There are three suggested stages of introducing a restructuring plan based on establishing and maintaining good faith relationships. This means treating others in the way you would like to be treated - honestly, openly and with mutual respect.
Remember you are required to observe any restructuring clauses contained in the applicable employment agreement.
Three steps to restructuring your farm business
Stage One - Consultation
- Convey restructuring intentions as a proposal rather than as a pre-determined decision.
- Provide all staff with an opportunity to express their opinions and views on the idea.
- Ensure staff feel they contribute to a combined solution to the current problems affecting your business. In some instances they may come up with creative solutions. A good consultation process should bring these out.
- Give staff time to absorb your proposals and invite further feedback after a set period of time.
- Based on the feedback, make a definite decision about what you are going to do and what positions are sustainable and which ones are not. At this stage refer to affected positions not individual staff members.
- Clearly communicate your decisions to all relevant staff members and outline quite explicitly what will happen next. Staff need to have clear information on what will happen.
Stage Two - Implementation
Restructuring can be undertaken in three defined ways.
Some staff can be reconfirmed in the same or similar positions to their existing ones within the business. Others with suitably transferable skills can be offered re-assignment to another available position within the business. Positions that are considered unsustainable are those where redundancy is likely.
- Be upfront and honest about why there is a need to make changes. Staff are more likely to be understanding if information is clearly made known to them.
- Discuss with each affected staff member your plans to reconfirm, reassign or make their position redundant. Listen to their views and provide them with time to consider your decision. Ensure that you obtain written confirmation from staff who accept your offer to retain them within the restructured business.
- Once staff have been confirmed in their restructured positions it is important that your presented plan should no longer be open to negotiation. Be decisive. Indecision gives rise to confusion and internal division amongst staff in the hope of influencing or changing decisions.
Stage Three - Resolution
- Every effort should be made to address and resolve issues and problems that may exist with affected staff.
- Ensure that reconfirmed and re-assigned staff feel reassured and well-resourced to adequately undertake their new duties. It is important to instil a sense of new opportunity and renewal amongst restructured staff.
- Conduct a consultation session with each employee being made redundant to explain the terms of their employment agreement and what you are prepared to do for them. Ensure that each affected employee has the opportunity for a support person at this meeting should they desire this. Provide them with the opportunity to air their concerns and discuss what you can and cannot do to address these. Specifically record and document these sessions with an independent note-taker.
- Invite affected staff to converse with you further about any problems that they are experiencing. They should see you as a source of support.
- Try to make provision for the future job prospects of those employees in soon-to-be redundant positions. During their notice period consider granting them time off to attend job interviews. Make specific and clearly defined boundaries for these provisions.
- Where a staff member expresses a grievance with the process followed it is important to discuss this with them and attempt to satisfactorily resolve the issue between yourselves. Again, ensure that the employee has a support person present at such a meeting if required.
- In this meeting create an open, honest, respectful and supportive environment. Look for common ground and acceptable variations. Encourage collaboration towards a solution. Don't give advice, judge, discount, sympathise, invade or takeover the other person’s viewpoint. Be clear about what you can and cannot do and define and record any mutually agreed outcome.
- Should there still be no way to satisfactorily resolve a grievance then you and the employees can together or separately ask for free mediation to help settle the differences by phoning 0800 20 90 20.
Can you reduce the number of contracted hours the employee works?
You can propose a reduction in hours of work as an alternative to redundancy. You must follow a fair process and give the employee an opportunity to consider and respond to the proposed change. Any change in hours of work must be made by agreement between the employee and the employer.
If the employment agreement outlines what the hours of work are, you cannot change them without consulting with the employee first and getting their agreement.
Some employment agreements may contain a clause allowing the employer to change an employee's hours of work. However, you must still act fairly and reasonably by communicating as much as possible about how the changes will affect the employee. Allow the employee an opportunity to seek independent advice and respond to any issues raised by the employee.
The employee can negotiate with the employer to try and explore arrangements or alternatives that would be beneficial for both parties.
If the change to the hours of work disadvantages the employee, or the employee feels the procedure followed was unfair, you should try to resolve the issue with the employee in the first instance.
If you are not successful, you can together or separately ask for free mediation to help settle the differences by phoning 0800 20 90 20.
The Employment New Zealand website offers additional detailed advice on employment matters. Visit the website here.