Managers keep breaking the law

Six
months ago, I was overjoyed to get my first HR manager job at an engineering
firm employing over 200 people. My initial joy has turned into despair. Without
being too specific, many of the company’s employment practices and policies are
highly dubious and quite a few contravene employment law. My bosses are fully
aware of all this, and are putting great pressure on me not to rock the boat.
What should I do?

Clive
Sussams, recruitment consultant, Malpas Flexible Learning

There
are several points to consider:

1
Having been with the company for six months, you should understand both the
management style and how the business runs.

2
In that time you should have been establishing credibility as the HR
professional on site, both with management and the workforce.

3
One of the fundamental requirements of the HR function in any organisation is
to ensure that it fully complies with legislation.

This
is a test of your credibility and leadership with management. To succeed, it
will be necessary to present a forceful business case to management, including
possible penalties for directors and staff for breaches of the law and the
consequence of investigations by outside bodies such as the Health and Safety
Executive.

Peter
Lewis, consultant, Chiumento

You
indicate that your bosses are fully aware of contravening employment law and
are not prepared to do anything about it. Try to find out very quickly why this
is this case. Is it that they cannot see a way of achieving business goals
while operating under employment law? Have you looked carefully at the
situation in a way that gives them alternatives that meet the needs of the
business, while complying with legislation?

If
the answer is yes and they are still not interested, you should look for
another job. It is essential that any job you take reflects best practice and
meets your values.

Prospective
employers will be interested in your achievements, and it doesn’t sound as
though you will have achieved much should you stay where you are.

Update
your CV to take account of your responsibilities and achievements and send it
to agencies and, speculatively, directly to organisations that are of interest
to you. Network with friends and colleagues, and use your contacts to generate
opportunities.

When
you attend an interview, you are bound to be asked the reason for leaving your
current role so soon after joining. Prepare your answer fully and reply calmly,
confidently and logically. Focus on facts and demonstrate how you made every
effort to change things, but that in the end you were being asked to support
illegal practices, which you could not do.

Avoid
making personal comments about the company. Concentrate on the plans you had
for the organisation, how you can add value with your experience and
achievements and demonstrate enthusiasm.

Louise
White, consultant, EJ Human Resources

You
need to start thinking about the way you approach the subject of employment law
to your employers as the current methods are obviously not working. The easiest
way to make your bosses listen is to relate your arguments to the bottom line.
Detail the financial implications of being taken to a tribunal, the impact of
bad press, the implications this could have for recruiting future talent and
the increased costs resulting from high turnover.

Think
about your policies and procedures and ask how innovative and flexible they
are. If you show your employers that you are working with them rather than
against them, you should be able to make inroads.

Your
role is to provide them with advice, if they choose not to take it, you should
not feel that you are not doing your job properly.

If
you feel you’ve tried everything, think about what you want out of a role, and
whether this organisation can provide it.

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