Coles is in damage control mode after one of its contractors placed a racist job advertisement and the fallout serves as a warning for businesses engaging contractors.
The advertisement, for a cleaning position at a Hobart supermarket, was placed on the Gumtree website on Sunday.
“Store requires no indians or asians please. MUST SPEAK ENGLISH,” the ad read.
A spokesperson for Coles told SmartCompany that the advertisement was placed by a subcontractor, who in turn works for the contracting company that manages Coles’ Rosny cleaning business.
“The ad was placed without Coles’ knowledge, and we were extremely concerned to learn of the ad and its contents,” the spokesperson said.
“Coles is a proud equal opportunity employer, and at no time have we ever issued the directives contained in this ad.”
The spokesperson said the subcontractor in question “is no longer doing work for Coles as a result of this incident”, and the cleaning contractor will be retrained on Coles’ equal opportunity and non-discriminatory employment policy.
Stephanie Lewis, business development manager at contractor management firm i-contract, told SmartCompany that Coles’ experience highlights the difficulties businesses can experience in managing contractors.
“Whenever we talk to a potential client or existing client the number one issue is to look at the structure, how is the contractor structured to provide services to business, are they a sole trader or company?,” Lewis says.
“Then you look at the system to manage the contractors; the amount of control you can use over a contractor is not the same as an employee.”
Lewis says there are some instances where businesses have to be able to exercise control over their workforce, including contractors, but this is mainly limited to safety concerns and third party requirements.
“We deal with a lot of direct sales companies and there is a lot of legislation in place about when you can knock on doors at certain times, so in terms of that it is a third party requirement as to when you can door knock,” she says.
“Where control is not welcome or appropriate is control over how a task is completed purely because that is how the business wants it completed.
“Contractors are supposed to be skilled before they come onto your site, so training or instructions would be inappropriate.”
Lewis says Coles needed to ensure that any contractors adhered to the cultural values and principles of the business in terms of equal opportunity for employment and adherence to the law.
“Coles needed to make it upfront before the contract began that when you interact with them you adhere to the cultural values and principles of the business,” she says.
“It is important when engaging workers of any description for business to consider what freedom they will be given to interact with the public, if they are [to]. In terms of job ads, they need a template and to adhere to a format.”