21 February 2011

Ignorance is no excuse: Do you know The Code?

Risk is a topic I have returned to a number of times during the three and half year life of InSight. I was reminded of it again last week as I took my Rookie Recruiter Training Program participants through the eight principles contained in the RCSA Code for Professional Conduct.

Whether you are a member of the RCSA or not (BTW I think you should be), I would advise all recruiters to both know and abide by the Code.

Let me talk specifically about a couple of these principles contained in the Code.

Principle 4 (Respect for Laws) states:

(1) Members must comply with all legal, statutory and government requirements

This sounds quite straightforward; I mean who would not do this? However it's not quite that easy in the real, very competitive and commercial world of recruitment.

On 10 December 2010, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the case of a worker suing recruitment agency Integrated (owned by Programmed Maintenance Services Ltd) for allegedly breaching both the Racial Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act.

The worker was a woman with limited English. She had been off work due to an injury. She was a casual worker and possessed limited work skills (warehouse pick and pack). I am sure the Integrated employee wasn't deliberately discriminating against the woman - it was probably more of an attitude of it's-too-hard-and-there's-always-someone-else.

However, regardless of the Integrated employee's motivation for their actions, it has caused Integrated both embarrassment and inconvenience (the case is listed to be heard in May 2011).

It's critical that all recruiters are fully aware of the legal, statutory and government requirements that are applicable in their work. Regardless of whether the breach is ‘under instruction' from the client, there's no excuse.

Principle 6 (Respect for Certainty of Engagement) states:

(1) Members will ensure that workers are given details of their work conditions, the nature of the work to be undertaken, rates of pay and pay arrangements.

(2) Any variation to the engagement can only occur with prior notification to the worker

Again, this sounds quite straight forward but recruitment agency Resco recently found out how difficult this can be, in practice, when you have a client who wants to work only to the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it.

On 9 February 2010, The Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline HP reins in Depression-era PC factory, reported that computer packaging company, Foxteq, had agreed to cease various objectionable employment practices that their Resco-provided, outsourced, casual labour force was enduring.

These conditions included day-by-day employment, which often meant workers only found out late in the evening whether they were required to be at work for 8am the next day and then sometimes being told, when they got to work, that they will only be working a four hour shift, barely enough to cover their travel expenses.

Although there is no suggestion that either Foxteq or Resco had broken any laws, it certainly could be argued that the spirit of Principle 6 (Respect for Certainty of Engagement) was not being adhered to.

The good news is that Foxteq (apparently under pressure from major customer, HP) have agreed to offer the staff permanent full-time or part time status, improved working conditions and the ability to elect union delegates.

As a recruiter, what would you have done if you were confronted with a major client treating your staff like that?

Just as a refresher, here's a quick look at some of the other principles contained within the RCSA Code for Professional Conduct.

Principle 1 - Confidentiality and Privacy
(2) Permission must be sought before disclosing confidential information.

My comment: Ensure every candidate you interview signs a privacy release form and ensure you have the permission of the candidate to disclose their details (either verbally and/or in writing) to specific organisations.

Principle 2 - Honest Dealings
(2)c In the course of representing a candidate or client, a member shall not knowingly make a representation as to future matters without having reasonable grounds for making it.

My comment: Stick to the facts. Don't describe a company as ‘highly successful' unless you know that they are highly successful. Ignorance or ‘everyone else does it' is no excuse.

(5) All fees, charges and services provided must be explicitly and fully disclosed to clients prior to the acceptance of an assignment, or prior to a any work being undertaken for a client.

My comment: No sympathy from me here. You deserve all that you get if you do any work for a client before they have returned a signed copy of your terms of business and they later screw you on fees or payment.

Principle 3 - Respect for Work Relationships
(1) Members will not undertake actions that may unfairly or unlawfully jeopardise a candidate's employment

My comment: Never assume that just because a candidate has provided you with the name and contact details of a referee, that you can immediately ring that referee. It could be their boss who doesn't know they are looking for work elsewhere. Always ask permission before contacting a referee - no exceptions.

Principle 7 - Professional Knowledge
(2) Members will ensure that their staff are adequately trained and skilled to undertake their responsibilities.

My comment: If you are an owner or manager and you haven't trained your staff on the RCSA Code, then do so immediately. If you are a recruiter and you haven't been trained on the Code, then ask your employer for that training.

I was never a person who had any inclination for a career in law, but I certainly remember the name of my HSC Legal studies text book: Ignorance is no Excuse.

Don't gamble with your professional reputation or your employer's brand. Get yourself educated. Now.

Note: You can access the PDF file Code for Professional Conduct Explained here.

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