Everything was going fine today, until that sinking feeling came over me when I read one of my emails. The past had come back to try and haunt me. A previous employee with a bee in their bonnet decided that they were making an unfair dismissal claim against me.
Well technically the business is the respondent, but seen as we are a small family business, I am the business.
There is always a struggle for power when it comes to employers and employees. They want as much as they can get, and will do everything possible to stake their claims against the business as "Their Rights". Whereas the employer, especially in a family owned or small business, is just trying to survive, often putting the staff in front of their own needs, just to keep things afloat.
So how does one respond when this sort of thing happens? Well, I admit, this was a challenging time for me as my initial response was one of emotional indignation. How dare they, after all the support and care that I have given to this person. The mistakes I tolerated in the name of their "learning", the ups and downs of them not following the proper systems that I have instructed them to follow... (sigh)
The most important thing for me to focus on is that I have not done anything wrong here. I am trying to survive and doing the best I can with what I know how to do. The questions that are asked of me:
Do I have proper staff management systems in place?
Sort of, yes.
Have I followed the processes to advise, instruct, train and support the person as much as reasonably possible?
Have I communicated clearly the reasons for dismissal?
I had believed so, but that depends on whether the other person understood the situation.
What steps can I do to protect myself and the business legally from any repercussions?
I need to speak to my business lawyer, and build protection around myself and my business.
At this stage, I am going to brief my lawyer and then wait for any communication from Fair Work. I have written documents describing the details of the lead up to the dismissal, and can prove that the employee was under performance review by mutual arrangement, for the 3 months leading up to the dismissal.
Second step, Pray like mad :)
The emotional roller-coaster of business life can be filled with ups and downs. We live together in a world of constant power struggles between people. I understand that when people need money, they will get it any way they can, and sometimes you are in the firing line.
Take care business peeps, we have to stick together.
Go check https://www.fairwork.gov.au/ending-employment/unfair-dismissal to know more about Small Business Fair Dismissal Code
Need a Lawyer?
Head over to http://chillilaw.com.au for small to medium sized business owners that needs legal services.