Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

Sacked! an Investigation of Young Workers' Dismissal

Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

Sacked! an Investigation of Young Workers' Dismissal

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Limited academic attention has been afforded to young workers relative to their adult counterparts. This study addresses a phase of the employment relationship for young people that is very infrequently examined - during or around the time when the relationship ends. It examines the relative frequency of different forms of dismissal and the circumstances preceding the dismissals via a content analysis of 1259 cases of employee enquiries to a community advocacy organisation in Australia. Results indicate that dismissal was most commonly associated with bullying, harassment, and taking personal leave. Young men, compared to young women, were disproportionately likely to report allegations of misconduct as preceding dismissal, while females experienced higher rates of sexual harassment and discrimination. The research highlights the types and circumstances of dismissal across a range of employment contexts and reveals the complexities of youth employment relationships which may differ from those of the general workforce.

Keywords: young workers, dismissal, labour market, gender, discrimination, harassment

Australia is experiencing a prolonged period of labour market reform, which has seen significant changes to employment conditions over recent years. Workers aged 15-24 may be especially vulnerable in this context which is characterised by significantly altered employment relationships and complicated expectations (Coyle-Shapiro & Kessler, 2000; Elton, 2008). Research suggests that by virtue of their age, limited experience in the workforce and concentration in tenuous industries such as retail and hospitality, young people are especially susceptible to workplace exploitation (ACTU, 2003a; Watson, 2005; Mourell & Allan, 2005; Young Workers Advisory Service, 2005a). Studies also report that young people are facing declining pay and working conditions, greater precariousness of employment and inadequate health and safety protection (ACTU, 2003b; McDonald, & Dear, 2005, Commission for Children and Young People, 2008; Fair Employment Advocate, 2008; Office of Industrial Relations, 2005a). Overall however, limited academic attention has been afforded to young workers, relative to their adult counterparts, much less the nature of employment relationships between young people and their employers.

This study addresses a phase of the employment relationship that is very infrequently examined - during or around the time when the employment relationship ends. The main aims of the study are to determine the types of dismissals experienced by young people and the patterns of circumstances leading to these dismissals. To respond to these aims the study examines the details of 1259 cases involving young workers who reported concerns about the termination of their employment to a community advocacy organisation. The article firstly provides a brief overview of the Australian youth labour market and a summary of the limited literature available which addresses dismissal in employment. The empirical section of the paper, utilising content analysis of short textual accounts related to each case and subsequent cross-tabs analyses, reports the relative frequencies of different types of dismissal; the patterns of employment circumstances which preceded the dismissals, including gender differences; and the relationships between dismissal categories and circumstances. The findings of the study provide insights into the dismissal experiences of young workers and have important implications for labour market policy and legislation, particularly as they affect young people.

THE AUSTRALIAN YOUTH LABOUR MARKET

Historically, Australia relied on a system of industry awards to regulate terms and conditions of employment, although this practice was thought to inhibit business competitiveness and an increasingly decentralised system of industrial relations has subsequently been implemented (Bacon & Storey, 1993). …

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