4 Common HR Myths Debunked

Written by Deanna Hunter

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THERE ARE HR MYTHS – misunderstandings, inaccuracies, whatever you want to call them – that exist in the business world.  Myths that wreak havoc and fear in the hearts of small business owners.  I’m going to attempt to address just a few of them here to provide clarity, insight and hopefully ease some of the stress!

HR Myth 1: I should not contact an employee when they are on sick leave

It is common for managers to approve a sick leave and then not speak to the employee until their return.  This is not always because they don’t care about the employee.  Rather, it’s often because they do care and don’t want to contribute to the employee’s illness in any way.  Or they don’t want to be seen as pestering.  An employer has every right to connect with the employee while they are away, and should!

Best bet is to include contact as a condition of the leave approval.  Two things to keep in mind.  First, be sure that your sick leave policy outlines contact as an expectation of an approved sick leave.  Second, be aware that what matters most is the approach of the contact.  As long as its done with consideration and shows caring, contact is acceptable.  I would recommend asking the employee how and when the best time for contact is.

HR Myth 2:  I can’t let go an employee who is on maternity leave

Many employers believe that once a woman is on maternity leave they are unable to eliminate the role that she held.  This is not the case as long as they can show the role is being eliminated due to real business reasons and is absolutely necessary.  It must not be caused by the performance of the employee or have anything to do with the pregnancy or maternity leave itself.  And the lay off would only take effect at the end of the leave period.

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HR Myth 3: If I let an employee go, all I need to pay them is the termination amount required by employment standards legislation.

If you have a ‘without cause’ termination clause in your employment agreement that identifies the employment standards as the rule, then that is appropriate.   If you don’t, then an employee could make a claim for more notice or severance.  In most cases these “common law” settlements are quite a bit more than what is required by the Act.  I always recommend that all employees sign an employment agreement.  A termination clause should be included in the agreement to outline how much notice they will be entitled to.  Obviously this will need to meet the legislative requirement which, by the way, are minimums and NOT maximums.  Heads up –  you may need to exceed that amount in certain circumstances. For example if the worker is older and nearing retirement, or if they were in a managerial role.   I recommend getting some HR and/or legal advice.

HR Myth 4:  I must provide paid sick time to my employees.

Alberta, and most other Provinces, do not require employers to provide paid sick leave. Most employers provide it as a benefit since being sick once in a while is reality for everyone.  The number of days provided is up to each employer.  The amount of sick time available can be handled on a case by case basis if there is a culture of trust and its managed effectively.  It may not need to be written into a policy.  However, a maximum number of consecutive days paid can be identified so employees don’t expect that a long-term illness will be covered.

Managing employees and all of the circumstances and laws that come with it is very rarely black and white.  Understanding the employment standards in your province is a great start to making the right decisions for your employees and your business.

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