With new anti-discrimination laws in place which see a tightening of the rules around sexual harassment, businesses will need to update all relevant policies and procedures accordingly. The newly introduced Respect at Work Bill determines that sexual harassment is grounds for termination, extends the period of time people can make a complaint, and introduces harsher consequences for victimising conduct amongst other measures. The new legislation is based on recommendations made in the Respect@Work report, which supports a cultural shift on the issue and works towards improving workplace culture in Australian businesses.

How will this impact my business?

The importance of effectively managing an employee complaint is often underestimated in the workplace, and unfortunately this includes complaints of sexual harassment. In order to ensure the correct processes are followed, the first step as an employer is to be aware of changes to legislation which may impact business practices. The next step is to make all necessary changes to existing policies to ensure they align with new legislation and recommended best practice; including the education and training of workers.

Regardless of how insignificant an employee complaint may seem, it’s important to treat it seriously and have a process to handle it effectively. When an employee complaint isn’t managed effectively, serious repercussions may occur such as a Fair Work investigation or a legal dispute.

I don’t have a sexual harassment policy in my workplace?

The employer is responsible for providing safe working conditions for workers, and it is up to the employer to ensure that the workplace is a healthy and respectful environment where sexual harassment is not tolerated. A good place to start is with the introduction of a sexual harassment policy.

Detailed policies and procedures in relation to sexual harassment will help to create a positive workplace where employees feel safe to complete their duties without fear or anxiety, leading to better employee motivation and higher levels of performance. More importantly, sexual harassment policies provide clear guidelines on what is unacceptable behaviour and the consequences for engaging in unacceptable beahviour; and is a step in the right direction toward preventing and/or minimising misconduct from occurring in the workplace.

What can I do to ensure the safety of my workers?

All workers need to be made aware of sexual harassment policies and procedures so they have a good understanding of the standard of behaviour that is expected of them. By working with employees to address sexual harassment in the workplace through education and training, business owners will not only minimise exposure to the time and costs involved in managing such matters, but will also help to foster safer, healthier, more respectful working environments.

Do you need assistance updating sexual harassment policies and procedures to align with new legislation? Want support introducing sexual harassment training at your workplace? Don’t hesitate to contact us for an obligation-free chat about how we could assist via the chat box or calling us on 08 6150 0043.

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