Apologizing in any situation can be awkward but it may feel even more awkward in an employment setting. Employees often feel obliged to apologize to their employers if they have done the wrong thing but should employers be held to this same standard? Should employers apologize to their employees for their own wrongdoings?
Sorry, sorry, sorry, when should we say it?
If you make a mistake in a civilised society, it is expected that you will apologise (sorry) to the wronged person. Everyone makes mistakes – even your employer or your boss. However, many employers steer clear of apologise and refuse to apologise in any context as it implies fault and may expose them to some form of liability. However, this issue has been combated in many legal setting and enables employers to apologise to their employees without fear.
Apologies and Admission of Liability
For instance, full apologies (including admissions of liability) given in relation to civil liability of any kind are protected from use in court in NSW, Queensland and ACT. Apologies in any civil proceedings are protected in South Australia. In Victoria, only partial apologies in proceedings involving death or injury of a person are protected (s14J Wrongs Act 1958).
These legislative schemes operate to allow employers to apologize or express their regret following an employee suffering a workplace injury, but these statements are inadmissible as evidence in proceedings and they are excluded from being considered in determining an employers’ liability for common law damages.
These legislative amendments serve as encouragement for employers to maintain their ongoing relationship with their employees. An employer can reach out to an employee and apologise for what they have suffered in an attempt to provide support and show compassion, without fear that they are compromising their position in relation to their liability for any potential claims.
Apologizing in Employment Law Settlements
In many employment cases, an apology (sorry) can play a major part in the settlement of a case. Almost invariably in such cases, the applicant or complainant believe that s/he is entitled to an apology because of misconduct of some kind by the employer. Termination of employment is a stressful event, even when it is anticipated and/or warranted.
Whether you deem your dismissal unfair, possibly discriminatory or otherwise unlawful, the disruption, embarrassment, and injured self-esteem that result from employment dismissal, produce anger that may stand in the way of settlement. An applicant or complainant may believe that no amount of money would suffice to undo the damage to their self-esteem, or that a settlement must be commercial large enough to punish the employer. On the other hand, an employer made often feel defensive and angry about the allegations of discrimination, unlawful or unfair treatment. Employers are often of the belief that an employee’s termination is justified and the idea of an apology may be repugnant.
In either case, it is difficult to overcome these emotional aspects of employment disputes. Thus, if a dispute is to successfully resolve in the interests of both parties, we must consider ways of overcoming these emotional barriers. This could be through an apology.
Benefits of an Apology
Apologies don’t work in every case, and in some cases, they may be necessary but not sufficient to resolve the case. In some cases, an apology may not be appropriate at all. However, for the many cases in which an apology might be useful, it is worth considering how an apology can help the parties overcome the emotional barriers to settlement.
Aforementioned, employers should not fear that apologizing to their employees admits any sort of fault or liability in lieu of any claim they may initiate. Nevertheless, it is important that employers and employees understand what an apology is and how it may benefit an employment relationship or even dispute.
The main benefit of an apology is that it encourages some moral introspection on the part of the person giving it and requires them to look at their behaviour and how they have treated the other person. Even if they do not admit fault, the very acknowledgement of the other person’s hurt or injury and showing regret that they feel that way, is valuable.
This shared acknowledgment can help heal the relationship and create a more positive dynamic. In addition, if the parties involved are going to continue working together, it can set the tone for their relationship in the future. Even if an apology is not the sole resolution on the table, it can ease the path to settlement of the dispute. There can also be a financial benefit as an apology can reduce ongoing animosity which in turn may lessen the time taken to resolve the issue.
Talk to us, at A Whole New Approach P/L if we can assist, if your facing dismissal because your won’t apologize when its not your fault, or you have to apologize is completely over the top, a form of humiliation or your deserve an apology, give us a call, explore your options, it cost nothing to make the call. 1800 333 666
We are not lawyers, but leading workplace advisors, give us a call, we keep it real, confidential, honest, prompt.