Once a workplace harassment complaint is lodged the horse has already bolted, according to Renae Harding, Partner at Jackson McDonald.
At that point, the company has missed that chance to actually provide a safe and harmonious workplace where sexual harassment or other discriminatory behaviours do not occur, Harding told HRD.
“The vital role of HR professionals is to prevent inappropriate conduct from occurring in the first place,” she said.
“So first and foremost, I think the best role they can play is to influence what is happening in the workplace before a complaint occurs.”
“The courses that would really help HR professionals in this space are the courses they can do to create policies preventing inappropriate workplace conduct, sexual harassment, workplace discrimination and bullying.”
Then Harding said it’s a matter of implementing those policies and training workforces on those policies so that they understand the type of culture that is tolerated and the type of culture that is not tolerated.
Indeed, in a recent Safe Work Australia report, harassment and bullying claims represent 29% of mental stress claims in the workplace.
According to another report on The Psychosocial Safety Climate and Better Productivity in Australian Workplaces, productivity losses associated with low levels of management commitment to psychological health and safety in the workplace cost employers around $6bn per annum.
Consequently, Jackson McDonald have been working with Skillsoft to create a range of different training programs that assist HR professionals in creating a culture where employees understand what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the workplace.
There are a range of these courses relating to equal opportunity, discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace, said Harding.
“One is aimed at the employee level to set out what the law in this area says about employees, what they are entitled to do, what they are not entitled to do and the consequences for their employer.”
Harding added that there is another course aimed at supervisors and managers who are the ones that need to crack down on any inappropriate behaviour that they might see happening in the workplace.
“They also have the responsibility to create the workplace culture that the employer is trying to foster,” she said.
“Then if something does happen this provides the employer with the ability to take appropriate disciplinary action against the respondent who has allegedly conducted the inappropriate behaviour.
“It also helps with defending any claims that might be brought against the employer alleging it is liable for the particular conduct.”
Renae Harding is speaking at the upcoming HRD Employment Law Masterclass being held in November 2017.
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