Disadvantages What an experience!
Due to the recent, slightly unexpected departure – of the replacement for the gentleman that you are going to read about below – this, slightly obscure, review sprung to mind. Re-reading it, the thought occurred to me that, in employment terms at least, 2005 in a sense was a different era.Due to considerable economic hardships in the manufacturing industry over the last decade, it has been a rare occurrence to be actually employing new staff, ‘natural wastage’ (retirees and resignees not being replaced) being the order of the day. However there are some essential posts, which, if left un-filled cause production to come to a shuddering halt, this being one such instance.
Many who read my reviews, even if on an irregular basis will be aware of my strong views on political correctness, I have something of a reputation in business for being ”open”, and find the stifling and petty rules and regulations ever more tiresome. Don’t get me wrong, we were equal opportunity employers many decades before the term had been invented, health and safety should be regarded as basic housekeeping in any business – not as a rule book by which to run it…………however, it is employment law that truly takes the biscuit. This is an opinion site and yes, many of you are not going to share mine, but I stand by my right to express them – to my knowledge I am still allowed to do that.
I would be surprised if this is a surprise to any of you who keep abreast of the news, but, conducting my first job interview in five years last week, I had to check the latest rules and regulations, just to make sure that I was not going to end up facing a tribunal for not employing a 25 year old, three legged, ginger tom who had hobbled into the factory by mistake. For the last fifteen years we have felt the need to retain a professional personnel advisor, who, was in the throes of preparing new documentation for us at the time of our key employees departure. When I opened his email attachment with the updated interview form, my heart hit the floor…..…..in 2011, almost all the questions that you NEED to ask a potential employee are out of bounds, even the very pleasant interviewee saw the joke when I quipped that I am no longer allowed to ask his age or date of birth ……
……it is also illegal to enquire as to the gender of your potential employee, or into any previous medical history which may, very sensibly, preclude you from offering them the job. Employment law gone mad v health and safety, not only of the employee, but in the case of this particular job, that of his 31 colleagues……sorry, did I say “his” – apologies for use of that gratuitously sexist word.
The story actually starts and finishes the very day that this was originally written, although there is a time span of two or three years, so please be patient, hopefully you will find it rewarded.To paint the scene for you I will explain that due to the sudden and unexpected resignation of a key staff member - onto bigger and better paid things, and the best of luck to him of course - I have to throw myself on the mercy of the local Job Centre.
The Job Centre brings about unexpected results, that we know well from previous experience, it's a bit of a lottery employment wise but if you have the time to spend days interviewing dozens of poor unfortunates, on most occasions you'll hit lucky with one of two likely candidates. Do not ask me why, but it happens every time. We either finish up employing the last person we interview or the first one, having interviewed 23 others. Puzzling but it is the rule!This particular vacancy was filled by the first applicant, but here it is the last one that we are actually interested in. This time around it was not difficult to make the decision, come in number one it's your lucky day. Very sorry number 23, but been there, done that and no thanks……
OK, let me enlighten you.
Short, simple and to the point, yes? Well maybe not!
"Hello, mate, about that job you're advertising, I'm in the Job Centre and….."
Me (hackles rising, I am not keen on being called “mate” by someone that I do not know): "I'm terribly sorry, please can I stop you there; the position is now closed."
"Oh yes mate, I've done the job, I'm very experienced and could start tomorrow!"
"Really, where did you get this experience?"
"Yes that's right I worked for you before, I'm fully experienced!"
"I'm sorry SIR, that wasn't the question; I did ask you what your name is."
"Well I left in rather unusual circumstances"
"Oh, yes, and what might they have been?"
At this point, I am feeling an emotion fairly close to hysteria.
You see, Mr O'Flaherty had proven to be somewhat less than the ideal employee. Indeed I once heard the Deputy Works Manager describe him as being "A sandwich short of a picnic".
"Sorry RICHADA, I'm too busy for guessing games today"
"Well, if I mention the words 'testicular' and 'cancer', who comes to mind?"
"No, actually, I told him to start on Wednesday".
"What happened then Frank?"
"I don't really remember RICHADA, I think it was around 6 weeks that we actually employed him" He also refused to use a piece of test equipment on his work because he said that it had not been mentioned at the interview.
"When he told me on the phone about 'some misunderstanding' over a nasty infection 'down below' I then realised exactly who I was talking to. I seem to remember that he had convinced himself that he had testicular cancer. He told the whole workshop about it the week he started.”
At this stage, I thought it appropriate to consult the personnel files in order to discover the actual facts. He had been in our employ for a period of 6 weeks, a couple of years ago. During those 6 weeks, he had actually turned up on the premises for 12 days. Naturally on his interview questionnaire he had declared that he was 100% fit to work. In the interests column there was not one word about tropical fish keeping either!My letter terminating his trial period was also, of course, there. The main crux of the letter had been that whilst having every sympathy with his condition, real or imaginary, unfortunately, we did require an employee who could turn up for work on a regular basis. We also require a doctor's certificate covering prolonged absences on ill health grounds.
Upon receiving this letter, naturally enough, Mr O'Flaherty had been most put out.
He called me on the phone to say that he would be taking the company to an Industrial Tribunal for unfair dismissal. The problem was that, even at this stage, his doctor had point blank refused to give him any form of medical certificate stating that he had any condition whatsoever.
"Here, right here, he's done the job before!"
This time I only got as far as saying: 'If I say the words…' before breaking down in uncontrollable laughter. Frank filled in the next bit with 'Exploding fish tank'!
On second thoughts I guess that actually filling in all those “necessary” interview questions regarding age, gender and health, were genuinely a complete waste of time anyway, as irrefutably proved by the above experience.The 25 year old three legged ginger tom (sorry, sexist again – cat) starts on Monday. So far he has not been able to offer us proof of identity or previous earnings, but hey, what the hell, he’s too short to reach the switch marked “DO NOT SWITCH OFF” anyway – as the Health & Safety Officer I can only take comfort in that.
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