CONTRACT FORMATION,CATEGORIES OF EMPLOYEES AND GLOBAL EMPLOYEE HAND BOOKS
Assume you are a relatively new staff employee working in the international headquarters of a multi-national enterprise. Specifically, you work in the IHRM Department, and your company has operations across 12 different countries in North America, Central America, South America, as well as several countries in Europe. The firm employs a significant workforce in each of the 12 countries. Your company has begun to employ a substantial and growing number of employees on FIXED TERM CONTRACTS. Up to now, your IHRM department has taken a general “hands-off” approach to fixed term employees. That is, your in-country HR staff in each of the 12 “single countries” has developed and applied its own policies toward, and managed its own experience with, fixed term employees. From the IHRM headquarters, you have promulgated no “multi-country” (let alone “all 12 country”) policy or practice approaches regarding fixed-term employees. Earlier today, you and your boss (a senior member of the HR Department) had lunch with a couple of senior lawyers from the company’s headquarters Legal Department. After a lengthy luncheon discussion, your boss has sent you the following e-mail: That was a good luncheon conversation. As you can tell, “Legal” is reviewing our operations’ policies and practices toward fixed term employees across our 12 countries. You know, that discussion has prompted me to think more about this. Of course, each country has its own legal rules about fixed-termers, and we’ve allowed our HR people in each country to manage their policies and practices toward fixed-termers on a country-specific (“single country”) basis. And they’re doing what they can and must! But, as we discussed at lunch, there’s a good deal of similarity to the laws of some of our 12 countries, and I’m wondering whether we in IHRM headquarters aren’t missing an opportunity here. Hey I know we’re HR and not the lawyers, but let’s take a stab at this.
In most of our 12 countries, the law allows us to classify employees as fixed-term only when the job is “inherently temporary.” And as you know, there can be nasty legal consequences if we get that wrong. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think IHRM’s current practices (or maybe I should say non-practices) might be unwise. I’m referring to the fact that — in each country with an “inherently temporary” requirement for fixed-termers — our HR staff never speaks with, consults, or compares experience with our in-country HR staff from any other of our countries, nor, for that matter, with us folks in IHRM headquarters who are, after all, at the hub of the spokes of the wheel. And this is true even though the applicable national law across countries often contains essentially the same words — the job has got to be “inherently temporary” to be fixed term (and not indefinite). In other words, our luncheon conversation has raised a bunch of questions for me that I hope might stimulate your thinking about all this. Is there an opportunity for us in the headquarters IHRM Department to promote some cross-border exchange and/or learning? Could we adopt multi-country policies, practices, or procedures for addressing whether we comply with “inherently temporary” requirements for fixed-termers? Is it possible that our local HR people in each country are spending time and money “inventing the wheel” on the inherently temporary requirement? Might some trans-national HR guidelines on “inherently temporary” help here? Help to save staff time and money? Perhaps even to help our local HR people achieve better compliance too? Or am I missing other considerations that counsel in favor of leaving well enough alone? After you think about these issues, might we begin to achieve some economies of scale here? And if we come up with some useful guidelines or goals, could we publish some policies, or advice, or guidelines as part of a multi-country approach? What form might that take? Do we put something out that employees read? Or keep our stuff “internally facing”? Please think about these and any other relevant question that occur to you. Could you let me know your views on what you think is important here? p.s. I hope this won’t discourage you from joining me at lunch! [End of memo from your boss] Drawing on our readings and your thinking about these issues, write an essay of no more than 500 words responding to your boss’s e-mail. Has your boss thrown out some good ideas here? Do the boss’s ideas have some “pros” but overriding “cons”? Is there some idea you have that your boss might not be aware of? Best answers will make effective use of our readings, show that you have thought about this cluster of problems and issues, and demonstrate some good “visualization” of the potential upsides and downsides