Business owners need to be on top of a lot of things, such as managing business profits, maintaining the quality of their products, ensuring the business is legally compliant and providing their employees with a safe working environment

Employers have important obligations around the safety and security of the workplace, and keeping employees safe generally.  As a result, providing strong workplace policies can be central in achieving success for your business. 

A strong workplace policy can help set the precedent for a positive work environment. Let’s take a closer look at what this means, and why your business may need an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Policy. 

Why Are Workplace Policies Important?

A workplace policy is a central document that lets all members of staff know what is expected of them in terms of professional conduct. It provides clarity on the standard procedures and processes of your workplace. 

In addition to this, your workplace policies also represent the culture, values and vision of your business that all employees need to keep in mind. 

Workplace policies also address what happens when employees don’t follow them. This way, your employees aren’t in the dark about anything and can know what to expect for any breaches. 

It’s useful to have one document that employees and employers can refer to if they are ever in doubt about their duties under workplace policies. When inducting new employees into the company, it’s a lot more efficient and effective to give them a written document detailing what your business expects of them professionally – we’ve written more about the best way to go about onboarding new employees

You may be wondering, “Why not just have all this in the Employment Contract?”. Even though it’s extremely wise to have an Employment Contract, they are largely catered to the employee’s individual role. A workplace policy is for everyone to follow and sets the standard for the overall environment of your workplace. 

Workplace Health And Safety Obligations

Your workplace policies are often written to reflect work health and safety obligations. 

As an employer, you have a legal duty towards your employees to ensure their workplace is an environment that doesn’t bring them any kind of mental or physical harm. This is known as your workplace health and safety obligations which is largely overseen by Safe Work Australia under the requirements set out by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Workplace health and safety requirements apply to all types of workplaces and employees. It doesn’t matter if your employees are full time, part time, casual, working in office or working from home. Every single one of them are entitled to protection under workplace health and safety requirements. 

The actions you will need to implement in order to fulfil your workplace health and safety duties will vary depending on the kind of business you run. However, some things may include: 

  • Making sure all employees communicate with each other politely and using appropriate language
  • Providing the right equipment for employees to work 
  • A system to report risks or hazards
  • Ensuring employees have an appropriate work from home set up 
  • Mental health services

Harassment And Discrimination In The Workplace

Another thing to look out for when considering writing or reviewing your current workplace policies is harassment and discrimination

Any kind of harassment or discrimination in the workplace is strictly illegal. As an employer, it is your job to make sure you take all the necessary steps to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination in order to avoid vicarious liability. When you are in charge of a group of people and a few are caught treating one or more of those members of that group unfairly, this can be seen as a direct failure on your part in effectively managing matters.  

In other words, if your employees do something wrong or illegal, you could be held liable for thir conduct as their employer. 

Therefore, it’s important to be on the lookout for these things and take all reasonable measures to actively prevent them from happening. In order to commit to your obligations regarding discrimination and harassment, it’s good to understand the two concepts better first. 

What Is Discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when a person is treated les favourbluy than others based on characteristics, such as their: 

  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Age
  • Race
  • Ethnicity 
  • Disability
  • Socio economic background
  • Religion 

Often, discrimination can arise in contexts such as job interviews (we’ve written more about things you can’t ask in job interviews). 

Sydney openly identifies as bisexual. She was recently overlooked for a promotion and instead, it went to a less qualified co-worker. A leaked email thread revealed Sydney’s sexual orientation influenced the hiring manager to pick the other candidate for the position. This is a clear act of direct discrimination. 

What Is Harassment?

Harassment is repeatedly bullying someone. This means behaving inappropriately in a way that can cause harm to another person and continuing to do it. Harassment can take many forms – let’s take a look at a few scenarios below. 

Jade continuously spreads harmful rumours to other coworkers about Jake in order to get them to dislike him. This has been going on for a few months, causing Jake to feel isolated and helpless. Jade is actively harassing Jake.
Sam is Sarah’s senior. Every meeting, he makes a point to pick on her and make inappropriate comments about her appearance. This makes Sarah extremely uncomfortable. Sam is abusing his power and harassing Sarah.  

What Is An Anti-Discrimination And Harassment Policy?

An anti-discrimination and harassment policy is a type of workplace policy that specifically focuses on preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. It aims to educate workers on harassment and discrimination as well as describe the kinds types of behaviours that are considered inappropriate.

This policy can help create a safe workplace and positive work culture. 

These policies should also include ways for employees to report harassment or discrimination. It’s also a good idea to list the potential consequences for employees that decide to engage in behaviour that constitutes harassment or discrimination. 

Need A Lawyer To Write An Anti-Bullying And Harassment Policy For Your Organisation?

Workplaces may have different needs when it comes to writing up an anti-bullying and harassment policy. If your workplace tends to be various construction sites your concerns will be different to a marketing firm. 

It’s important for your policy to reflect and cater to this. 

Additionally, as there are strict laws surrounding bullying and harassment in the workplace, you want to make sure your policy ticks all the right legal boxes. Getting a legal professional to write an anti-bullying and harassment policy up for you or review your current one is a smart move- contact us today to get started!

Key Takeaways

It’s important to educate your employees on what kind of behaviour is considered inappropriate in the workplace  as this will likely impact your entire business. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • Workplace policies set a standard for employees to follow so that behaviour is appropriate
  • Health and safety obligations must be upheld by every employer
  • Harassment and discrimination in the workplace is against the law 
  • It’s better to get a legal professional to draft or review your anti-bullying and harassment policies

If you would like a consultation on writing an anti-bullying and harassment policy, or if you need Employment Law advice generally, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or for a free, no-obligations chat.

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