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Addressing the July meeting and seminar of the Bahamas Human Resources Development Association (BHRDA) under the theme 'Essential tools for an HR professional working in The Bahamas', Justice Keith Thompson, vice president of the Industrial Tribunal, advised that humane treatment of staff should be one of the principal instruments of human resources professionals.
To acquire this essential tool, Justice Thompson noted that the human resources (HR) professional must have certain "inherent qualities".
Reminding his audience of the golden rule "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" Thompson said, "You must be concerned about the wellbeing of employees. The starting point for all HR professionals is to treat people like people. Remember, it is what you have inside of you that determines how you make decisions."
Drawing on his experience with the Industrial Tribunal, Justice Thompson told BHRDA members that success in industrial relations depends on using such tools as the Employment Act, the Industrial Relations Act, the Health and Safety Act, the Industrial Tribunal Procedures and Rules and their employee handbooks.
"As the person responsible for HR, if you are in a union environment, you should be familiar with every single word in the industrial agreement. If you are in a non-union environment, you must be aware of every clause in the employment contract," Justice Thompson counseled.
Ultimately, he said, every work environment should have a handbook that speaks to the rules and procedures governing the employee. An attorney by profession, Thompson added that every employee should receive a copy of the handbook and sign to indicate receipt of the publication. The signed counter-foil should then become a part of the employee's file.
Justice Thompson noted that, based on his experience, 90 percent of industrial cases could be avoided if HR personnel followed the guidelines that are set out in the documents he identified. "Trade disputes arise out of a lack of knowledge as it relates to the rules and regulations in the employee handbook," he said.
In writing employee handbooks, he cautioned his audience that mastery of the English language is essential to achieve clarity, as is fair application of an organization's policies. "You should ensure that the interpretation is clear and that the policies are applied fairly across the board. Everything that you do should follow those procedures and everything should be in writing to avoid confusion," Thompson said.
He advised particular caution in dismissing employees. "When there is a need for the termination of employment, remember that the dismissal must be based on what is reasonable and you must have the documentation to support your action. Employees must be sure that they also have documentation to support their case," he said.
Justice Thompson was also careful to point out the proper sequence of actions to be taken in cases of labor disputes.
"If you have a case before the Industrial Tribunal and you have a written contract, the contract will form the basis on which you are appearing. Prior to bringing a case to the tribunal, you must have the matter conciliated at the Labour Board. All matters must be brought to the Labour Board (within) 12 months following the dispute. There must be at least two conciliation meetings before advancing to the tribunal. There are penalties for failure to appear at the tribunal. Failure to follow the procedures of the tribunal could result in your matter being laid aside."
Additionally, Thompson told the HR professionals that they should always approach conciliation in good faith at the Labour Board, advising, "You should go with the intention to honestly resolve the situation." He encouraged ethical behavior among all professionals including employers, the Labour Board, the legal system and the judiciary. He also pointed out that any agreement concluded during conciliation was binding on all parties involved.
Thompson also emphasized, "The tribunal can make awards based on the evidence of the case before it. However, it does not award cost. The tribunal awards are enforceable by the Supreme Court and costs may be awarded for these proceedings."
President of BHRDA Richenda King said that she and her executive team are constantly looking at ways to develop knowledge and skill sets in their profession. She informed that a team of over 40 Bahamians had recently returned from the annual SHRM Conference and Exhibition, the world's largest human resource conference, which drew over 14,000 participants. King spoke of the many "riveting presentations" they heard, especially that of Tom Friedman who said that "average is officially over".
"I truly believe this," King said. "That is why we are committed to the global certification program which we introduced to the association this year. We have almost 30 HR professionals preparing for certifications in September."
This year marks the 25th anniversary of BHRDA, which the organization plans to commemorate in October with a special conference and exhibition on October 23-24, under the theme 'Transformation: A prism of possibilities'. The program is expected to draw HR professionals from all over The Bahamas.
Bahamas - Minister of Health Dr the Hon Hubert A Minnis addresses
personnel from the of the Ministry of Health and the Department of
Public Health Human Resources Departments during a seminar, Thursday,
September 9. The seminar was held under the theme of "Toolkit
for Successful Management of Human Resources and Services in the
Public Healthcare System. Over 100 persons gathered at the Workers
House Complex to participate in the one-day seminar.
Participants from the
Ministry of Health and the Department of Public Health Human
Resources Departments listen as a speaker made a presentation at the
Human Resources seminar held at Workers House, Thursday, September 9,
Saturday 23rd July 2011 9:00 PM
Saturday, July 23 at 9:00am Location: Bahamas Chamber of Commerce & Employers Confederation Boardroom
Mr. President, first of all, on behalf of my delegation, I congratulate you on your election as President of the Human Rights Council for this 7th cycle, and also to the members of the Bureau. Let me also extend sincere thanks and appreciation to Her Excellency Laura Dupuy Lasserre, former President, for her able leadership of the Council during the previous cycle.
The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce & Employers Confederation (BCCEC) announced the introduction of a new service for members and small, medium and large businesses in Corporate Bahamas: The BCCEC Human Resource & Labour Help Desk, on September 21, 2011.
Minister of Health Dr the Hon Hubert A Minnis addresses personnel from the of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Public Health Human Resources Departments during a seminar, Thursday, September 9.
Nassau, Bahamas - Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes welcomes members of the Human Resources Development Association during a Courtesy Call at Government House, October 24.