Thursday, 30 June 2016

Irresistable People



I recently came across this article from Forbes about "irresistible people" - those that "radiate energy and confidence" and I thought these were good to reflect on, not just for our own development, but also as qualities we would like in those we work with. 

We can't always pick the latter, but if you are looking for a new job (internally or externally!) these may be qualities you look for in a Manager.

What do you think? Do you agree these make people irresistible?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Finding Meaningful Part Time Work

Last week (on “Thinking Thursday”... urgh maybe I should give up on the alliterations) I shared with you a post on How to Request Flexible Working Arrangements. This week I’m excited to have Kim Stone guest blog about her experience.




How I Found a Meaningful Part Time Role 

by Kim Stone
Working part time since becoming a mum has enabled me to enjoy motherhood and a corporate career at the same time. I know from reading media articles that there are working mums out there who believe that working part time is unfulfilling and is preventing them from being promoted. This may be the case for some organisations and roles. I believe it is possible to find a fulfilling part time career that fits with your desire to spend more time with your family. Since becoming a working mum I have had both experiences.

~~~What I didn’t know at that point in my career was that I could have applied for full time roles and negotiated flexible work arrangements or a part time role anyway. ~~~

When I first returned to work my first baby was 8 months old. I was missing my career immensely and going a little stir crazy (despite having an awesome mother’s group).
While on maternity leave my two year government contract role was due to expire. At the time that this contract was nearing its end date I started thinking about going back to work. This was not a coincidence. I knew that negotiating a part time role with an organisation that knew me well would be easier than trying to do so with a new organisation. I also knew from scanning job ads that most roles in my field were advertised as full time. What I didn’t know at that point in my career was that I could have applied for full time roles and negotiated flexible work arrangements or a part time role anyway.

So I negotiated to return to my pre maternity leave role in a part time capacity, two days a week on a new 3 month contract. In theory I was returning to the same organisation in the same role. Except that it wasn’t. The organisation had undergone a name change and restructure while I was on maternity leave. Most of the remaining staff were the same, some were new and the role I had been in had vanished. No one had been backfilling my role because the work I did was no longer required. The type of work I was expected to do was meaningless to me and did not utilise my skill set compared to my previous full time roles. Within a couple of months I was cruising job ads at night looking for a more meaningful part time role that matched my skill set.

~~~I felt unreliable and my ability to achieve project milestones 
was severely affected by my short work week.~~~

In the meantime I was learning that working two days a work meant I was out of the office most of the week. Some weeks I only made it into the office one of those days due to sick or carers leave as my family’s immune systems adjusted to the new daycare germs. Fortunately I had plenty of sick leave banked from my full time working days, however I felt unreliable and my ability to achieve project milestones was severely affected by my short work week. When I did work two days a week I would often reach the end of the second work day wishing I had one more work day to finish something off.

Since all the job vacancies that interested me were advertised full time I ended up applying for a full time role with a large organisation I had previously worked for. At the end of the online application process the website announced I was not eligible to apply for the role. The role was only open to internal applicants of the organisation. I was disappointed to say the least and not even sure if my resume and cover letter had been submitted into the online system.

A few weeks later I received a call from a manager of the large organisation. We had worked together previously and she had seen my application for the internal job vacancy. She asked around and discovered I had left the organisation, had a baby and was working part time. There was another role that had just become vacant in her team that was 3 days a week and she wanted to consider me for the role! The role she invited me to interview for had not been advertised.

~~~The new part time role not only matched my skill set and career aspirations, it also enabled me to grow my skill set and positioned me for career progression within the organisation.~~~

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. My existing part time contract was about to end and my manager had set up a conversation with HR about whether I wanted an extension. I accepted the new part time role and declined an extension on my existing part time role.
The new part time role not only matched my skill set and career aspirations, it also enabled me to grow my skill set and positioned me for career progression within the organisation.
I also discovered that working 3 days a week was more fulfilling as well. I was in the office most of the week and able to contribute significantly more than I had working two days a week.

You can read more about my return to work and power tips for working part time in my free ebook and blog at www.undercovermum.com.au


About Kim



Kim Stone is a corporate mama of two with a passion for supporting and empowering other corporate mamas through personalised online mentoring, her blog and free resources at www.undercovermum.com.au. Kim believes that women can have BOTH a career and a family and shouldn’t have to choose one or the other. Before becoming a mum, Kim was an ambitious corporate career focussed over achiever. Returning to work as a mum was more challenging than Kim had expected and was a steep learning curve about how to combine the best of motherhood and her career.

Whether you are an employee or run your own business, we'd love for you to join us at Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support for Business Women.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

How to request Flexible Working Arrangements


When considering returning to work from parental leave, many women would like to work part time. Under the Fair Work Act, this is covered under the term Flexible Working Arrangements. 


However, Flexible Work Arrangements  don't just mean working part time, and it is not limited to women returning to work from parental leave.



Photo credit: gcoldironjr2003 via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND

According to Fair Work, examples of flexible working arrangements include changes to:

  • hours of work (eg. changes to start and finish times)
  • patterns of work (eg. split shifts or job sharing)
  • locations of work (eg. working from home).

In Australia, anyone who has worked for their employer for more than 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they: 
  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • have a disability (and are qualified for a disability support pension under the Social Security Act 1991)
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

Photo via VisualHunt

The process


1. Plan
It is really important that you consider how what you are asking for will impact the workplace, and what you think can be done to minimise the impact. You are only doing yourself a disservice if you try and leave this step to Management. The flexible work is to benefit you, so you should plan and be prepared for how this can work within your team and Company.
Flexible Work requests can only be refused on reasonable business grounds. 

Reasonable business grounds are:
  • the requested arrangements are too costly
  • other employees' working arrangements can't be changed to accommodate the request
  • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

So in your plan, think about those four dot points. Consider:

  • will this cost the business money? If so, is it a large cost or minimal (e.g. requiring a smart phone to work from home). Is there precedent in the organisation for this?
  • obviously it would not be appropriate to talk to other member's in your team to see if they will change their working arrangements (please don't do this!), but you should think about how your request will impact others in the team and what alternatives there may be for the business to consider
  • how can any losses in productivity or customer service be avoided or lessened?


2. Initial conversation
Although not required, it is a courtesy to have a conversation with your Manager as a "heads up". Let them know what issues are coming up with your current work hours/pattern/location and an outline of your proposal. Let your Manager know you are submitting the request in writing, and do this directly after talking to your Manager.

3. Written request
This is a VERY important step as it is a requirement in the Fair Work Act. If you want any protections that Act can give you, then you need to make sure you put your request in writing. This can be via letter or email, the latter is probably better as you can ensure it was sent/received.
In your request you must explain what changes are being asked for AND explain the reasons for the request. 
You should explain your plan of how this will work in the organisation (as in point 1 above).

4.Response
Your employer is required under the Fair Work Act to respond to you within 21 days saying whether the request is granted or refused. A request can only be refused on reasonable business grounds. If a request is refused the written response must include the reasons for the refusal. Your company is also required to discuss, or make attempts to discuss, with you your request prior to refusing it.

Photo credit: gcoldironjr2003 via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-ND

I don't know what to ask for?

Amanda* and I recently had an online chat as she wants to work less hours in the office because her eldest has started school and the after hours school care is messy and expensive.

Her family are struggling with the shift from day care being at one venue from 7am-6pm to suddenly having two drop offs in the morning, and with school hours being much shorter and the after hours school care not at the school the child attends.

Because she works in a Senior role, Amanda had no idea what to ask for or how it would be seen by her peers, or considered by the organisation.

In Amanda's planning stage, I advised her to:
  1. Check any existing Company policies and procedures. These may be called "flexible working arrangements", "working remotely", "working from home" etc. If you are in a large organisation, you may find there are several policies and some may even overlap between a "HR" policy and a "Health & Safety" policy
  2. Consider your overall family situation. Do you want to work less hours, or just work the same hours differently?
  3. Consider your workload. Does 100% need to be done in the office? Can you work some hours at home? If you want to reduce your hours, how will all the work be done?
  4. Will your proposal cost the Company money? If so, is that reasonable? (for example, providing you with a smart phone to be contactable when not in the office)
Every job, and every organisation is different, so it is really important that you get this planning stage right and even take more than one option to your employer for consideration.

Also, flexible working arrangements does not just mean working part time. Try and think outside the square and perhaps your Manager will too.

What if my employer says no?

Discuss with your Manager and involve your HR Manager. 

If you still aren't satisfied, you can call the Fair Work info line on 13 13 94, but unless there is a specific clause in your Industrial Instrument (contract of employment, Award or Enterprise Agreement), then there is no remedy for you to go to Fair Work if your request is refused. However, you may be able to seek remedies under other federal or state laws such as anti-discrimination legislation (on the grounds of family or carer's responsibilities.)

More Information

Fair Work provide template letters and more information here


Do you have a success story to share? 

Whether you are an employee or run your own business, you can share your story on Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support for Business Women.

*Amanda is not her real name, and I have also altered some of the information to protect her privacy. She has consented to me using her example as a blog post to hopefully assist others.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Being a Young Leader

I read this article about young leaders, and I'm not sure that this applies just to people who are younger than their direct reports.

We should all treat others as we would want to be treated and accept that we aren't the expert on everything. We often need to refer to our team who may be experts in different areas, or have different experiences to refer to.

Do you agree? Have you ever had problems managing staff that are older than you?




Photo credit: 드림포유 via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-ND

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Increase to the minimum wage from 1 July

The Fair Work Commission has announced a 2.4% increase to minimum wages 

The new national minimum wage will be $672.70 per week or $17.70 per hour.

So what does that mean to you?

 If you are currently receiving the national minimum wage then your employer will need to pass on the increase from the first full pay period starting on or after 1 July 2016. 

The increase won’t affect employees who are already getting paid more than the new minimum wage.

If you need more information, check out the Fairwork Ombudsman website here


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Congratulations on the new baby... oh and here is your redundancy pay...

I read a post by the Australian Human Rights Commission here which stated that 1 in 5 mothers lose their job during pregnancy, parental leave or upon returning to work.

Wow

1 in 5 

I was, to say the least, intrigued (and a little horrified).

Could that really be true? How would they even know that statistic? 
Photo via Visualhunt

Then I had Maria* contact me and her message was a little like this:


Is there anything I can do when I'm told my role has been made redundant after returning from maternity leave?


"My company is going through quite a large restructure at the moment so there are a lot of jobs being made redundant. I have just returned from maternity leave to be advised my role is being made redundant. Other similar roles are being kept.

The end date they have given me, means that I will not receive any pro rata long service leave as it is a week short of my five year service date.  I feel like I am being pushed out."

Maria and I had an online conversation and my advice was for her to ask:
  • for the criteria used to deem her role redundant
  • request that her end date be changed to be able to fall after the 5 years service date
  • talk with her employer about possible redeployment opportunities
I also asked her if she felt there was any discriminatory reasoning for the redundancy (i.e. based on caring responsibilities, parental leave)

Her Company had advised her they would not provide any criteria for the redundancy in writing, only verbally. They declined her request to change the end date and although she was able to be redeployed into any alternative positions, if she applied for them, there were currently no positions available. Maria did feel like she was being discriminated against, but had no evidence to support her belief.


Redundancy criteria

Unfortunately if the Company is unwilling to give reasons around the criteria for redundancy in writing, the only way to get this is by lodging a claim and Fair Work may compel them to provide it in order to substantiate the reasons for the redundancy.

The payment of the pro-rata Long Service Leave is also not applicable until 5 years service has elapsed, and seeing that the Company gave an end date prior to that, she would not receive this payment.

As she had already had discussions with the organisation and wasn't able to get more information on the reasons for her redundancy, or consideration of her end date, I advised her to Maria consider engaging a lawyer. The lawyer will ask for more information and assess the situation, but there are two ways it may go. 


Unfair Dismissal or General Protections Claim

One option is to lodge an unfair dismissal case, the other is for a general protections claim (adverse action) .
The main difference is that a general protections claim is that there is a reverse onus of proof which means the organisation must show that the redundancy was in no way related to her parental leave / carer responsibilities. 
Additionally, the potential compensation for a general protections claim is not capped, whereas unfair dismissal is capped at 6 months salary. You also need to be earning under the 
unfair dismissal threshold (currently $136,700 p.a.) to make an unfair dismissal claim.

The first step with making a claim is a conference (often by telephone), and if not resolved, then it can go forward to arbitration by the commissioner, or a new application can be made to the Federal Circuit Court or the Federal Court. 

The court has the power to:
  • issue a fine
  • make an order for reinstatement
  • make an order awarding compensation for loss
  • grant an injunction or interim injunction
  • award costs.
It is possible for Maria that at the conference stage, the lawyer could negotiate a settlement which may be an ex-gratia amount equal to the pro rata Long Service Leave. If the lawyer has a 'no win no fee' option, this is probably worth doing, even just for that LSL amount.
Although Maria could push for reinstatement, as the organisation is going through a very large restructure, her job security may be short lived.


Looking to the future

This is a really stressful time, and Companies going through restructures typically provide employee assistance programs and outplacement programs, so I also advised Maria to make use of these for the period they are available.

Maria is in the process of consulting a lawyer who specialises in workplace law at the moment.

This isn't a story with a very happy ending yet, so perhaps the statistic given by the Australian Human Rights Commission is correct.

What do you think? Have you been made redundant while pregnant, on parental leave, or when returning to work?

Whether you are an employee or run your own business, you can share your story on Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support for Business Women.

*Maria is not her real name, and I have also altered some of the information to protect her privacy. She has consented to me using her example as a blog post to hopefully assist others.


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Have you ever wondered... "Can they do that?!"

Photo credit: mripp via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I get asked questions from family and friends quite often about what is happening at their workplace. Usually it is a statement finished with "Can they do that?!". 

The truth is that there is not a lot of plain English information available for employees, mainly because it can be really difficult to take one issue and dissect it and have that apply to everyone. So much is determined by the way you are employed and therefore what legislation and case law (precedents) there are in place. That is why I try and keep these posts brief, and generalised. 

It has been an interesting few weeks as I've been receiving messages from different people with their employment questions and it does give me motivation to continue, because unfortunately there are some businesses and Managers out there that just, quite frankly, have no idea. Sometimes they are well meaning, sometimes they are working off a mindset that is out dated, and sometimes they are just trying to get around the law. The difficult part is then for you, as an employee, to tactfully steer them in the right direction and try to get the right outcome for you and the business. Hopefully I can assist you with that too.

So I'm going to try every Thursday to post one of the questions I have received (anonymously and with any identifying information removed!) and the answer in the hope that it may just help you, or someone you know, in a similar situation.

Feel free to message me with a specific question and I'll do my best to help you find an answer, or give you my opinion if it would be worth seeing a lawyer or making a claim via Fair Work. I will, of course, ask your permission before making your Q&A into a blog post.




Tuesday, 7 June 2016

When is unpaid work ok?

Many (many) years ago when I first joined the workforce I remember some businesses wanted me to start work on a "trial" which was unpaid before making a decision about if they wanted to hire me. Even though I felt uneasy about it at the time, it was quite prevalent so perhaps it was legal back then. This was, after all, back in the dark ages.

Unfortunately it seems that some people believe this is still a valid way of getting cheap labour, and they even dress it up with a sexy title of "Intern", but the fact remains that if you asked to do "productive" work that doesn't form part of your studies, then it is quite possible that Company is breaking the law.

The Federal Circuit Court has just imposed a $272,850 penalty against a media company to send it a “serious message” not to disguise employment relationships as unpaid internships.(you can read more on the Fair Work website here)



Photo credit: Sean MacEntee via Visual Hunt / CC BY

So when is unpaid work ok?  
According to Fair Work, there are limited circumstances such as when you are doing an internship as part of a "structured learning program". These generally form part of degrees offered by Universities. However, if you are filling the role of an employee then you need to be paid accordingly. The Fair Work Ombudsman has a few resources at  www.fairwork.gov.au/unpaidwork to try and assist people.

The bottom line is that if you, or someone you know, is asked to work on an unpaid trial or internship which doesn't form part of a learning program through a school (e.g. work experience) or University, then you should do some more digging, and call the Fairwork info line if you are unsure on 13 13 94.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

How to explain being fired on your resume

It is the most awful feeling, because even in the absolute worst job, we want to feel like we are wanted and appreciated. So what happens when you are sat down and told your employment is terminated?

For many people this won't come as a surprise because there should have been months of performance management meetings and performance goals set. But sometimes this doesn't happen, particularly if you work for a small business, or have poor management, or most often within the "probation period" where performance management is a good idea, but not necessarily required.
Photo via VisualHunt.com

So after receiving the news, a letter and trying to digest the news and move on from the shock, the next question is "how do I explain this on my resume?!"

I am sure everyone you ask will give a different opinion, and here is mine.

Be honest.

"Cripes", I hear you say. "Join the real world!"

Yes, yes, I know, but let me finish.

Sit down and think about that job and what you liked, and didn't like. I'm pretty certain on reflection you will discover that it really wasn't the right fit for you. Perhaps it was the culture of the organisation, the culture of the team, the management style, the location or just the type of work. You can use this to not only explain what happened, but to ensure that you don't make the same mistake twice.

On your resume you should write the details of the organisation as you normally would. When you get to interview stage with a recruitment agency or Company and they ask about the role, that is when you explain your role duties and so forth, but also explain that because of xyz, (being the reasons you thought about above) the role wasn't the right fit, so now you are looking for abc.
Let me give you an example:
"I found the culture of the organisation wasn't very team oriented, and I quite like being able to think of ideas and throw them around with a team. So I decided to look for a role that is more team based....."

If the recruiter asks you outright the circumstances of you leaving, then you should be honest about it, but turn it into a positive by explaining what you learnt from the experience and how you have used that to hone in to what you need from a new role. 

There is a real risk that if you try and lie about the circumstances, you may just get caught out, especially when you consider how much information is available online today. You need to build trust in your employment relationship from the start. Your reputation isn't worth it. I also strongly believe that the right kind of employer will respect your honesty and your ability to show emotional intelligence and maturity by learning from the experience.

What do you think? Is honesty really the best policy?
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