Litigation frenzy

first_imgIgnoringthe local employment culture can be costly in Latin America. In a region whereup to one in five can be suing their employer, firms must tread carefully,warns Liz Hall InLatin America, you can ask an interviewee pretty much anything and the law doesnot bat an eyelid. But woe betide any employer who dismisses an employeewithout cause – the law will come crashing down like the proverbial ton ofbricks. Successfulrecruitment means getting to grips with the countries’ legal and culturalsimilarities and differences. Miami-based Dan Ehle, American Express’ vicepresident for HR in Latin America and the Caribbean, says, “I wouldcaution employers to invest heavily in understanding the uniqueness of LatinAmerican culture, both the obvious and subtle differences. Yet Westerncompanies often don’t pay enough attention to this, particularly from acompliance perspective.” Threeyears ago an American Express study on employee litigation in Brazil, foundthat out of 65 million workers, 13 million were suing their employer or formeremployer. “It is normal for employees in Brazil to sue their organisationsas there is no social service infrastructure. If their contract has recentlybeen terminated or they are unhappy with existing practices, they sue,”says Ehle.Companiesattempting to circumvent the law in Latin America can easily become unstuck.S‹o Paolo-based Robert Wong, president for the South American division ofsearch firm Korn/Ferry International, advises businesses to get a good labourspecialist and go by the book. “Companies turning a blind eye are likelyto end up paying a hefty price,” he says.Gettingit right at the hiring stage is particularly important. Apart from facingfinancial penalties for making someone redundant without cause, employers areonly allowed an employee trial period of 30 days. “If you want to dismissan employee after that, it’s very expensive. That’s why the candidate searchand screening process is so important,” says HR consultant Cristina Mejiasof CM Sociologia, based in Buenos Aires.Foremployers used to doing much of their recruitment over the phone or Internet,the Latin American emphasis on face-to-face contact requires some adjustment.”Doing things over the phone is an absolute no-no – you should interact inperson,” says Mejias.Althoughunemployment is widespread in Latin America, competition for key staff hasincreased. Offering a good benefits package has become a vital recruitmenttool. When BCP Telecommunications – a joint venture between Bell South inAtlanta and local banking organisation Safra – set up in S‹o Paolo in 1997, itcould take its pick of the best staff. Using local employment agencies, itrecruited around 2,000 sales and call centre staff in eight months. Its 1,000IT, engineering and admin staff were recruited directly or through search firmssuch as Korn/Ferry and Heidric &Struggle. But these days it faces heftycompetition as older industries migrate into telecommunications. “The biggame now is recruiting and retaining. We have to provide a good benefitspackage and hiring or retention bonuses for the better jobs,” says PhilDwyer, executive director of HR for the telecoms company. Statutorybenefits tend to be measly in Latin America and the employer is expected tomake up for this. But there are strong cultural differences for the benefitspreferred. “In Mexico, people appreciate the benefit of a driver; inBrazil, it’s first-class flights; in Chile, a club and private school for thekids; in Argentina, a luxury car,” says Mejias.Electronicrecruitment has been slow to kick off, but the age of the Net is dawning. Sitessuch as and – a Spanish-owned portal – are coming intotheir own. BCP Telecommunications introduced an e-recruitment policy inFebruary, and American Express plans to extend some of its US e-recruitmentprocesses to Latin America, with on-line recruitment up and running within theyear. Whenconsidering how wide to cast the recruitment net, it is worth remembering theregion’s emphasis on family. “Latin Americans are more rooted andfamily-centred than European and North Americans. They need to check with themother-in-law and the kids before deciding on a job location,” says Wong.Some employers have anti-nepotism policies, but Mejias says that while inBolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador nepotism is still an issue, it is no longer so incountries such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile.Furtherinformation… Litigation frenzyOn 1 Jun 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. last_img read more