Preventing Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace

Wednesday April 14, 2021

It’s a sad truth that even the healthiest of workplaces can breed harassment and bullying. Bullying and harassment – in particular, sexual harassment – are all too common occurrences in the modern-day workplace.

In a recent report, the Australian Human Rights Commission acknowledged the critical need for all levels of government, employers, industry groups, workers and unions to work together to support the cultural change needed to achieve more respectful and productive workplaces. The Respect@Work Council was established to address workplace sexual harassment collaboratively across sectors and regulators. A Respect@Work online platform will assist businesses and employers of all sizes with information, education and resources to both prevent and respond to sexual harassment.

Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, said: “I call on all employers to join me in creating safe, gender-equal and inclusive workplaces, no matter their industry or size. This will require transparency, accountability and leadership. It will also require a shift from the current reactive model, that requires complaints from individuals, to a proactive model, which will require positive actions from employers.

“Ultimately, a safe and harassment-free workplace is also a productive workplace.”

It’s up to employers to ensure that measures are put in place to minimise the risks and the chances of bullying and harassment occurring and spreading.

Employers can begin by implementing these policies in the workplace:

  • Establish a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment and bullying. Working with the HR Dept and your legal team, if you have one, draw up a comprehensive anti-workplace harassment and anti-discrimination policy covering all employees. Be sure to account for State and Federal laws.
  • Regularly consult with employees to discover if bullying is occurring or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying.
  • Build a workplace where harassment and bullying are unlikely to take place. Make it clear that demeaning or intimidating actions will not be tolerated and will be called out.
  • Offer training to your staff. Some employees may not even realise what constitutes “bullying and harassment”. Regular training for the entire team is essential in conveying the right messages and guidelines. Provide information and training on workplace bullying policies and procedures, available support and assistance, and how to prevent and respond to workplace bullying.
  • Train managers and supervisors to recognise situations that can foster bullying and harassment and how to handle these situations when they occur.
  • Implement workplace bullying and harassment reporting and response procedures. Ensure everyone understands the process for reporting a complaint. Make sure everyone understands that each complaint will be heard and investigated.

With the commitment of management and the cooperation of the team, it’s possible to create a workplace environment where bullying and harassment are non-existent – or are nipped in the bud when they do occur. The benefits of doing so are huge – your workforce will be appreciative, content and much more productive as a result.

If you’d like help establishing a safe workplace for your employees, please get in touch with the HR Dept today.

Preventing People Problems

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