Everyone’s business: sexual harassment and workplace bullying

The findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2018 National workplace sexual harassment survey expose the enormity of the problem, with one in three people having experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years.

The survey findings also confirm that most workplace sexual harassment is perpetrated by a male, over an extended time period, causing significant negative mental health issues to victims.

It is important to add that workplace sexual harassment is just one of many indications of workplace bullying and harassment.

Bullying is defined as persistent and repeated negative behaviour directed towards another person in the workplace, or group of persons, that creates a risk to health and safety. This may include sexual harassment or any number of negative behaviours such as repeated teasing, intimidation or psychological harassment, hazing, deliberate exclusion, pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing, threatening or attacking.

Workplace bullying and harassment is both a safety and cultural issue that requires a proactive approach to change, starting at the leadership level.

Organisational leaders have both a moral and legal obligation to ensure that everyone feels safe at work. In 2014, new workplace bullying laws formed part of the Fair Work Act 2009, directly placing obligation and liability on the employer and directors, who can be held personally liable if they fail to provide a workplace free from bullying and harassment.

Code of conduct, comprehensive risk control and proper staff training and support are all important elements that leaders need to put in motion, to not only demonstrate their commitment but, more importantly, to influence real cultural change and a safer workplace.

A number of progressive leaders are incorporating various tools to better understand the cultural climate within their organisations, such as regular cultural surveys.

Leadership needs to put their finger on the pulse of their organisation to understand any issues that may be affecting their staff. A workplace cultural review is a proactive process that reveals the team culture and any factors that are impacting employee engagement.

Independent cultural reviews facilitated confidentially by WorkPlacePLUS can provide you with an objective assessment of the culture, behaviours, attitudes and level of engagement in your organisation, and offer feedback, recommendations and opportunities to improve engagement, productivity and safety in the workplace.

Workplace bullying and harassment is serious and can be complex. Engaging an external experienced workplace investigator will remove the perceived biases and ensure procedural fairness. Workplace investigations must be conducted professionally from the interview stage through to the final report. This strengthens the findings, in case they are challenged by the staff member, union or court system.

WorkPlacePLUS provides full investigation services of the highest standard, which are able to meet your obligations under various legislation such as Fair Work Act and Work, Health & Safety, while you continue on with business as usual. Our HR consultants are also registered private investigators.

For more information, please contact us today.

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