HR stuck in the middle over WorkChoices

SINCE THE introduction of WorkChoices earlier this year, HR professionals are struggling to meet expectations of both employees and managers while coming to grips with more than 2,000 pages of legislation, a Sydney-based law firm has noted

SINCE THE introduction of WorkChoices earlier this year, HR professionals are struggling to meet expectations of both employees and managers while coming to grips with more than 2,000 pages of legislation, a Sydney-based law firm has noted.

As a result of the publicity generated around WorkChoices, HR professionals are finding themselves up against a much more informed workplace, said Daniel Sleeman, a solicitor with Swaab Attorneys.

“Because of the publicity surrounding WorkChoices, a lot of employees are asking, ‘Well, what is my work going to do? What are HR going to do?’” he said.

“A proliferation of information technology has made it so much easier for people to learn more, linking very closely with the employee’s sense of scepticism.”

While HR professionals must deal with employee queries, Sleeman said they also have to deal with management who expect rules and procedures to be changed or new ones implemented.

Sleeman has noticed a conflict for HR professionals in getting through day-to-day work and trying to fit this into overall strategic plans of their organisation. “On the one hand you’ve got corporate and on the other, you’ve got staff, and I think that it’s very hard for HR people to try and manage that.”

The main issue for HR is to know what is relevant and what is not relevant, Sleeman said. Depending upon their workplace, HR professionals must consider whether or not it is viable to implement Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) and if they are an effective mechanism to meet the needs of both staff and management.

In tackling employee scepticism, he said it is important to maintain a strong relationship with staff by keeping all lines of communication open. This will allow HR to utilise WorkChoices to the best of its ability.

He also said it was important to focus on what was realistically achievable in formulating strategies. “If you are an HR professional and you have implemented, or you seek to implement policies and procedures at the workplace, you have to ensure that you are able to comply with them,” Sleeman said.

Knowledge management would also be increasingly important, he added. “If it’s a termination issue, an AWA, or offering a collective agreement, keep that on your records and use that as a reference guide … it’s okay to have a library of employment law advice and I don’t think that lawyers should be too quick to say they are the only ones that can at least summarise and help generally explain an area of law,” he said.

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