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All organisations have to meet their new positive duties to eliminate sexual harassment and to eliminate or control psychosocial hazards.

Relevant authorities have published codes or guidelines which set out what organisations are supposed to do to meet these positive duties and the reality is that, if we are to be seen to be compliant, we need to do what they say.

But they are really complex and designed with large organisations in mind, ones which have their own WHS and HRM people and systems and resources to manage these obligations.

For smaller businesses, a much simpler approach is needed and that is achievable with the right partner. Here is how we would go about that.

What does good compliance look like?

There are consultants out there who will tell you that, if you put in place the documentation – like employment contracts, position descriptions, employee handbooks, policies and procedures – you will be able to demonstrate your compliance.

Sorry but that just goes part of the way and can actually create risks if you have them on paper but don’t actiually manage people issues in accordance with them.

20 years ago, I developed our 4C compliance model because compliance involves a lot more than just having a document.

This is what good compliance looks like:

C1: Commitment: leadership makes a positive statement of intent like in a policy or a values statement or a purpose statement, etc

C2: Capability: the organisation provides the resources – the people, systems, tools and processes – that are necessary to give life to the commitment

C3: Competency: the organisation provides people with the skills, knowledge, tools and time to apply the resources properly to deliver the desired outcomes

C4: Culture: the commitment is demonstrated in practice through the applied capability of the organisation and the competency of its people to deliver consistent high performance and in ongoing measurement and continuous improvement.

How are you tracking against our 4C model?

Goalposts have shifted

Our friends at the Michelle McQuaid Group came up with the very simple and appropriate message that we need to shift from “a culture of compliance” to  “a culture of care” if we are going to properly address the mental health and wellbeing challenges in our workplaces and meet our are positive duty to eliminate or control psychosocial hazards.

They are right and there are good reasons for that.

The traditional approach to risk management has been to have a policy, tell people about it and act on any complaints or incidents that arise. That doesn’t work for many reasons but there are two in particular that I want to point to:

  1. This approach relies on people making a complaint and most victims and bystanders don’t do that; and
  2. It isn’t effective in addressing the underlying behaviours or factors that are creating the problem.

We believe that we have always had a duty to protect our people from psychosocial hazards including sexual harassment in line with the general duty to protect people from the risk of illness or injury at work.

What is happening now is that organisations are being told that they have an explicit duty to proactively assess their organisations for risk arising from psychosocial hazards and then eliminate or control/minimise any that they find through a systematic and engaging/consultative approach with their people.

Relationships are key

The underlying challenge is to create psychologically safe workplaces where there is trust and positive relationships between management and workers and other stakeholders and everyone is required to comply with the rules of behaviour – not just nominally follow the policies.

There is of course a need for formal and proper processes and policies and procedures etc but we need to think of them as tools supporting positive relationships rather than just as risk management tools. A core message coming through is that we have to get back to treating people as human beings rather than as human resources.

That is why positive relationships are so essential to creating the required “culture of care”.

How can we help

The image at the head of this article gives you an idea of the various ways in which we might be able to assist.

We have the benefit of having competencies in both workplace relations law and positive leadership, two essential ingredients to navigating this new positive duty.

We can simplify the processes set out in the guidelines to accommodate the needs of smaller businesses who do not have the resources to be able to manage and we can adapt them to suit the particular circumstances and settings of the business.

For HR/People and Culture practitioners who are struggling with what the new positive duties mean for what they should be doing and how they should be doing it, we can provide positive duty coaching  to help you make the necessary adjustments.

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


Ridgeline Human Resources Pty Ltd
ABN : 24 091 644 094

6 Ellesmere Ave, Croydon Victoria 3136

1300 108 488