Recently a large Canadian customer with operations in Australia contacted us to assist with a small downsizing. We were happy to oblige and made arrangements with our partner in Australia to handle all of the arrangements.
In North America, this process would include the outplacement firm (like Knightsbridge) being on-site while the employee is notified of their termination. We would support the employee emotionally as they grapple with the news and then would assist them to leave the premises quickly and professionally, and we’d ensure their safe travel home.
After the termination we received a call from our customer. Indeed the employee in Australia had been terminated and our partner had been on-site to assist. However, rather than being escorted from the premise the employee had been allowed to return to her desk where she chatted with colleagues, accessed her computer and stayed in the office for several more hours.
Our Canadian customer was extremely confused and frustrated. What had happened? Why hadn’t we ensured that she was professionally escorted from the offices?
What our customer didn’t know was that under Australian law, an organization can be sued if the process of exiting the employee is viewed as either "unfair" or "harsh.” There have been cases where individuals have been reinstated in their job because of the "harshness " of the exit discussion or the manner in which individual was exited.
To avoid legal action, the line managers must give clear, fair exit procedures in the exit conversation along with written confirmation of these procedures. This often includes the time and ability to wrap up things professionally at their desk and have discussions with colleagues prior to departing.
While is seems in stark contrast to the way things are handled in North America, this exit process in Australia was appropriate and indeed required under law to respect the dignity of the individual. It’s a good thing that our partner there was deeply knowledgeable about local practices and legal requirements. Had the process been handled following North American standards, our customer might well have been liable for unfair or harsh treatment of the employee.
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Knightsbridge is a founding partner of Career Star Group, an international alliance of outplacement providers in over 70 countries around the world. Career Star Group provides the opportunity for global management and control while ensuring the best local market expertise.