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May (No. 496)

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Recruiting right to avoid future staffing stresses

Paul Tanner , Thomson Playford

Ask any company director today and he or she will say it is the staff who are the strength of the business.
This is particularly true for the wine industry, given the large numbers and variety of staff employed, from those working in the vineyard to the sales representatives on the road.

It is little wonder, then, that when businesses across any industry are asked to identify the major challenges to their future growth, staffing issues rate high on the list.

For a winery operator, assembling the right team of employees is just as critical to success as perfecting a vintage.

By taking the time to select the best staff for the job, a wine company can reduce time-consuming and potentially costly claims that may arise when trying to deal with under-performing employees.

Unfair dismissal and unlawful termination claims are among the most contentious issues in industrial relations law and can prove a nightmare for employers.

In South Australia alone, there were 1068 unfair dismissal claims lodged with the Industrial Relations Commission in 2002-03, which was an 11% increase from that of five years ago.

Fortunately, a large proportion of these claims were resolved before being formally heard by the Commission and the majority of applications were settled within 90 days. The process, however, is still a stressful one for senior managers and company owners and involves significant costs.

Nationally, there are around 15,000 unfair dismissal actions taken each year.

While the laws were developed to protect workers from unscrupulous employers, the increasing complexity and cost of dealing with wrongful dismissal claims have made employers more cautious about taking on new staff.

At the other end of the scale, many businesses are carrying the cost of under-performing workers because they are worried about potential legal action if they sever their employment.

Like most things in business, the key to avoiding a staffing crisis is in the preparation. Just as a vigneron will devote hours to cultivating top quality fruit, employers in the industry should be prepared to keep abreast of changing employment laws and to take extra care when recruiting staff.

NOTE: The complete article can be found in the May issue of The Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker.



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