In this circular we discuss the importance of regulating who can give references for your Practice, as well as tips on recruitment and determining suitability of candidates for the role.
If you don't have a written policy on giving references, you might later find out a co-worker gave a very favourable or even exaggerated reference for a former employee without your authority. If the employment does not work out, this could reflect poorly on your Practice, and so it makes sense to take steps (and is reasonable and fair) to protect your Practice's reputation and ensure any references are accurate and not misleading.
We recommend having a written policy in place, for example in your Staff Manual, stating that only the Practice Manager and/or Owners are authorised to provide references; and references are to be provided verbally rather than in writing to avoid it becoming irrevocable in the unfortunate event post-dismissal facts come to light which change your mind. The policy should also make clear that compliance is expected, and so, non-compliance will be taken seriously.
Fortunately we have observed Practices are becoming busier again and looking to grow their teams. Failing to consider long term recruitment strategies can be costly and demotivating for the team. If you prematurely appoint employees who are not suitable, or cannot ascertain the skills, you will probably face a high turnover and lose resources invested for training and recruitment. It is therefore easy to justify investing at the outset to maximise a return on investment. After careful consideration of the desired candidate (identifying skills as well as personality, long term alignment and ability to add value), we suggest you release an advertisement with your logo, stating your Practice goals, and importantly stating why employees should apply for the role. Focusing on employee benefits (including stating the benefits to the environment, access to a mentor and professional development) is likely to spark the interest of more candidates than simply outlining the requirements for the role. You can consider offering enrollment in a certificate course, or financial support for relocating staff, which can then be subject to repayment if the person does not maintain employment after 12 months. Please see our Repayment Agreements on the member portal which can be utilised for both of these purposes.
It is also very important to do your due diligence on the prospective employee. This includes checking references from prior and recent direct managers; asking open questions to determine areas of further development and how the person responds to change and challenges; and paying attention to whether or not the application evidences genuine interest and research undertaken into your Practice and the industry generally. Please see our Recruitment Tools on the member portal for more useful resources. As part of your due diligence you can also easily see if the candidate has been involved in a Fair Work Hearing (if that is relevant to you) by typing in the person's name under Keywords here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/search/document/decision
In assessing suitability, we suggest you advise the employee if the job is busy and stressful and specifically enquire if there are any health conditions that may impact them performing the role. It would be unfortunate for example if the employee's health prevented them from effectively responding to change, if the Practice was about to go through a period of change. You can also ask the employee to disclose existing relevant health conditions; provide a police check and obtain a working with children's card, if they are relevant for your Practice. These clauses are standard in ClinLegal contracts. Please note if any of these disclosures are not relevant, it may be unlawful to rely on them in making a decision not to employ the person. Prospective employees (and contractors) are also covered by the general protections through Fair Work.
Once employment commences, consider appointing a mentor (a senior and positive co-worker to support the on-boarding process and be available to check-in regularly with the employee). During the probationary period it is also useful to have regular catch-up meetings to take and give feedback, and to provide some structure and insight during this important period. There may be times where you decide the employee is not suitable. It is important to take advice prior to effecting a termination because some of the legal protections apply to all employees regardless of duration of tenure. However it is useful to remember that unfair dismissal laws do not apply to employees for the first 6 months; or 12 months in the case of small businesses. Despite this, we always suggest following a structured approach to terminations that complies with the law, minimises risk and also minimises disruption.
If you would like to learn more about recruitment strategies that maximise on a return to investment for your Practice, feel free to reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the other articles in our Blog.
This Circular is produced for guidance purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice. Legal advice should be sought for individual circumstances. For tailored advice for your Practice, please contact us.