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It is time to rethink how we write HR policies?

December 10, 2018


A few weeks ago, an employee asked me to write a letter to get her out of jury service as the trial had the potential to go on for three weeks and our policy, like so many other
organisations, only allows for five days jury service leave. Any more than five days and the employee, in the past, has been required to take annual leave. This employee did not have enough annual leave to cover the expected time she would be off work on Jury Service and she simply could not afford to take unpaid leave. She had a mortgage to pay and a family to feed.


To be honest, when I actually read the policy I was pretty horrified. It was old school,
punitive and included the following phrases:

An employee must report back to work on any day he/she has been excused early, or is not required for jury duty service and immediately at the end of the jury service.
All monies received from the Court will then be deducted from the next pay.

Monies paid to reimburse expenses will be exempt from this “claw-back”.
Failure to follow the conditions above will result in the Jury Service Leave being treated as
unpaid leave and pay adjusted accordingly.


This started me thinking about why employers write policies like this? And I came to the
conclusion that there were two things that really bothered me about the policies I was
reading. The first thing which really bothered me was the language used in HR policies, which often takes a punitive and directive tone. They are impersonal, referring to people as Employees or Personnel (capitals intended) rather than saying ‘you’ and ‘we’ which clearly indicates employees are not to be trusted.


It’s this kind of wording that puts people off HR. I don’t want to dis the HR function; I
regularly see some incredible examples of companies taking a more humanistic and people centred approach to HR.


This week one of my