I heard it, but didn’t believe it, at first…..
Just recently we were asked to give some advice to an individual, let’s call her Julia, about being dismissed. As we listen to Julia’s story we both kept saying things like “they did not say that”, “they did what” and “no one would do that”.
To give some background first, Julia had 25+ years in the brokerage sector and nearly three years with this particular employer. There were no documented performance issues and all feedback about work was positive.
The franchised company brought in an external HR consultant to look at the business and make recommendations for the future. This process was done over a few weeks and looked more like a desktop audit as very few staff were asked to participate in the review. Most employers would be looking at 360 degrees view of their business, look at the good, the bad and the how did I not know about this happening in my business. In our experience this would be the most positive way to have your staff valued for their opinion, and look at a different way to take your business to the next level.
Julia and all her colleagues were advised of a meeting at 3.30pm one afternoon and all 20 staff were in attendance. The meeting was started by the owner of the business and then handed over to the HR Consultant, who was quick to point out they were from out of state. Their report showed that due to a down turn in the property market in their state that three positions would need to be “DELETED”, (yes, that was the term they used) and with that pointed to three members of the staff to let them know they will be the ones to be “DELETED”. Just to be clear in front of all the staff these people were singled out to be “DELETED”.
The rest of the staff were then asked to leave the meeting leaving Julia and her two colleagues scheduled for “DELETION” to remain in the meeting. Take a moment and think about how the other staff that just left the room are feeling and what are they going to think about this business. If you feel it will be fine you are kidding yourself and you are going to be recruiting very soon for new staff after these people saw how easily dispensable their colleagues were and treated badly. Are the remaining staff thinking “am I next”?
Once the room was cleared except for the HR Consultant, the owner and three staff to be “DELETED” Julia and her colleagues were asked if they had any comments. ( I am sorry BUT WHAT!!!!) Julia said “she had never been so humiliated in their entire life”. Having been through a redundancy process before she knew what should have happened, like being consulted throughout the process, taken to a private place to be treated with respect, empathy and shown professional consideration. No paperwork was presented, nor was their an explanation as to what “DELETED” means. They were told this is not a redundancy but a “DELETION”.
Then they were told that HR “did not know what they were getting so worked up about as they have done this type of dismissal plenty of times before”.
NO entitlements were paid to Julia, even after they had been requested, and instead of a payslip a spreadsheet had been sent with a break-down of the pay that was paid and she had been docked a one weeks wages that had been offered in lieu of working out notice period. Also being over 45 there were more considerations that were overlooked.
Once it had been bought to the attention of the business that they had in-fact undertaken a genuine redundancy and that by failing to recognise this they were now exposed to a greater risk of sanctioning through FairWork Australia. They were bringing their business and brand into disrepute and the collateral fallout would result in staff turnover and loss of market share, not to mention a breach their franchise agreement with a nationally recognised company.
So now you can understand the comments we were making as we heard this one.
I know it is extreme but why do we still see this happening….
What is the lesson here? Always question your external consultants and make sure that the work they are doing for you is risk minimisation and compliance not exposure.