I was chatting to a client the other day, as you do when you meet up to see how things are going. The discussion we had was identical in many respects to numerous discussions I have had with other small business owners which revolves around a perception as to the limited rights of the employer compared to the unfettered and protected rights of the employee.

The fundamental principle that underpins these sorts of discussions revolves around ‘risk management’ and this is because, in my experience, so many small businesses lack the tools that support their rights and ensures their compliance within the workplace. A situation which ultimately works to the advantage of the employee particularly when issues arise, as they will do from time to time in even the best managed of businesses.

Regrettably a number of employers get trapped by their own naivete and reinforce their sense of powerlessness, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy if you will, where there is no point doing anything proactive because the ‘system’ is geared towards protecting the employee and it will all end in failure anyway – otherwise known as ‘failing to act’.

However much ‘truth’ actually lies within this sentiment the reality is that the failure to actually do anything increases your risk exposure tenfold. Ultimately employers who maintain this perception often have no clearly articulated process for managing an issue or documentation to support them when the situation calls for it – otherwise known as ‘falling on your face’

‘Failure to act = falling on face’

Sadly, and especially in the field I work in, small employers are so involved, by necessity, in the myriad issues of running their businesses on a day to day basis that the idea of spending some hard-earned dollars on a contract document let alone some policies and procedures is very far from their thoughts. Let’s face it, when things are going well who needs this stuff anyway?

Well, the point is, that in assessing and managing risk in a business, it is precisely the deficit of these things that makes issues much more difficult than they need be. The truism of the workplace today is that, if it ‘ain’t written down’ its worthless when it comes to defending a claim.

What I try to get across to all employers is that, yes there is a cost attached to getting these things in place, and this cost is both a financial one as well as in time. BUT the potential savings in money (avoidance of fines for breaches of the legislation) and time in managing matters when they arise (not to mention the emotional drain) vastly outweigh the investment you put into getting these things set up and then making them an intrinsic part of how you do business in the first place.

There is so much that is freely available in terms of workplace documentation out there it is staggering, but it’s having the time and background knowledge to appreciate when something can be useful and when other things are a waste of time. There are plenty of providers out there who use exactly the naivete and ignorance of small employers I am talking about to scare them into taking up services, often costing many thousands of dollars, because the small employer is doing something ‘unlawfully’. The question is how much of a genuine relationship they want to have with your business and to what extent you think that these providers actually have an understanding of what you do and care about how you do it as opposed to signing you up for a ‘membership’ and collecting the fee.

As to the client I was chatting to? I am pleased to say that their business has excellent systems in place and very few issues thanks to their proactive attitude. They just wanted to let off some steam, and that too is part of the service, sometimes it’s just nice to have a chat with someone outside of your business who understands your operation and will listen without the ‘meter running’.

When was the last time you did that?


  • Clearwater Workplace Solutions

    Rob Littlewood, is an experienced Risk Manager with a demonstrated history of working in human resources and industrial relations. Rob is a valued friend of Engine Room Hub and is a regular contributor to our platform.