Reinstatement in Industry
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This Concluding Article on a Subject of Vital Interest to Employers and Workers Has Been Delayed Owing to the Illness of the Writer
By " Tantalus "
IT will be recalled that in the first article, explaining the " Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act, 1944," which was published in the issue of this journal dated May 4, the importance of . the seniority rule was emphasized and examples given of certain types of case. There remain still other questions which arise from this rule. For example, B is discharged from . the Forces before A and C and is reinstated by his former employer. What is the position of A when he is demobilized and applies for reinstatement? The answer is that if the employer cannot reinstate A in his old occupation— not necessarily in his old job—without discharging B, then he must' discharge B. The employer, however, remains under an obligation to B to reinstate him in the most favourable alternative occupation.
There is also the type of case in' which the employer had a number of workers who joined the Forces at different times and who were engaged on different jobs, but in the sameoccupation. They may have been employed as, say, motor mechanics. A is called up in January, B in June and C in December, 1941. What is the solution in this type of case? The answer is contained in a definite formula as follows: Take the date upon which the first of the employees was called up. A, as previously stated, was called up in January, 1941. The next step is to ascertain the length of time that A, B and C were employed by the employer before January, 1941. If, for example. C had been em.ployed for two . years before that date, B had been employed for 18 months, and A for one year, it follows, then, that C would be the senior and A the junior. Accordingly, although A was the first to join the Forces and C the last, C, nevertheless, would have the prior claim to
reinstatement. When the employer had fulfilled his obligation to C by reinstating him, he would still remain under an obligation to reinstate A and B, each in his old occupation or in the most favourable alternative occupation if it were reasonable and practicable so to do.
The foregoing will serve to indicate how important a factor is the seniority rule.
Most Difficult Reinstatement Problem
Without question, the most difficult of all reinstatement problems is that relating to the employer's obligation to reinstate a former employee in his old occupation 'on terms and conditions not less favourable to him than those which would have been applicable had he not joined the Forces. How, then, can the terms and conditions be determined under which an employee would have been employed had he remained with his employer and not been called up?
Take, as an example, the case of a youth of 18 years who joined up at the outbreak of war and will be 24 or 25 when he returns to civil life. He may have entered the Forces straight from school, or he may have had one year or so in a trade or profession. In the latter event, is he to return to the same job in which he was employed at 18 and at the same wages? It may be that during the war years he was engaged as a fighter pilot, leader of an armoured-ca,r section, or in command of a
• M.T.B. or corvette, all of which demand initiative, cool judgment, the making of quick decisions and personality. At 24 or 25 he is a youtli.no longer; he will return to civil life a man matured and with a full experience of
life and death. No longer, can he be treated as a youth. What is the employer to do and what is his legal obligation in such cases?
The position is that the employer must consider as to what terms and conditions the individual in question would now be enjoying had he remained in his old occupation and not joined the Forces. Obviously, this is no easy matter to decide; indeed, in many cases, it may not be possible to determine the point with any degree of-certainty. Where there is a system of promotion or scales of periodic salary increases it is less
difficult to arrive at an equitable solution. In many cases it can be merely a matter of opinion, and it may be that the employer will have to form the best judgment he can, according to his knowledge, of the terms and conditions which the enaployee would now be enjoying had he not joined the Forces. Then, if it be reasonable and practicable to do so, the employer should reinstate the employee on such terms and conditions. Should.this not be possible, then the employer must dive the best alternative that is reasonable and practicable.
Good Schemes Now Formulated Notwithstanding the very real perplexities of this huinan rehabilitation problem, some concerns have— with courage and a full appreciation of the difficulties involved—formulated their own schemes, quite apart from the provisions of the Act. Amongst those examined it is evident that some are permeated with the desire to achieve everything possible in• the matter of reinstatement. The intention is not merely to find the former employee a job—that in itself is not considered enough. It must be the right kind of job in the right setting.
With this commendable aim in view each of the schemes referred to pays special attention to the needs of the youth whose career was interrupted in the early stages. In this connection one company in particular -has gone to great lengths to ensure success. To this end each employee serving with the Forces has been invited. to state whether he wishes to re-enter the firm's employ on demobilization. If he replies in the affirmative, he is then asked whether he has preference for any par
ticular type of work. In all such cases the former employee—while being specially trained for a period of six months if necessary—will receive a rate of pay which will ensure a reasonable standard of living. The rate.. will be determined by the man's responsibilities.
For instance, an employee who joined up as a youth of 18 in 1939 has, during his service, attained the rank of major. During this period he has married and become the father of two children. Obviously, his obligations are greater than those of the single man who has to fend only for himself. In the scheme full recognition is accorded to this economic factor and the rate of pay will be assessed appropriately.' All these particular schemes accept, in full measure, the moral obligation and human understanding. ,
It should be emphasized that the Act deals only with the legal rights of ex-Service men and ex-Service women and the legal obligations of employers. The Ministry of Labour wad National Service, the duty of which it is to administer -the Act, is -relying on a spirit of goodwill toprovide agreement's -Which are fair and equitable.