Shortlist's most-read stories, in brief

The most-read stories on Shortlist recently have covered: recruitment leaders' very different approaches to remote work; a withdrawn job offer that was 'extraordinary timing' but not discrimination; two more contractor/casual/employee disputes heading to the High Court; and more.

The full articles summarised below are accessible with a subscription or free trial of Shortlist.

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Chandler Macleod doubles down on remote work gains

Chandler Macleod Group is allowing its employees to choose where they work for the foreseeable future, with engagement and productivity data highlighting the success of its remote practices, CEO Peter Acheson says.

Under its hybrid work policy launched late last year, the company is "letting our people decide whether they come to the office or work from home", he says.

The company measured "strong productivity gains" during remote work last year, but more importantly, Acheson says employees were able to manage their work-life balance more easily and so "were more engaged and more passionate about what they were doing".

An engagement survey in October revealed "some good, positive feedback" about how the organisation was managing remote work, along with "a desire to keep doing it", he says.

"There's still some room for improvement, but overall the results were very good, and we'll do another full engagement survey [around] April this year."

Read the full story: Chandler Macleod doubles down on remote work gains

Meanwhile, U&U managing director Craig Sneesby says reducing face-time and office-based work will come back to bite recruitment agencies' culture and productivity, and he is bucking the trend by investing in more physical workspace this year.

Against a backdrop of companies giving up their leases or cutting back their physical footprint to reduce costs, Sneesby is also noticing a trend over the past six months of recruiters he interviews wanting to work in offices for no more than two days a week, he tells Shortlist.

But he says the "mixed bag" of practices recruiters have built in response to COVID aren't all sustainable in the long term.

It's important to offer flexibility, but "culture is the heartbeat of any agency, and the heart beats best when the team are all together, collaborating", he says.

"Call me old school, but you cannot grow your culture from your loungeroom at home."

Sneesby also notes that face-to-face recruitment has now become a market differentiator.

"If you told me 21 years ago... if you just meet your candidates face-to-face, you'll stand out in a crowded marketplace, that would seem absurd."

He "highly" encourages all U&U recruiters to meet clients and candidates in person, provided it is safe to do so, noting, "you'll never be able to judge a candidate as well online as you can face-to-face"...

Read the full story: Remote work unsustainable; agencies losing "heartbeat"

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Job offer withdrawal was 'extraordinary timing' but not discrimination

In a "finely balanced" case, an employer has defended a claim that it discriminated against a candidate by withdrawing his job offer shortly after learning his age.

The 71-year-old candidate applied for a business development manager (BDM) position with Hikvision Australia and after interviews with an external recruiter from Bayside Group, along with Hikvision's HR manager and CEO, he was officially offered the role in July 2019. He accepted the offer and sent through his passport and employee information form to the HR manager.

A couple of days later, Bayside informed him the employer had withdrawn the job offer.

In the Federal Circuit Court, the candidate claimed his age was the only explanation for the employer's sudden refusal to employ him after its lengthy recruitment process, and that its action constituted unlawful discrimination in breach of the Fair Work Act's adverse action provisions.

But the employer denied this. It told the Court that initially it wanted to recruit a BDM who had experience working with larger clients, as its business strategy at the time was to enter the high-end market. During the recruitment process, however, it changed its strategy based on sales data and external market factors.

The employer said the day after it offered the BDM role to the candidate, it decided the BDM in Melbourne should be someone who had knowledge and experience with its existing clients and products, and so hired an internal candidate. It eventually hired another two BDMs for the same office – one was a former employee and the other had worked at a distributor for one of its main competitors.

The candidate disputed this defence, arguing the claims weren't substantiated by any contemporaneous documents, and it was "implausible" the employer would walk away from a recruitment process that had taken a lot of time and money...

Read the full story: Job offer withdrawal was 'extraordinary timing' but not discrimination

In other employment law news, more disputes over workers' employment status and entitlements are now headed to the High Court, after it granted an employer and a union special leave to appeal on Friday.

In the first case, the High Court granted the CFMMEU special leave to appeal the Full Federal Court's finding that an on-hire worker engaged by Personnel Contracting Services Pty Ltd (trading as Construct) was an independent contractor, not an employee.

The Full Federal Court noted at the time that were it not for the relevant authorities, it would have considered the worker to be a casual employee of Construct, and that the case raised important questions about tripartite labour hire arrangements. Nonetheless, it found the primary judge's findings weren't wrong; Construct hadn't breached the Fair Work Act and award by misclassifying the worker.

In the second case, ZG Operations was granted leave on a limited basis, after seeking to overturn a July ruling by the full Federal Court that found two truck drivers were entitled to long-service leave and superannuation entitlements because they had been employees of the company for nearly 40 years, and were not contractors as it claimed.

The Court found that despite the drivers signing contracts in 1986 that described them as contractors, they "certainly had no real independence"; they had some flexibility in the way they performed work, but "they had no real or effective control in respect of the key aspects of the work relationship".

"The business effectively continued to dictate the hours during which the men were to be available for work, what they were to do, the remuneration that they were to receive, the annual leave that they could take, the paperwork they had to complete and other key rights and obligations."

Shortlist understands the two cases will be heard together.

More IR, recruitment and labour hire legal news includes...

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