People Smartz

Top Five Small Business HR Questions - September Edition

Tony Perkins - Thursday, September 05, 2013

At People Smartz we receive a large number of phone calls and website hits every month from clients, ex-clients and others requesting information regarding Small Business HR Issues. We have been keeping records for sometime about the questions asked, however, for the first time this month, we have decided to publish the top 5 topics based on the questions asked.  Our top five for the last month are:

1.  Questions regarding managing performance

These questions have topped our list for many months. It appears that employers are very nervous about their ability to correctly manage performance issues in their businesses - particularly where such issues may lead to termination.

When discussing these questions with employers, we are seeing an increasing tendancy to allow situations to develop over a long period rather than step in early to address the issues.  Largely, this is due to a reluctance on the part of employers to move in areas where  there is a risk of unfair dismissal claims etc being made.

Each situation is different - Our best advice is too be proactive - have the processes and policies in place to manage these situations and move quickly to address issues before they become a major issue.  One important thing to remember is the importance of documenting your conversations, any outcomes from discussions and processes used to manage a situation. 

If you do find yourself managing the performance of an employee which may lead to termination, we strongly recommend you seek assistance from your industry body, Fair Work Australia, Industrial Relations Lawyers or a company (such as People Smartz) that specialises in this area.

2.  Questions regarding terminating employees (but not redundancy)

For most small business owners, letting an person go is a hard job.  It is not something that can be easily done - particularly when the employee is a long term one.

Depending on the situation, most terminations are best handled in a compassionate and organised manner.  The better prepared you are, the easier to handle the different "twists and turns" the situation may present.

This topic actually holds the "most searched" award on our website with searches revolving around the calculation of termination payments (in particular Leave Loading in termination payments - see Warning - Fair Work Ombudsman says Leave Loading Payable on Termination

Like with our number 1 question, it is important that processes and policies are in place to manage terminations. Similarly, accessing professional assistance is highly recommended.  

3. Questions regarding Working from Home

We're not exactly sure why, but these questions have jumped into the Top 5 in the last two months for the first time.

The general premise of the questions usually revolves around an employee who has been working from home for some time, is not meeting expectations and the employer wishes to regain control.

This topic actually became a blog article all on its own last month - go to Working from Home - Not as simple as it sounds! for more.

4. Questions regarding the Performance of Managers

These questions have remained in the Top 5 pretty consistently since we begun keeping records of the calls we receive.

Usually when we look into these questions more deeply, the reasons for the under performance came down to a number of factors - either they don't understand the expectations of the role, they are not receiving the support required or they are not "equipped" to do the role.  For more on the importance of expectation management - have a read of A Lesson In Expectation Management

A large number of issues in this area also revolve around the ability of Small Business Owners to "Let Go".  Allowing someone else to take responsibility for their business activity is a daunting prospect for some Small Business Owners.

5.  Questions regarding Modern Awards

Interpreting modern awards and working out entitlements is seen by many Small Business Owners as confusing and risky.

Questions often revolve around items such as "which award", "what classification", hours of work, transition arrangements and penalty/overtime rates.

One of the most common questions regards the operation of a 40 hour week and how this can be achieved in a business when the National Employment Standards refer to an "average 38 hour week".  This usually leads to conversations regarding items such as Individual Flexibility Arrangements, Averaging rules and Overtime.

Close to The Top Five

The following topics were close to the Top 5 but did not quite make it:

  • Questions regarding Maternity and Paternity Leave
  • Questions regarding Recruiting
  • Questions regarding Redundancy
  • Questions regarding Performance Appraisals and Performance Appraisal Systems
  • Questions regarding Risk Management Policies (but not specific situations) - this topic addresses areas such as OH&S, Sexual Harassment, Workplace Bullying and EEO.

Do you have questions in any of the above areas?

In these or any other area, we are more than happy to assist.  Initial answers are provided at no obligation to you - we would prefer you ask than not ask at all!  You can ask your questions by:




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