HC Online’s most clicked articles of 2016

by HCA22 Dec 2016
From abolishing dress codes to key HR trends, here's what HR professionals clicked on in 2016.

PwC abolishes employee dress codes

Just weeks after one receptionist was sent home for refusing to wear high heels, the Australian arm of PwC officially abolished its traditional employee dress code. “The two are not linked but I don’t mind the timing,” insisted Sue Horlin, human capital leader at PwC Australia. Sydney-based Horlin says the move is actually about keeping up with what industry competitors can offer as well as driving innovation at the firm. Previously, men were expected to wear fine knitwear, smart shirts with collars, tailored trousers, traditional suits and dress shoes or boots. Women had to wear similar attire, with additional options of tailored dresses, shirts, smart shirts or blouses and business-style shoes or boots. Now, Horlin says the official guidelines will be removed with bosses placing more trust in employees’ judgement. “In an environment where we are asking our people to be more innovative and creative, it just didn’t feel right to keep mandating what our people wear," she said. The only suggestion was that employees think about what is respectful to clients and colleagues while being safe and appropriate for the workplace environment, Horlin added. 

Shell looks to corporate offices for jobs to cut

Energy giant Shell’s HR team was in the midst of executing a round of job cuts in its Australian operations, as it sought to gain increased efficiencies. The company informed staff in Australia it would be embarking on a round of job cuts, with many asked to re-apply for their current positions. It was reported that up to 250 jobs in Australia could face the axe, from a workforce that numbers approximately 2300 across its local operations. The move follows clear market updates from Shell that it would need to cut 2,800 from its global workforce after its takeover of a BG Group business. "Shell last week commenced conversations with employees about business efficiency and staffing levels - as a result of combining it with the previously BG-owned QGC - a process that will lead to job reductions," Shell Australia spokesman Paul Zennaro said in a media statement. "A majority of employees impacted by the re-organisation will be from corporate head offices, and where possible they will be provided with redeployment opportunities."

Requesting a doctor's note - be careful what you ask for

With statistics showing that on any given weekday around 300,000 Australian workers are taking a sick day, HR managers may find themselves questioning the validity of some employee claims. More than 88 million days are taken up by sick leave each year – for legitimate and non-legitimate reasons – with the Australian economy paying the price of over $27.5 billion per year in sick leave costs and lost productivity, a 2013 study of Australian workplaces has shown. But HR managers need to be wary of the legal implications before requesting a sick note for proof of actual illness, says employment lawyer Benjamin Marshall. “HR can request a medical certificate whenever an employee is claiming leave or where it has a reasonable basis to believe the employee is not fit for work and wants assurance that the employee may safely continue working,” Marshall, Senior Associate with Arnold Bloch Leibler, told HC Online. The Fair Work Act says employees will be eligible for leave on medical grounds if they provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person of their reason for taking leave – usually in the form of a medical certificate. In some circumstances, other evidence may be sufficient, such as a statutory declaration from the employee, Marshall said. However, HR needs to be mindful of the fine line between getting the information their organisation needs and infringing on employee privacy.


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