HR Practitioners at Risk
Unfortunately, recent Court decisions have aimed directly at human resources personnel, resulting in significant personal liabilities being incurred, and heavy fines awarded against individual HR practitioners...not just companies.
Time to get the redundancy process right or possibly suffer personal liabilities and loss. Outplacement is not only for the retrenched worker, but it also assists to protect the employer and their human resources personnel against serious litigation.
Liability for the health and safety of affected employees can continue for many months after the completion of a downsizing project. It all comes down to the process, scope and quality of support that was provided at the time the retrenchment occurred.
Enforced workplace change is all about the employee's experience and how the former employer managed the total process. You are sure that you have complied with the Fair Work Act, but what about your Common Law exposure (which is potentially unlimited)?
A redundancy project is fraught with possible violent reactions, with volatile personalities capable of extreme actions against their employer, themselves and their families. It is probably the most dangerous and complex set of circumstances that any HR manager can be called on to manage and get RIGHT (an almost impossible task in most instances).
A well designed Outplacement program can support the HR manager's legal and moral obligations to assist the transitioning employee to re-enter the workforce systematically in a professionally managed and caring process. It is not simply about a new resume and LinkedIn profile (that constitutes only about four percent of an Outplacement program). Outplacement programs that are limited in time, sessions or consultant availability are useless in covering both the HR manager's and employer's legal exposure. Only a proactive 24/7 program that comprehensively assists the affected worker back into meaningful employment should be considered and engaged.
If an Outplacement program is not an unlimited case management process, then it is fundamentally flawed (possibly exposing the HR practitioner and the employer to ongoing liabilities, as mentioned above).
In the event of litigation, a HR manager must be able to demonstrate clearly to a Court that they did everything possible to support the retrenched person. I can assure you that it is a "very high bar that you have to jump over".
If a recently retrenched employee suicides or harms others as a result of their depressive state, and their actions can in anyway be reasonably linked to their retrenchment, then a Court is unlikely to be sympathetic to the HR manager and/or the former employer. A clearly documented demonstration that everything possible was covered (and more) will be needed to avoid liability.
Any old Outplacement program will not impress a judge…the comprehensive nature and scope of the program will!
Enforced workplace change places a huge onus on the employer for the welfare of the departing staff, their personal health and safety, including their family's well-being during this difficult time. Remember, the employee has no choice in this matter…they are automatically viewed as a victim.
The worst case scenario of not providing quality Outplacement support is actually reckless and irresponsible to all parties.
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