Don't Flush Your Money Down the Dunny

Philip Lye

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Many of us go into business with unbounded enthusiasm, fervent passion and great ideas only to have ‘people issues’ confront us sometime, somewhere down the track, assertions of unfair dismissal being one.

These ‘people issues’ always seem to raise their ugly heads when we least need the accompanying grief. After all we are in business for lifestyle and enjoying the journey and this wasn’t part of the deal.

Being regarded as the softer skill’s employee relations is usually placed on the back burner and considered a waste of effort and certainly not an investment and almost like well ‘throwing money down the dunny’.

Thud!!! We are often bought back down to reality when we are required to roll up our sleeves and enter the fray of employee relations when something goes wrong and often when the issues have progressed to the critical and emotional stage where it is harder to resolve.

In my day to day practice I regularly counter business owners who tell me that ‘it will never happen to me’, ‘you don’t know my people’ only to receive a call several months later asking if I could assist them.

Mr. / Ms. NOT ME is a frequent visitor to business today, as employees become more street savvy and ‘take the boss on’.

For starters we can get our employment practices in order and ensure that we are investing in the success of our business…. people.

Products, Services – great, but people represent who you are and what you stand for and have an amazing capacity to make or break your business or cost you considerable time and money down the track.


There is a parable about a person who built their house upon rock and the rain and storms came but the house stood. Another built their house upon sand and the rain and the storms came and the house fell to ruins.

We need to recognise that we must build our business (house) upon rock and not sand, principles and not preferences, be responsible not blame and take the initiative and not have it imposed upon us by others.


When the employee begins with you introduce them to the workplace environment, work colleagues and custom and practices of your business.

Have an Induction Checklist Form that contains key employee and employer responsibilities and rights and walk the employee through the responsibilities and rights prior to them commencing. Ask them questions, do they have any concerns, have they understood? If so ask them to sign the Induction Checklist confirming they will comply with the responsibilities and rights and have had the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification.

This process goes a long way towards minimising misunderstanding and at a later date if the employee becomes forgetful show them the induction sign-off.


Role Descriptions simply set out the Role of the employee within your business and the Job details for their particular position. It must contain core skills and competencies required for the employee to discharge their duties competently.

Employees who fail to demonstrate these skills and competencies can be performance managed through guidance and training and in certain instances where appropriate, have their employment terminated. In this way you effectively manage your employees.

The area of Role descriptions is one that is severely lacking in most businesses today and is a major reason why many employees are successful in their claim for an unfair dismissal.


The employment contract sets out the conditions of employment, rights and responsibilities of the parties and the boundaries in which you will conduct your relationship.

This becomes the legal and binding contract between you and your employees / contractors.

You should not put together an employment contract or have it altered by someone who is not trained in the nuances of Employment Law.

The employment contract should to be specific regarding a variety of employment policies and procedures.

Remember: What is out in the open and clear can be measured and not easily misunderstood.

Common Employment Contract Clauses should include; position type (permanent, casual), hours of work, overtime arrangements, applicable award, payroll, remuneration package, annual, sickness and long service leave if applicable, superannuation, code of conduct. grievance procedures, termination (voluntary and summary dismissal) procedures, discrimination and harassment policy, induction policy, performance management process, confidentiality, electronic e-mail and computer user policies including private usage. This list is not exclusive of other relevant industry policies but is provided as a general guide only.


This Manual is critical for your business. It openly lays out accepted and approved business policies and procedures by which you govern your business. It should include your Business Mission, Vision, Procedures and Policies. Policies include employee benefits, leave, discrimination, harassment, retirement, personal safety, employee and employer responsibilities, workplace health & safety, grievances, termination, and other clauses outlaid in more detail and should conclude with an employer and employee sign-off clause.

The sign off process is important part of minimising your business risk in that it confirms the employee has had the opportunity to ask questions clarify concerns and signs that they will comply with these processes and procedures.

By now you should be getting the picture that nothing is left to chance and is progressively signed off so that there is a clear understanding for all parties to work within.


Biz Momentum recommends that all employees are performance appraised semi-annually.

This process is one which employers find the most difficult and is often left to a tick and flick system or a general chat.

In this day and age it is vital that you take time out and learn how to performance manage people. Employees who perform well deserve rewarding and employees who have diminished performance require performance counselling.

In the event of diminished performance being able to demonstrate that you have gone through due process and procedures will greatly minimise your risk of financial compensation on an unfair dismissal charge.

Remember: What’s measured gets done.

Your performance appraisal system should be designed to encourage open dialogue between you and your employee/s and to effectively ‘nip conflict in the bud’ before it potentially gets out of hand.


In an age of discontinuous change we need to take time out ourselves and keep abreast of changes in all areas of business. This is especially true of employee relation. Changes are occurring rapidly as the dynamics of the workplace change in response to environmental, financial, industry, government and other triggers

Subscribe to periodicals, develop peers relationships that are mutually beneficial and take time to be updated.

Remember: Ensure that you, the head wag the dog and not the tail.


By taking time to incrementally introduce sensible and practical employee policies and procedures you are able to minimise your people risk and ensure that they work with you and not against you.

Remember: Take the time or do the crime.

For more information visit

Philip Lye is the founder of Biz Momentum providng small to medium enterprises with strategic human resource management, workplace health and safety consultation and business management advice. Biz Momentum is based in Brisbane Australia and operates nationally.

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