The New Year is the perfect time to take stock and review what has occurred over the last 12 months and plan for the year ahead. For managers, this can mean financial projections and budgets for the third and fourth quarters but it should also include an audit of your workforce, policies, procedures and health and safety issues. The following five areas are a good place to start to ensure your workforce is on track for a good 2018.
1. Workplace behaviour
From Harvey Weinstein to Don Bourke to Channel 9 and #metoo, 2017 was a year where appropriate workplace behaviour, sexual harassment and sexual assault were brought front and centre stage for employers. Simple things to review this time of year are:
Workplace behaviour is not just a liability issue it is also a cultural issue that affects engagement of staff, the reputation of a business and the ability to recruit high performing talent to an organisation. In private sector businesses it can also affect profitability as reputational issues affect sales and stock prices.
2. Restraints of trade
This was a big issue in 2017, with perhaps one of the most high-profile cases involving the establishment of US law firm White & Case in Australia and the defection of 10 Australian partners from Herbert, Smith & Freehills to join it. Freehills fought to enforce an aggressive restraint of trade against the defecting partners by seeking an injunction in the NSW Supreme Court. The matter ultimately settled out of court but it is a reminder that having proper and enforceable restraints is critical for the legitimate protection of customer connection and goodwill in a business.
The easiest way to ensure there is a legitimate interest being protected is to ensure that the restraint is tailored to protect that specific interest rather than trying to apply on a blanket basis through a template that is rolled into every contract. For example, three months and in all of Australia may be appropriate to protect some interests, while six months in the relevant city only or industry sector may be more appropriate to protect other interests. Cascading clauses should be avoided where possible, as they are frequently struck out or read down.
3. Workplace health and safety
Much like workplace behaviour, this is something that should be implemented and reviewed on a regular basis.
Reviews of technology should not only be aimed at ensuring your staff are provided with whatever they need to perform their job within the relevant budgets but they should also ensure that technology is considered in the context of WHS reviews and appropriate workplace behaviour.
5. Train your managers to be brave but respectful
Performance management, or the lack thereof, is the issue that, in my experience, creates the most commonly experienced liability for employers.
The two most regular problems I see are: a failure to performance manage that has made it difficult to exit an employee who is underperforming and performance management gone wrong that has caused a resignation, a bullying allegation or a negotiated exit.
Remembering that performance management is about trying to help the employee perform to standard is a good start. With that in mind, managers need to be brave in having difficult conversations about where employees are not meeting expectations but also respectful so as the process is run with the goal of improving performance rather than making a problem go away.
With that in mind, I wish you a happy, safe and productive 2018.
The New Year Workplace Health Check
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Restraints of trade
Workplace Health and Safety
Training your managers
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