Common HR Terminology

Affirmative action – Requirement that employers develop and implement programs to eliminate discrimination against women and members of minority groups, and promote equal opportunity in regard to recruitment, promotion and transfer, training and development and conditions of service.

Casual employee – Employed by the hour and only employed and paid for the hours worked.

Constructive dismissal – Employer has manipulated the employment situation so that the employee feels they have no option but to resign.

Employee – Employed under a contract of service. The employer usually has the right to direct the manner of work performance, and how the contract relates to the employee.

Equal opportunity – Requirement that workplaces be free from discrimination i.e. giving all individuals a fair chance to succeed regardless of characteristics that are unrelated to the job (e.g. age, sex).

Independent contractor – Hired under a contract for services. The independent contractor generally has freedom to manage the way the task is performed, and how the contract relates to the task to be performed.

Part-time employee – Employment on a regular basis for less than the usual hours per week worked in the relevant industry.

Performance appraisal – Part of the performance management cycle in which the employee’s performance is evaluated and recorded.

Performance management – Process designed to evaluate, manage and improve employee performance. The process of ‘performance managing’ an employee is where a warning for ineffective performance has been issued and the manager is closely monitoring corrective efforts.

Probation – Period at commencement of employment designed to ascertain skills and capabilities of employees, and for employees to determine whether workplace meets their needs.

Redundancy – Employer no longer wishes a particular job to be done. Position becomes redundant, not the employee, so redundancy may not always result in termination.

Resignation – Voluntary decision by employee to terminate employment with the organisation.

Retrenchment – Termination resulting from redundancy.

Sexual discrimination – Less favourable treatment on the grounds of a person’s sex or because of a characteristic relating to, or imputed to, a person’s sex.

Sexual harassment – Unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favours, or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

Summary dismissal – Termination is immediate and without notice as a result of misconduct, disobedience or incompetence.

Suspension – Employee is instructed to refrain from attending work for a period of time as a result of a disciplinary process.

Temporary employee – Can be employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis, but the expectation is that there will not be continuing employment. Work may be done on a regular or irregular basis.

Unfair dismissal – Termination is harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

Unfair selection – Selection for retrenchment made without procedural fairness. May give rise to a complaint of unfair dismissal.

Unlawful termination – Termination on one or more of the prohibited grounds.

Wrongful dismissal – Employee is dismissed in a way that breaches their employment contract.

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