HR professional Thai-Anh Cooper explains where some employers are going wrong.
What does your business do?
In2HR began almost two years ago and we're a HR consultancy that helps small to medium businesses and franchises implement best employment practices into their business. We help educate owners on their employment obligations and rights so they can become great employers, and stay on the right side of the law.
We do everything from drafting employment agreements, recruitment and finding talent, running workshops, through to being an outsource partner.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I used to own cafes myself and I realised owning a cafe was quite difficult. Being an employer, and a small business, you are expected to know everything from marketing through to HR, and what I saw was a lot of business owners making really small mistakes such as how they spoke to people or not having the right employment agreements, and these things have big consequences for business.
I have a HR background and have worked in franchising and corporate so being around small business owners I saw there was a real need, especially with the increase in labour inspectors out there, for guidance.
We get personal grievances on our desks all the time and it hurts when I get these as if only the business owner or franchisee could of done this a little bit differently it wouldn't be paying out.
How big is your team?
Two years ago when I left corporate I thought this would just be a freelancing gig for me. I started in2HR in my spare bedroom and grew from there. Now, there are three of us - two consultants and myself. We are based in an office in Sylvia Park.
There's been a big influx in employment relations authority cases in the past year or so - what do you put that down to?
Employers are getting employment law wrong but in fairness to business owners, New Zealand law is complex. One of the most common issues we see is; employee steals money from the cafe or a liquor shop, franchisee or business owner has a conversation with the employee, employee admits to stealing money and says 'I guess I don't have a job now', owner says 'yes, that's right I have to let you go', they part ways very amicably and the following week they receive a personal grievance because they haven't followed the right dismissal process.
It's quite logical when you think about it but unfortunately in employment law there is a proper process that people need to go through before you can dismiss someone. We probably get two personal grievance cases per week. Poor record keeping, exploiting migrant workers are other cases I come across, also.
Why do employers exploit workers?
There's different types of employers. There are ones that are taking advantage of the law and taking advantage of the situation but there's also a lot of employers that we come across that just don't realise what the obligations are and what they have to do. We are trying to educate business owners so that they are proactive and don't end up as one of these cases that end up on our desks everyday.
A classic example I get often: business owners calling me from the toilet, saying 'the labour inspector is right on my front counter - what do I need to do?', by then it's too late.
What sectors are the worst culprits for employment breaches?
Large corporates have the luxury of funding and sometimes backed by an Australian or international arm so most will have a HR department that can assist and be on top of these things day in and day out. In a small business, you don't have that luxury and those resources or the funding to have a HR person to do it.
What challenges have you had to overcome to run in2HR?
The biggest challenges is probably overcoming the New Zealand mentality. As New Zealanders we always think 'She'll be alright, it'll be fine, I'm not going to be one of those businesses'. The Labour Inspectorates is doubling the number of inspectors, that means there's a lot more enforcement, they're going to be looking at all types of small businesses. A classic example I get often: business owners calling me from the toilet, saying 'the labour inspector is right on my front counter - what do I need to do?', by then it's too late.
What are your long term plans?
To help employers and franchises be proactive and ahead of legislation. We work a lot in the franchise sector and my goal for that is that every new franchisee that comes in and opens these stores is educated on what their obligations are. For me, I love seeing that light bulb go off when we speak to a business owner.
What advice do you give to those thining about starting their own business?
Be prepared to work hard but also learn - there's many learning opportunities.