Lawyers often advise employers to defer termination decisions from December into the New Year, so as not to inflict gratuitous misery on people over the Holidays. With the Holidays behind us, these delayed discharges become more urgent.

Employers contemplating the termination of employees in January should remember all the advice they were given by their lawyers “last year” – ensure the contract has been reviewed, check what employment standards demands, seek advice on how the Common Law may dictate “appropriate notice” in the circumstances. Remember too that if there are unique and hazardous circumstances, such as illness, that may complicate what you think is a straightforward termination decision.

The Unsurprising Surprise of a Union

Very few employers expect their employees to sign up with a union. That element of surprise works for a union – once they’ve got an application in to the Labour Board and a vote is scheduled, the union has a tremendous advantage.

Why are employers surprised? Often because they’re in denial. They think silence is golden, whereas in fact a silent workforce is often simmering with discontent – discontent employees don’t bother communicating, because no one seems to be listening.

Trade unions are working hard to expand their membership and clout beyond their traditional industries. Very few workplaces are legally exempt from unionization. Your workplace could be next. Tomorrow.

A wise Human Resources practitioner or senior manager will want to ask the question “do we really know what’s going on out there?” before someone else tells them “No, you don’t.”

An employer can’t badger employees directly about their interest in joining a union (that’s a good way to bring a union in) but companies can take steps to learn about employee attitudes, their level of engagement, their aspirations, concerns and ideas. There is a lot of brain power out there, ready to work for you – if asked.

The Wrong Secrets to Keep

One of the most dangerous things a client can do, is fail to give their lawyer all the facts. Withholding information, “deciding what’s important” and similar behaviour only hamper the lawyer’s ability to give good advice.

What do employers hold back? Usually it’s the stuff that doesn’t “help” the case – the evidence of questionable treatment of employees, dubious decisions to trim promised bonuses – things they wish had not happened.

Why does it happen? Some people want to keep control. Some are embarrassed by bad facts. Some think that if the lawyer doesn’t know it, no-one will ever know it – forgetting of course that the other party probably knows, and will use it.

Answer your lawyer’s questions fully. If she doesn’t ask a question about something you think relevant, volunteer the information. It is better that your lawyer learn it early from you, than too late from the other side.

Bring Forward

Clients who use their lawyers as a “BF” system are paying too much to be reminded of things in a timely fashion. Find a better way.