Employing people can be pure pleasure in a great team or can occasionally turn sour - even in the most unexpected of cases where long-term employees change their behaviour, sometimes through family breakdown reasons or mental health. The key is to be on the lookout for changes in behaviour patterns, bullying, terseness and so on - and offer help and counselling. We can all muck up sometimes but sometimes intervention is called for - don't ignore bullying because the employer is responsible for the workplace. Act quickly in the interests of other employees - and your business.
|THIS IS A TRUE STORY. SOME DETAILS HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT PRIVACY|
This is a story about an employee who diligently worked for ten years and then things went awry.
The employee in question was diligent and loyal and we had a good working relationship over the years. Seldom absent from work the person took their position seriously which led to promotion to a management role. We are a sign & graphics operation.
In recent years we started to get complaints from our other staff members that they were being bullied by the employee in question who was defended at the time and said it was a passing phase and all would be well again soon. The employee could have been asked to leave but we chose not to because they had been loyal. In hindsight this was a very costly mistake.
When the employee's ten years came up and we were prepared for long service leave due plus the addition of the regular four weeks annual leave. The ten year anniversary came and went yet we had been given no indication when the employee wanted to take their long service eave so we had a meeting advising that we needed to know when they intended to take the time off. We also once again brought up the issue of other staff members seriously complaining about being treated badly, even hinting at a walkout - the time off could be just what this employee needed. The employee agreed about having treated the others badly, stated they regretted it and vowed to make amends.
A staff meeting took place. Afterwards our staff advised that they had a good meeting, aired their concerns and that they were in good spirits that things were going to improve in future. The next day the ten-year employee did not show up for work but called and asked if they could start the long service leave with immediate effect. We would have liked a little more notice as it is hard to replace a ten-year senior employee at the drop of a hat, but so be it.
A few days later we were sent a doctor's note by the employee by email with a request asking how much sick leave they had due. That is when, to our disbelief, we learned that sick leave is accumulative year-over-year so this person was due around 100 days sick leave which had accumulated over the past ten years. Additionally, a doctor's note for a month of stress leave arrived. This was via a regular doctor from a psychologist. This meant that we had to add the potential of 100 days sick leave to the existing 60 or so days long service and regular leave meaning we ended up paying for nearly eight months for the employee to sit at home as well as go away on holiday.
Bullying is an offence - don't tolerate it
This is a heavy burden for any small business to bear whilst fortunately we were able to survive but this kind of thing would send many small businesses to the wall. When the bullying, sickness and leave issues arose, our first instinct was to dismiss the employee but we decided to consult with an employment matters lawyer who basically told us to sit back, relax and grin and bear it. We were warned that if we did anything to adversely affect the person now that they were officially diagnosed with a mental condition then the average payout awarded against the business by the Fair Work Commission was around $65,000. This meant there was no way we could now dismiss the employee and seemingly there was nothing we could do other than pay wages every week whilst they stayed at home or went on holiday.
Another lawyer advised that we were within our rights to determine whether the person would be fit and safe for work upon their return. This lawyer provided us with a letter requesting a report from the psychologist but in order to do this we had to get permission from the employee in order to contact their psychologist. The employee was reluctant to do this and dragged it on for weeks, remember we could not do anything that might upset their mental state. The lawyer then gave us another letter advising the employee that if they did not comply with our request within a certain amount of time that they would be in breach of their employment contract. The employee dragged it out to the last minute of the deadline to give us permission to contact their psychologist.
A lawyer's letter was then delivered by hand to the psychologists office requesting certain information but we could get no response and they in turn dragged it out until all the sick leave was used up. Remember we had been paying the regular weekly salary all this time. Finally, the employee resigned.
This meant we then had to pay the outstanding long service leave whilst there was additional leave which had accumulated during the weeks which had dragged on over the Christmas public holidays, but it meant we did not have to pay the four weeks notice if we had instigated the termination. We would have been able to terminate the employee after they had returned to work under the standard rules. The resignation at least helped offset our legal fees. And then after it was all over I heard from the psychologist for the first time who advised that the report would now no longer be necessary as the employee had resigned. I certainly had question marks in my mind about the integrity of the system!
We subsequently heard that the employee now misses working for us. We were to learn that the accumulated sick leave practice is especially rife within government and large corporations but obviously is now finding its way into the small business arena. This assertion of mental illness for accumulated sick leave is apparently rife in government and large corporations but is now hitting small business, especially as employees come up to ten years. If it happened again I would act sooner, more pro-actively, especially to the bullying.
I was actually 'reprimanded' by the lawyer for not taking action against the employee for the bullying complaints, saying it was very unfair to those on the receiving end of the bullying. I should have given warnings and when given verbally they should have been confirmed in writing.
This episode, to put it mildly has certainly changed my outlook, I am well past retirement but now have to work so that someone half my age does not have to.
Name and location of this business is witheld
Signarama Sydney CBD requires a customer-focused person to join our busy team of eight to ensure we continue to provide our high-level of customer service. Successful applicant will have own customer base to look after and and opportunity to advance to Account Manager if interested. Must have driver's licence and be fluent in English as a first language. We will provide training and product knowledge - most important is the right attitude! Please email a note and CV to Rhod Webb: email@example.com or phone 0402 099671
BEENLEIGH, QLD - SIGN ALL-ROUNDER
Aussie Printing, Stickers Signs & Stencils is a well-established and respected signage company located at Beenleigh Queensland 4207. We operate a modern production facility and service local & nationwide across Australia.
We are currently seeking an experienced Signwriter, sign fitter sign maker, sign technician, vinyl applicator, sign installer and sign wrapper so we need a really good all-rounder that has done all of these tasks previously with minimum 3 years’ experience.
To be successful in this role, you will have previous experience within the signage industry & skills in Graphic application & Vinyl works. Current references to contact that you are experienced, plus a current driver's licence are essential. This is a full-time salaried position and you will be working with equipment such as:
HP 25500 Latex Printer, Roland BN20, Mutoh & Mimaki Vinyl Cutters, Multicam CNC Router. Please do not apply if you are not experienced and qualified!
Call Michael Boehm on 07 3807 3808 or email resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
STILL AVAILABLE: YOUNG, NSW - URGENT NEED FOR SIGN OPERATOR
Experienced Sign maker required for an established small sign business in the Young NSW Region. A family emergency requires the long-term owner to absent most days for some months and at least till Christmas - do you want to run this sign business - leading to a great opportunity for your future? This role will encompass a wide range and variety of signage applications including General sign production, quoting, assembly & fabrication, installation, vehicle wraps, sign preparation & site survey. Applicants will require outstanding quality control and attention to detail, excellent customer relation skills, a positive attitude and good work ethic, knowledge of vinyl cutting and good computer skills, current driver's licence. Please email resume and cover letter. This is a permanent position for the right person and profit share is available - why not have a crack at running your own show?
STILL AVAILABLE: BYRON BAY, NSW - GREAT JOB FOR EXPERIENCED SIGN/PRODUCTION MANAGER
Shogun Signs & Print has a position available in our small, busy but well established company. Min 4 years’ Experience. Very varied work as we specialise in custom finishes. Salary Package based on experience & ability for right candidate 60-80K neg. Min 4 years’ Experience. Very varied work as we specialise in custom finishes.
Standard skill set needed: Application of all types of vinyl -Fabrication of 3D signage -Installation of signage across a variety of locations -Running Plotters & Printers -Basic knowledge of design programs for production -Customer Service Skills -Eye for detail & quality -Ability to work independently & within a team -Knowledge of substrates & medias.
Extra skill set if applicable: Work with LED's & wiring -CNC Routing & Laser cutting -Vehicle Wrapping -Project Management -Digital Design -Sign quoting
MELBOURNE - SIGN INSTALLER
JDA Print Recruitment has this permanent vacancy, vehicle supplied. This is an opportunity with one of Melbourne’s prominent signage specialists, who are seeking an experienced and qualified Sign Installer. Contact Michael for a confidential discussion from on 03 9874 1582, quoting reference: JDA V3484
PERTH: CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE / INTERNAL SALES
JDA’s Melbourne office also has this vacancy in WA, For details call 03 9874 1582 quoting reference V3499
SYDNEY WEST: DIGITAL SIGNAGE PRINT OPERATOR
JDA’s Sydney office has this vacancy in a busy fun print shop. Call James Cryer on 0408 291 508 quoting Ref: 3515
SYDNEY – NORTHERN BEACHES TWO VACANCIES PRINTER & FINISHER
JDA has two vacancies on Sydney’s Norther beaches, one for a Production Manager and one for a digital die-cutter operative with experience on Zünd or similar cutting tables. Call James Cryer on 0408 291 508
SYDNEY & NSW – MANY MORE SIGN INDUSTRY VACANCIES
There are at least eight more unfilled positions available through JDA Print Recruitment, get on the phone to the above numbers and see what is available!
(Chris Gander of JDA Print Recruitment’s Victoria office handles Vic, SA, Tas, WA and NT).