Employee gripes keep bosses edgy

Hiring and firing, work readiness and immigration top the list of business concerns, according to an Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) survey of its members.

The EMA end-of-year employment round-up survey for 2013 found the top concern for the 518 respondents was to find some way around legal wrangles in dealing with a difficult employee.

EMA employment services manager David Lowe said the current environment made that difficult to do.

"[Employers want] to be able to have an honest conversation with an employee about a workplace problem without the threat of a personal grievance and a drawn-out and convoluted process hanging over them," he said.

The survey found that the 90-day trial period remained popular with employers, with 69 per cent saying they had used it.

However, only 8 per cent said they had actually created a job because of the availability of the trial period.

Similarly, only 7 per cent had used the Starting Out Wage, with employers signalling that youth and inexperience are not yet something they are willing to take a punt on.

Just over half of the employers surveyed believe there is or will soon be a skills shortage, with young people leaving schools unprepared for work, and immigration policy making it difficult to fill gaps.

Lowe said there was a general feeling that the education system was not matching skills with available jobs.

"Young people coming out of school are lacking basic work-ready skills, and there also seems to be a sense that some of the training they are doing isn't the right sort of training for the jobs that are available."

Immigration was also an issue.

"Business are concerned that once they have identified and recruited new skilled migrants they can find their new staff have their visa renewals declined after only a short time in the workplace."

The survey also found high support for changes to health and safety laws, at 80 per cent. Lowe said that reflected the need for the 20-year-old laws to change.

"In the last couple of years, probably since Pike River [mine disaster], a lot of people have been saying look we're doing as much as we can.

"But after the royal commission report and a number of other reports there's been information that's out there saying there's more you can do. People think well actually, we can do that, let's make an effort."

However, employers wanted more responsibility to fall to the employee.

"There is a feeling out there that the employers, the business and the systems are always blamed and unfortunately there are people who work for us who do really stupid things and they don't seem to get any consequences for that."

The survey indicated business confidence was continuing to grow, with 60 per cent of employers having hired new staff last year, and 66 per cent expecting to expand this year. However, Lowe said the confidence wouldn't reflect what some were going through.

"If you happen to have a fantastic contract with China, and you're the lucky business that got that, you'll be going gangbusters. But the same business down the road that didn't get the contract, you'll be saying it's still tough."

Waikato Times