90 Day Trials for Employees | Hasmate health and safety
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90 Day Trials for Employees

90 Day Trials for Employees

“If he smells like a mechanic, he will be employed.”

These were the desperate words of one garage owner, in a situation that unfortunately turned pear shape and became very costly for the owner when it went to the Employment Court.

Why? Because like so many other small to medium sized enterprise (SME) businesses in New Zealand, he never had any structured employment systems in place.

A Change of Guard

One of the policies and plans of the newly elected government is to re-introduce the 90 day trials for all employees. This has been in place previously for employers to trial, assess new employees for suitability, and to:

  1. Give the employee the opportunity to prove themselves, their skills, experience, and other attributes;
  2. Determine if the new employee is suitable for the position; and
  3. For the benefit/protection of the business.

The question that needs to be asked by every employer is, is this the best way to employ personnel, and what is the best commercially safe and most practical process to undertake this process?

From a legal opinion, read this article by William Fussey, Anderson Lloyd in Christchurch.

The Challenge to New Zealand Businesses

For the 564,000 SME businesses that employ twenty or less employees and represents 97% of businesses in NZ, the implementation of 90 day trials can be a challenge.

An issue that arises when introducing this into a business or managing any employment process is that many of the SME businesses have little or no documented employment processes in place, time, or the internal resources to manage this important aspect of business.

This is one of the major reasons why so many SME businesses end up in time-wasting and costly employment disputes.

So, what the answer? Many businesses engage with costly employment specialists, with franchise HR consultants, or do nothing and take the risk, but why?

The following is not intended as a complete list, but a guideline to show the easy-to-follow steps of an employment process. These should be the minimum requirements that any SME business should consider to have in place for a systematic process to minimise the risk of getting the employment process wrong.

An important part of this process is the maintaining of your employment records in either hard copy or using cloud-based software.

The Employment Process for Probationary Management

The key actions throughout any employment process is to take your time and communication, communication, communication.

Step 1 – The Ideal Person Description

This is a critical document and should be developed for all positions within the business. If done correctly, this will also act as the checklist for when applicants are interviewed.

Step 2 – The Job Description

Does the business have an organisational chart?

The job description is a document that requires a lot of thought, as it is important for you and the applicant to know what they are going to be responsible for, and accountable to, and how this will be measured.

This document becomes part of your annual staff review process.

Step 3 – The Application for Employment

This is another critical document that sets out a wide range of questions with required answers, for the employer to use in their assessment for selecting a shortlist of likely applicants for the position.

What questions can you ask, due to the Privacy Act? All questions must be relevant to the position that is being applied for, and information that should be known to the applicant. E.g. if the position requires that products or services be selected by colour, then the colour-blind question can be asked, as it is relevant to the quality of the work/services.  Another example would be an electrician with different coloured wires.

Step 4 – The Skills, Qualifications and Experience Checklist

This checklist is not mandatory, but something we have used with our clients with positive success. It is usually attached to the Application for Employment.

It is a great way to capture the experience and skills that a prospect may have for the new position.

If completed correctly, this will also act as the checklist for when applicants are interviewed, and could be applied if there is a future performance issue.

Step 5 – The Interview and Selection Process

This does not have to be complicated but should be undertaken in a formal and appropriate setting.  All the information previously completed by the applicant can then be used for the interview process.  Any outcomes from this meeting should be recorded and filed in the employee’s personnel file.

Step 6 – The Employment Agreement

This a mandatory obligation of all businesses prior to engaging the employee, with costly consequences if not completed.

If the employee is to have a probationary period as part of their engagement, then this must be stated in this agreement.

If this is included, I would recommend that you also include a copy of the probationary assessment form that outlines the areas that the employee will be assessed against for the probationary reviews. Then there are no surprises for both parties.

As the employment agreement is legally binding, it is open for negotiation between both parties and not a “take it or leave it” discussion, which too often is the case.

Of the many stated inclusions, the statement about health and safety is paramount, as this can become the saving grace for any employer, considering the proposed changes to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, regarding responsibility and accountability.

Step 7 – The Induction Process

If your business has this process in place, it should never be a “read this and you will understand” exercise. It should be a structured process so that the new employee understands the company’s requirements, as well as have access to the induction information and supporting policies with which they must comply.

Step 8 – The Probationary Review Process

This is the area where so many employers get it wrong.

Do not leave this review meeting till the end of the 90 days, or when things go wrong.

Set the performance assessment dates for an assessment every month for the 90 days, and tell the employee of these dates and the procedure for the reviews.

Use the probationary assessment checklist for this process, and be prepared to listen, provide feedback, positive and constructive ideas for improvement, listen, and to act on any ideas for the business. You might well be surprised what you learn about your business and identify areas for improvement.

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If your business requires any further information/systems/processes to manage probationary management or your employment processes and guidelines, please contact us.