there are stand alone policies are available. Most come with a minimum excess of around $5,000.
My suggestion to any business owner would be:
- Consult a specialist to review your employment Contracts and practices.
- If you have any issues or concerns about a staff member, seek advice on how to deal with this before taking action
- Have some form of insurance cover in place as a backstop.
About the AuthorName: Kim Matthews
I’m the Leader Business Development & Sales for Rothbury’s Hawke’s Bay branch. I commenced my insurance career in 1980, have an insight in to how underwriters and assessors work and I’m a business owner myself - all great…
I’m the Leader Business Development & Sales for Rothbury’s Hawke’s Bay branch. I commenced my insurance career in 1980, have an insight in to how underwriters and assessors work and I’m a business owner myself - all great skills and experience that make me the broker I am.
I love dealing with people and I’m passionate about insurance!Close