Opportunity knocks!

Opportunity knocks!

Latest News & Events

Opportunity knocks!

example flexible working arrangement

So you have new positive duties to eliminate sexual harassment and to eliminate or control psychosocial hazards, right?

And people are telling you that this is another layer of compliance and risk that you have to negotiate as a business owner or manager or find yourself in hot water, right?

What if I told you that, if you really do value and want to care for your people, this is a great opportunity…..to validate what you are doing right as well as to identify ways that you can do it better?

Like most “compliance questions”, it is about your mindset – are your people assets to be cared for or risks to be managed?

What would it look like if we flipped it?

Let’s revisit a few of the psychosocial hazards in Safe Work Australia’s “Model code for managing psychosocial hazards” and picture them as strengths:

  1. The work demands on our people are reasonable physically, psychologically and emotionally
  2. Our people have reasonable control over their jobs
  3. Our people are well supported.
  4. Our people are clear about the roles that they play in our organisation.
  5. People believe that we manage and communicate change effectively.
  6. People believe that they are properly and appropriately recognised and rewarded for the contributions that they make.

And so on for the rest of the psychosocial hazards. 

When you look at them in that way, how many of those statements do you think might be true in your organisation?

Where do you see that there might be opportunities for improvement?

Changing the language can make a real difference to how you look at the subject matter can’t it? 

And guess what – when you see this as an opportunity knocking, you will find it is actually the best way to manage the risks.

How can we help 

We have been encouraging and helping organisations to adopt a positive mindset to improving workplace culture, communications and people practices for many years so, for us, the new positive duty stuff just adds some context to what we have already been doing with our clients. It is nothing new for us and it needn’t be especially challenging for you with the right guidance and support. 

So for us it is just business as usual with a few more tools in the toolkit. 

Need help?

  • Give us a call on 1300 108 488 or email enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au to arrange your free first consultation to see how we can help with advice and support on this or any other HR matter

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

New code on sexual and gender-based harassment adds to the mix

New code on sexual and gender-based harassment adds to the mix

Latest News & Events

 

New code on sexual and gender-based harassment adds to the mix

example flexible working arrangement

Safe Work Australia has published a new code on sexual and gender-based harassment which makes reference to the positive duty to eliminate sexual harassment and gender-based behaviours that has been legislated nationally under the Sex Discrimination Act. You can access the code here.

It also notes that satisfying your duty under the Sex Discrimination Act doesn’t necessarily mean that you would also satisfy your WHS obligations – for example in relation to the positive duty to eliminate or control psychosocial hazards.

It also makes the point that, if someone is sexually harassed, it is likely that other psychosocial hazards could be in play.

I then got to thinking about all of the different jurisdictions that now have a footprint in the area of sexual harassment and how confusing it must be for people (whether a victim trying to access help or an employer trying to understand their obligations) to work out where to go for what – the picture above tells the story.  

So who does what?

This is what it looks like for Victorian employers and employees.

Firstly, Safe Work Australia which published this code is a national body funded by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to develop national policy and guidance materials such as codes on workplace health and safety matters. It is not a regulator and has no involvement on complaints or enforcement matters. 

WorkSafe Victoria is the regulator on Workplace Health and Safety matters in Victoria. Complaints of sexual harassment can be made to WorkSafe Victoria and they will investigate such matters in the context of whether there is any breach of WHS obligations.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is an independent authority that investigates complaints about discrimination and human rights breaches. It does accept complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination and can assist in resolution of complaints through a process of conciliation. Since December 2023, it also has inspection and enforcement powers relative to any alleged breaches of the new positive duty on PCBUs including employers to eliminate sexual harassment and other unwanted gender-based behaviour.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission deals with complaints under Victorian Equal Opportunity legislation including those related to sexual and gender-based harassment and provides a voluntary conciliation service.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is the national workplace relations regulator. Part of its role is educational and providing employers and employees on their obligations and rights and legal processes for dealing with such things as sexual harassment. Because there are specific jurisdictions that deal with sexual harassment cases, they are more likely to provide advice on what options a worker has rather than deal with a complaint themselves.

The Fair Work Commission has, for a number of years, had the power to issue “stop sexual harassment orders”. Since March 2023, the Commission has had additional powers enabling it to accept claims of sexual harassment and implement mediation, conciliation and arbitration processes to resolve them.  It is important to note that all workers, not just employees, have access to this jurisdiction.

So what do you do now?

As you can see from the above, this is a very complicated area of law with a variety of pathways that a complainant might take depending on the outcome that they are looking for.

There are a couple of things that all employers need to do. 

Firstly, take the positive duty to prevent sexual and gender-based harassment seriously and ensure that you do what is necessary to meet that duty.

Secondly, ensure that you have access to sound and informed professional advice.

At Ridgeline HR, we can help you with a lot of that and we have a network of specialist lawyers and other professional service providers to assist in complex or specialised areas.

If you would like to explore how we might help you and your business in this or any other area of people compliance and culture, please give us a call on 1300 108 488 or email enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au to arrange your free first consultation.

 

 

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

Psychosocial hazard #14 – Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions

Psychosocial hazard #14 – Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions

Latest News & Events

Psychosocial hazard #14 – Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions

example flexible working arrangement

The final psychosocial hazard that is listed in Safe Work Australia’s Model Code of Practice on Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work is “conflict or poor workplace relationships or interactions”.

Why is conflict or poor workplace relationships or interactions a psychosocial hazard?

This hazard involves poor workplace relationships or interpersonal conflict between colleagues or with other businesses, clients or customers.

It may involve frequent disagreements, disparaging or rude comments, from one person or multiple people. A worker can be both the subject and the source of the behaviour. It could also be inappropriately excluding a worker from work-related activities. 

Some questions that you might ask to assess whether there are any  psychosocial hazards related to conflict or poor workplace relationships and interactions in your workplace include:

  • Is the workplace one where staff are encouraged to compete with each other and so they don’t support each other?
  • Is there a culture where swearing, name calling, being rude or spreading rumours are commonplace and not addressed appropriately?
  • Are there managers or customers who make unreasonable demands on workers and who are critical or complain when they don’t get what they want?
  • Is the leadership team dysfunctional and not respected by the workers?
  • Does the workplace lack the policies and procedures and the training that are needed to set appropriate standards of behaviour and to effectively deal with any incidences of disrespectful or unsatisfactory conduct?
  • Are changes made to work processes, systems or resources without consulting the affected workers?
  • Do you have managers who micro manage people who don’t need that level of supervision to do their jobs?
  • Is there a lack of defined work processes and clarity of roles and interdependencies between workers?

This list is not exhaustive and while we have based these posts on the model code produced by Safe Work Australia, there can be differences in the specific details for each State or Territory. So you need to check that in the jurisdiction in which your workplace lies.

Need help?

Give us a call on 1300 108 488 to arrange your free first consultation to see how we can help with advice and support on this or any other HR matter.

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

Supporting women experiencing family and domestic violence

Supporting women experiencing family and domestic violence

Latest News & Events

Supporting women experiencing family and domestic violence

example flexible working arrangement

Today is the “International day for the elimination of violence against women”.

So it is an opportune time to refresh on what we all (and particularly we men) can do to influence reductions in both the incidence and effects of family and domestic violence on women.

According to Our Watch, a not for profit established by the Victorian and Federal Governments in 2013 to lead the fight against violence against women, “Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life.”

They quote some concerning statistics – in Australia:

  • 2 in 5 women (39%) have experienced violence since the age of 15.
  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
  • In the year 2021/22, 5606 women (average of 15 women/day) were hospitalised due to family and domestic violence.
  • 1 in 2 women (53%) has experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.
  • The perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment are predominantly men.

That is why we have to do something about this terrible situation.

The real challenge

I recently had a conversation with an employer of close on 100 people in relation to the positive duties that apply to the elimination of sexual harassment and psychosocial hazards. His view was that people’s private lives are none of his business and employers should not be expected to pry into employee’s private affairs. He really doesn’t want to know.

If we are really going to properly support women who are experiencing family and domestic violence, we need to know and we need to create workplace environments that are safe for women to let us know and to ask for help……and we need to give that help.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has published the “Small Business Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence”. 

This states:

“It’s critical that small business employers can recognise the signs of family and domestic violence, so they can help employees get the support they need.

Behaviours that may signal a person is experiencing family and domestic violence include:
` excessive or unexplained absences or lateness
` a sudden or sustained drop in productivity
` unexplained injuries
` social withdrawal
` frequent or unusual work breaks, or unusual start and finish times
` anxiety or fearfulness
` appearing distracted, depressed or overly jumpy
` lack of concentration or difficultymaking decisions
` inability to take work-related trips
` personal calls, texts or visits that cause the employee distress.

If a manager or co-worker suspects that an employee may be experiencing family and domestic violence, it’s appropriate for them to raise their concerns with the employee.

While they’re not counsellors, it’s important they feel equipped to raise their concerns to support their employee or co-worker.”

So the message is clear – we should care about our employee’s wellbeing and we should be asking questions if we see that something’s not quite right whether that is from causes at or outside work. 

Legal obligations

The Federal Government has introduced a couple of significant legal changes in the past year, namely:

  • A new National Employment Standard providing people experiencing family and domestic violence with 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave per annum (this is a standard entitlement for all employees whether engaged on a full-time, part-time or casual basis) – read more on this here; and
  • A positive duty on Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) to eliminate workplace sexual harassment, sex discrimination and sex-based harassment – read more on this here

Additionally, sexual harassment is one of the psychosocial hazards in respect of which States and Territories are legislating positive duties on PCBUs to eliminate from workplaces. If someone is experiencing family and domestic violence, this can have a huge impact on their physical, emotional and mental health. Part of the support that an employer can provide is ensuring that work doesn’t aggravate any such condition that an employee might have as a result of experiencing family or domestic violence. 

Please also note that, in Victoria, there has been a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment for a number of years under equal opportunity legislation. Further information is accessible here.

The Respect@Work toolkit.

The Federal Government/the Australian Human Rights Commission has set up a website (https://www.respectatwork.gov.au/) in support of the new positive duty to eliminate sexual harassment etc that was legislated last year.

This website includes lots of resources for organisations to use in developing policies, procedures and practices with respect to the prevention of sexual harassment in workplaces which are suitable for large organisations, Boards of Directors for large organisations but are not very practical for small businesses.

Our HEART approach

We believe that there are essentially 5 elements to a positive duty approach was presented in our HEART model:

HONESTY – Take a good hard look at what is really happening in your organisation with an open mind and a curious mindset.

ENGAGEMENT – Harness the passion and collective wisdom of your people to shape and drive the agenda for change.

ACCOUNTABILITY – Build and deploy the plans, processes and systems to hold everyone responsible for playing their part.

REVIEW – Recognise that this is a journey and not an event. Set goals, monitor vigilantly, celebrate milestones, learn and grow.

TRUST –  Provide a psychologically safe workplace where people speak up without fear and actions show that they are listened to.

How we can help

Whether you need to develop or review policies or procedures or you need a cultural assessment done or you want to run some educational sessions or you need help in facilitating communication and consultation processes or you need someone to support you  with an employee who is experiencing family or domestic violence, we can help.

Call us

  • Give us a call on 1300 108 488 to arrange your free first consultation to see how we can help with advice and support on this or any other HR matter

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH

Time to get serious about sexual harassment

Time to get serious about sexual harassment

Latest News & Events

Time to get serious about sexual harassment

example flexible working arrangement

In December 2022, a new positive duty on employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to eliminate workplace sex discrimination and harassment commenced.

The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 (Cth) amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), introducing a positive duty on employers and PCBUs to eliminate:

  • workplace sexual harassment, sex discrimination and sex-based harassment;
  • conduct that amounts to subjecting a person to a hostile workplace environment on the ground of sex; and
  • certain acts of victimisation.

Now employers and Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) have a legal obligation to take proactive and meaningful action to prevent all of the above offending behaviours from occurring in the workplace or in connection to work.

This is a big step up from what had been the case where it was a complaints-driven process – action was only required if someone made a complaint after the fact ie after the sexual harassment had already occurred.

Respect@Work  

The Australian Human Rights Commission has established a website with lots of resources to help organisations to learn about sexual harassment and what the positive duty means. See https://www.respectatwork.gov.au.

The first step in the process of exercising your positive duty is to actually understand what the issues are and what your obligations to exercise the positive duty mean in practice. You then need to conduct a risk assessment to ascertain whether there are any risks that need to be eliminated or controlled relative to sexual harassment and the other offensive behaviours noted above.

Above is the risk management model published via Respect@Work which is an adaptation from Safe Work Australia’s model for managing work health and safety risks.

There are two points with this which are important to note:

  • Workers must be consulted at every step in the process and the best results will be obtained by educating and engaging them in the mission to eliminate sexual harassment from your workplace; and
  • This is a continuous process – not something that you just do once and then you have ticked the box. The positive duty means that you must keep assessing risks and the effectiveness of control measures and making necessary adjustments on an ongoing basis.

Please note that sexual harassment also features as one of the psychosocial hazards in respect of which Australian organisations are progressively being required to deal with as a workplace health and safety positive duty.

What is sexual harassment?  

 Australian law states that sexual harassment occurs when:

  • a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed; or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed;
  • in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Examples of behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment include:

  • inappropriate physical contact;
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or physical appearance;
  • sharing or threatening to share intimate images or film without consent;
  • unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing;
  • repeated or inappropriate invitations to go out on dates;
  • sexually suggestive comments or jokes that offend or intimidate;
  • requests or pressure for sex or other sexual acts;
  • sexually explicit pictures, posters or gifts;
  • actual or attempted rape or sexual assault;
  • being followed, watched or someone loitering;
  • sexually explicit comments made in person or in writing, or indecent messages (SMS, social media), phone calls or emails—including the use of emojis with sexual connotations;
  • sexual gestures, indecent exposure or inappropriate display of the body;
  • unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that occurs online or via some form of technology—including on virtual meetings;
  • inappropriate staring or leering;
  • repeated or inappropriate advances on email or other online social technologies.

In determining whether an advance, request or other conduct may be sexual in nature, the intention of the alleged harasser is not relevant. An advance, request or other conduct may be sexual in nature even if the person engaging in the conduct does not have a sexual interest in that person or is of a different sexual orientation to the person harassed.

Equally, the behaviour may be unwelcome to a person even if it is accepted or tolerated by others or is part of the culture of the organisation.

As to whether the behaviour offend, intimidates or humiliates someone, that also is a subjective test – it is about the how a person perceives and is affected by the behaviour and about how a reasonable person could expect that to happen.

What are the drivers of sexual harassment? 

There are 4 key drivers of sexual harassment noted on the Respect@Work website. They are:

  1. Condoning of sexual harassment against women (are these behaviours justified, excused or trivialised in your workplace?)
  2. Men’s control of decision making in public and private life (how well represented and how much of a voice do women have in management decisions in your workplace?)
  3. Rigid adherence to gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity (in your workplace, are there any perspectives that some jobs are best done by men and some best done by women?)
  4. Male peer relations that emphasises aggression and disrespect towards women (in your workplace, is there a culture of sexist language or jokes or commentary that is disrespecting of women?)

The questions posed above are just a few of those you need to be asking.

The Exposures 

From December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission will be able to enter workplaces to inspect them for issues of sexual harassment and will be able to initiate prosecutions and penalties of offending employers.

Workplace Health and Safety authorities around the country are progressively becoming able to do likewise via legislation for PCBUs to have a positive duty to eliminate or control psychosocial hazards.

The Fair Work Commission already had a jurisdiction in which workers could seek orders to stop sexual harassment. As from March 2023, they also have a new jurisdiction where workers can take complaints of sexual harassment and seek compensation.

So, yes, it is time to get serious about stamping out sexual harassment.

Note: much of this content has been drawn from the Respect@Work website.

Need help?

  • Give us a call on 1300 108 488 to arrange your free first consultation to see how we can help with advice and support on this or any other HR matter

CONTACT US

Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

enquiries@ridgelinehr.com.au

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488

PARTNER LINKS

Smilsafe

TELL US WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH