Business Breakfast Club July Summary - Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying At Work - What Your Organisation Needs To Do About It

This month at Business Breakfast Club, we discussed sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying laws and their affect on individuals in the workplace. BAL Director, Gabrielle Sullivan gave a practical overview of these topics and explored what organisations need to do to prevent and respond to these issues as employers.

What constitutes Discrimination, Bullying and Sexual Harassment?

Discrimination involves unfair or unfavourable treatment of an individual because of a ‘protected attribute’, or imposing a condition or requirement with which a person with a ‘protected attribute’ cannot comply because of that attribute. Examples of attributes that are protected include things such as sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, and also family responsibilities.

Bullying is repeated unreasonable behaviour (whether intentional or unintentional) that creates a risk to an individual’s health and safety. Bullying is a work, health and safety concern and may be subject to the scrutiny of WorkSafe ACT or SafeWork NSW.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that a reasonable person would anticipate would offend, intimidate or humiliate an individual.

Importantly, whether conduct is “unwelcome” is subjective. It is based on how the recipient perceives and experiences the conduct in question. Conversely, whether the conduct is “offensive, intimidating or humiliating” behaviour is objective and determined with reference to whether a reasonable person in the same situation would have anticipated that offence, intimidation or humiliation might result from the behaviour.

Sexual harassment is both a type of discrimination and a type of bullying, but has significantly higher compensation orders available for victims.

Prevention techniques & Responding to Complaints

The best technique to prevent and deal with sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying is to create a respectful workplace by:

  • modelling respectful behaviour from the top of the organisation down;
  • having a policy in place that includes definitions and reporting procedures (a Work Health & Safety Act requirement);
  • increasing staff awareness of the policy; and
  • responding to complaints promptly and reasonably, and in accordance with the policy.

The key objective in responding to complaints should always be the efficient and fair resolution of complaints for all parties. This means no reprisals or unnecessary escalation within the organisation. Employers also need to remember they must manage the interests of all parties in this process (not just the complainant).

For more information, please contact Gabrielle Sullivan or see our HR Breakfast Club website:

http://hrbreakfastclub.com.au/industry/employment-corner/sexual-harassment/

http://hrbreakfastclub.com.au/industry/employment-corner/bullying-and-harassment/

The next Business Breakfast Club will take place on 10 August 2018. If you would like to attend, please contact us.

A copy of the slides is available here.