Question :
I have an employee that has informed me they can not work rostered shifts offered now we can reopen due to University course requirements. They are contracted to do a minimum of 10 hours per week. With a four week notice period.Have received the wage subsidy while we have been unable to trade the subsidy.Their education is their priority and mine is my business and its staff. I can not hold a position open for someone that can not work for me. How can I approach this? 

Question submitted 15/05/20 @ 04:01pm
Industry: HR & Talent
  • Up

    Open, respectful and transparent communication is key through this time. I would recommend a meeting with this employee, reflect on the unique times and say that it has been challenging for the business. You are there for your staff and would hope that they are there for the business.

    I would use the phrase of we are all in this together and say you are committed to them. Acknowledge that its hard times for everyone . Treat this as a warmer… we need to use heart during this time and be human.

    You could say to this employee that you want to get on their page. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions..then, ask the employee to explain what they understand about their employment contract and its terms. Wait for the answer. You can then pulse check where their head is at and understand if there is an obvious misunderstanding about the commitment that they have. This would be a starting point. Be calm and relaxed. Don’t look to solve it all there if it’s not the right time. You could leave them with the thought of what you need in your business during this time and ask them to reflect on this.

    I hope that this helps you.


    Hi there,

    I’m unsure of your industry but as Anna said having a heart led conversation about what they really mean is crucial.

    For example, are they saying that they can’t work their rostered shifts but could do the hours at other times? If so then it would be about seeing whether they are able to swap shifts.

    If they are actually unable to work the contracted 10 hours at all then you would then need to understand whether they are resigning from their position (in which case the 4 weeks notice applies, but this is something you could negotiate between eachother).

    If the employee would like to vary their terms of employment with you (for example they say I can’t do 10 but I could do 5) then that is for you to consider whether you accept (and vary their contract), or not. If you accept the variation then a variation of terms of employment short letter should suffice, keeping all other terms the same other than their hours.

    It is important that you ASK the employee what their intention is, rather than TELL them what they are doing.

    I’m unsure what that would mean for the wage subsidy that you have received for the employee in terms of what you do with that if they cease their employment with you but this is also something to look in to.

    Good luck!



    Hi Anna. Simply, your employee has an employment agreement with you that you have both signed to outline mutual expectations. They work as agreed and you provide a safe environment and salary or wages in return. If your employee is unable to meet their side of the agreement, then they will have to resign, also in line with their contacted notice period. Losing a good employee has a range of hidden costs to your business though, so consider carefully if there’s any compromise you’re willing to consider. For example, could they take annual leave or leave without pay to attend their class? If they don’t show up to work without leave being agreed, then you will have grounds to take disciplinary action that could result in their dismissal. Hopefully it won’t get to that. All the best. Fiona

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