The top HR stories of 2011
This year we've divided our most popular articles into two broad categories - legal compliance and HR best practice.
Legal risks and complianceComplying with employment legislation is an ongoing challenge for HR, and in 2011, with the Fair Work Act in full swing, there was no shortage of new case law and legal opinion to help you meet your obligations.
Our most-read articles on legal risks and compliance included the following. Click on the headlines to read the full stories.
Three-month probation a thing of the past
"You'll still see people putting a three-month probationary period in a contract of employment and my question is often, 'Is there a reason for that? Or are you just putting it in because you've always put it in?' In which case perhaps you'd be better off putting in six months to harmonise with the qualifying period, and which would make it clearer to everyone."
Case cements right to act on out-of-workplace social media posts
"What the case does is it cements in employers' minds that the workplace isn't necessarily confined to the actual physical workplace; it does go beyond that."
"Following instructions" no defence for HR manager
"While the Federal Magistrate found the HR manager was 'centrally involved' in the contraventions, potentially any person who was 'a party to a decision or even aware of a decision' could be prosecuted for sham arrangements or any breach of a contractor's rights."
HR managers who don't do their "homework" risk breaking the law
"The unions have a role in the workforce and it's been enshrined in legislation. [The HR manager] was trying to help management but she hadn't done her homework."
Employer's discretion no excuse for failing to assess bonus eligibility
"This case is a really good reminder that employers need to look very carefully at the provisions in a bonus clause and ensure they are able to fully comply with all aspects."
Procedural fairness crucial when dismissing employees
"It is important to get the process right, because procedural fairness is a key element to defending a claim of unfair dismissal, and if an employee is incorrectly managed through either process or the process is confused, employers may find it difficult to successfully defend their decision to dismiss an employee."
Harassment cases following "alarming formula": Lawyer
"What we need to talk about, as employers, is what can we do to protect ourselves against those claims? Or do we just have to keep dishing out the zeros on the settlement cheques?"
Don't ignore anonymous or informal complaints
"The obligation to investigate remains even when a complainant seeks to withdraw an existing complaint."
Employers must proactively manage social media risks
"The courts are still navigating the way such cases are to be handled, with a clear regard to existing principles. There is still no certainty that dismissal is always an acceptable course of action for social media incidents."
No comfort for employers in adverse action rulings
"Often enterprise agreements contain disciplinary process steps, and if they're not followed precisely there can be a claim for breach of the agreement or a dispute brought under the applicable dispute resolution procedure, so employers must be careful when taking disciplinary action."
Dismissal process flawed, but not unfair: FWA
"While it is preferable, so as to avoid any doubt or criticism, to provide an employee with all of the information upon which the employer relies to justify its decision to dismiss, it will not always be necessary to do so."
Might you be an "officer" under the new safety regime?
"Even if HR professionals determine that they are not officers under the legislation, they should identify those people in the organisation who might be considered such. 'Tag them, then educate them and assist them and empower them with what they need to do.'"
Q&A: Conducting effective workplace investigations
"An employer shouldn't sit on their hands just because they think they've got better things to do. If a matter needs to be investigated an employer shouldn't necessarily bring their business to a screeching halt because of it, but the fact that someone is suspended doesn't mean [they can think], 'I can take my time on this one, we'll get back to him in a fortnight's time'."
Redundancies must be genuine to defend unfair dismissal claims
"If a person is dismissed due to a genuine redundancy, this can act as a defence to a subsequent unfair dismissal claim. But you do have to meet a couple of elements, and it's not exactly easy to do."
Outdated LSL laws creating headaches for employers
"It's a bit of a nightmare, especially for organisations that have offices in each state. Unless you're adopting the most favourable standard then you really do have to look at each bit of state legislation every time you have an issue."
Redundancy do's and don'ts
"Not only do companies need to grapple with the pressures of cutting staff when making redundancies, they've also now got to ensure they aren't relying on redundant legislation and out-dated practices to do it."
Adverse action rulings just "the tip of the iceberg"
"The minefield known as workplace relations has, since July 2009 when the Fair Work Act commenced operation, become a lot more dangerous for those employers which fail to appreciate the substantial changes it made."
Best practice HRThe legal stuff is obviously important, but HR can have the biggest impact on an organisation's productivity, employee engagement, performance and myriad other areas by implementing proven theories and practices.
In 2011 our most popular "best practice" stories included these ones. Click on the headlines to read the articles in full.
Conversations the key to engagement and productivity
"If you're a leader wanting to inspire others, you should be using the conversational practices of storytelling, because we know that the art of telling a story is a way to draw people together and mobilise them."
HR competencies evolving, pros need "tough empathy"
"This is an area of interest for a lot of organisations because HR has moved from purely compliance driven ('how can we make sure we comply with all the appropriate polices?') to, in some organisations, actual profit centres, where they have to generate value - demonstrable value - and as a consequence, what's being asked of HR professionals is changing."
What HR should do in "the first 90 days"
"There is a lot written about the first 90 or 100 days for leaders, but HR should be thinking about how things look from the other side of the table, and how they can make their department relevant to a new CEO."
Don't make assumptions about employees with mental illness
"When a manager becomes aware that an employee has a mental illness, they should seek to find out, through discussion, which types of situations might put the employee under stress, and which situations relieve stress."
Clear rating scales help avoid bias
"The best preparation, on a monthly basis as you're catching up with people, is to keep notes on what the good performance looks like; what the poor performance might look like; or what the performance challenges have been in the role."
HR practitioners should be "the meaning architects"
"What single thing will make employees seven times more likely to report high satisfaction with work, twice as likely to be satisfied with their pay, will reduce absenteeism and accidents, reduce customer complaints, increase innovation and result in more sharing of ideas?"
Empower managers to boost employee wellbeing
"People think that putting a bowl of fruit in the tea room is a wellbeing initiative. They make it too simple, and think that it's all about eating, drinking and breathing right, when in fact that stuff really is not going to cut it as a wellbeing program."
Take a pragmatic, not a prescriptive, approach to sickness absence
"Many employers have complicated absence policies and procedures, which only make it easier for line managers to get 'tangled up'."
Eight key do's and don'ts for day one
"Welcoming a new worker is not a task that should be rushed or delegated. In fact, those first weeks and months are the time when the manager needs to focus the most time on their new employee."
How to identify - and debunk - common change-management myths
"Change happens one person at a time. A new process or technology will not deliver value if no one follows it, so strategies designed to achieve behavioural change are indispensable."
Our newsThis year was a big one for us at HR Daily.
We held eight webinars, hosting a total of more than 1300 online attendees, and at our "live" workforce performance events in October (Sydney) and November (Melbourne) we were lucky enough to meet a number of you in person.
We also launched the HR Daily Community, which quickly grew into an impressive forum for HR professionals to network and share their knowledge and opinions.
Then, we added a premium content section, HRD+, which makes our webinar recordings available online, on demand, along with audio files, special case studies and more.
One of us even had a baby! Journalist Emma Wilkins and her husband Huw welcomed little Tommy into the world in August. Emma will be back writing for HR Daily from January, from her home in Tasmania.
2012 is set to be another exciting year for us. We're looking forward to sharing what else we have in store when we resume publishing. Our first edition for the year will arrive on Monday 23 January.
Until then, the team here would like to thank you for your support of HR Daily this year. We wish you all the best for a very happy Christmas and New Year.
Jo, Drew, Pauly and Emma.