The Managing Director of WesT CoasT AssisT (WCA) Steve Parish has written a company policy for anti-discrimination called the ‘(WCA) Good Working Relationship Policy’. WesT CoasT AssisT are an equal opportunity employer.
WesT CoasT AssisT (WCA) is committed in every way to eliminating harassment and discrimination, to create a good working relationship for all employees in the workplace. (WCA) are a committed equal opportunity employer.
This policy can be made available to employees on tape or brail, and in a variety of languages on request. It is provided in each employee’s start-up kit and discussed during induction training. Further copies are also available from the director or director’s secretary and are filed under (WCA) Anti-Discrimination plus Good Working Relationship Policy.
This policy will also be added to the (WCA) Intranet Web site under company policies.At the start of each year this policy is updated by the Managing Director, with feed-back encouraged from the staff and from the companies learnt experiences.
Also taken into consideration are relevant updates from the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission Web page.The (WCA) Good Working Relationship Policy was originally written around the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (Western Australia) with reference to the Australian Federal Government in 1973, ratifying the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on discrimination in employment and occupation, which signified a commitment to a policy of Equal Employment Opportunity.
The (WCA) Good Working Relationship Policy covers the following areas:
WCA) employees and other workplace participants need to know what harassment is and that it is unacceptable conduct.
Harassment will be prevented or at the very least the level reduced by (WCA) making it clear that harassment is unacceptable and that action will be taken if it is found to occur.
Staff members that experience harassment need to know that (WCA) recognises that it is unacceptable and that there are steps they can take if they are being harassed.
Management need to know how to investigate allegations of harassment fairly and appropriately.
REASONS FOR HAVING A POLICY
It is essential that (WCA) staff understand why such a policy is necessary. Some of the main reasons are set out below.
Research suggests that harassment is a serious problem at work. It is also clear that harassment is underreported.
Harassment has a serious impact on the recipient. It results in emotional distress such as anxiety and depression and can also lead to physical problems such as headaches, nausea or other stress related symptoms. Inevitably work performance will be affected. Often there can be difficulty in focusing on work. Many eventually try to resolve the situation by leaving. For example, many people lodge complaints of harassment with the Anti-Discrimination Board or the - Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission after they have left their jobs.
Harassment has a serious impact on the workplace. Harassment impacts on others in the workplace as well as the recipients of the harassment.
In some instances other workers may not be harassed themselves, but may be distressed by observing others being harassed. In short, an environment which is hostile is not likely to be productive. Absenteeism and staff turnover are likely to be high as people look for ways out. People who have difficulty concentrating on their work are also likely to make more mistakes and, in some settings, have more accidents.
Harassment impacts on the "bottom line". Productivity is affected and if the harassed person leaves then (WCA) are faced with all the costs inherent in replacing someone - recruitment, training and the loss of productivity while a position is vacant or the new person employed gains the expertise to perform at the required level. There is also an impact on co-workers when someone leaves particularly if co-workers are aware of their reasons for leaving. That can lead to further problems in the workplace. If the problem is not dealt with then (WCA) are likely to see harassment continue and the cycle will begin all over again. There may also be potential legal liability under various laws such as discrimination law, occupational health and safety law and negligence law. There may also be adverse publicity for the enterprise from litigation regarding harassment.
Employers are usually vicariously liable for the acts of employees.
Employees are required to appreciate the positive aspects of diversity before new people are appointed. Good working relationship can be upset by any form of discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
WHAT IS HARASSMENT?
A brief summary is provided:
Targets the other person’s status and gives the other person reasonable cause to feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.
Create a frightening, hostile, offensive or distressing environment.
Based on some real or perceived attribute or difference, including gender, race, disability, sexual preference, age and spiritual or political belief.
in normal working hours
while working back late
a work related function
a one off incident
a long standing pattern of conduct
For example, women, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, Indigenous people, gays and lesbians and people who are transgender may be more vulnerable to harassment than others.
Although it is often the case that harassers tend to harass those they are more powerful than, harassment can occur at all levels in organisations. For example, co-workers can harass co-workers and employees can harass their managers. Failure to comply with requests for sexual or other favours many lead to retaliation - eg such as loss of employment opportunities.
PROVIDING AN APPROPRIATE WORK ENVIRONMENT
The physical environment can play a big part in the success or failure of (WCA) harassment prevention. Inappropriate pictures, calendars, cartoons, computer screen savers and so on, create an intimidating atmosphere and will reduce any benefits that a harassment prevention strategy may provide. All offensive material should therefore be removed from the (WCA) work environment. This will be done in consultation with staff about what is and is not appropriate, rather than imposed by management.
UNDERSTANDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment usually happens to women and usually the harassment is done by men. However there are instances in which men sexually harass other men, in which women harass women and rarer instances in which women sexually harass men. In some instances sexual harassment occurs when no-one other than those directly involved is present. In other situations there can be many people around either as participants or observers of the conduct.
An example of the areas and types of harassment are found in these statistics:
Australian sexual harassment complaints by area 2000/2001
Goods and services
Ground of complaints received by sex of complainant 2000/2001
The most important elements of the (WCA) grievance handling procedure are that the following procedure:
Is timely - complaints are dealt with as quickly as possible and there are clear timelines.
Is sensitive - to the person reporting the grievance and the position of the person complained about.
Is fair and impartial – (WCA) employees must be afforded substantive and procedural fairness in any investigation, both sides need to have a chance to tell their side of the story and no action should be taken until the relevant information is collected and considered.
Is confidential - only those directly involved in investigating the complaint or making decisions about outcomes should have access to information about the grievance.
Allows for appeals - a review by someone who did not handle the initial investigations should be provided.
Makes it clear that victimisation of those who complain will not be tolerated.
THE GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE WILL LIST:
Who people can go to first. A range of first points of contact allows for situations where the supervisor or another senior officer is doing the harassing and for people to speak to someone they are comfortable with. The more options available for (WCA) staff, the more likely they are to come forward. Contact points are senior management and the Managing Director whom have all received some training on advising staff of their rights and how to handle grievances.
Where to go next if not satisfied - including the fact that there are external organisations such as the W.A. Anti Discrimination Board, unions and Police.
What sorts of outcomes to expect.
i) If the harassment is proven/established, that is a list of appropriate "disciplinary actions"; or
ii) If it is found to be not proven/ frivolous; or
iii) If there is no evidence either way.
The Managing Director in consultation with the management team will have the power to decide what the outcome will be.
(WCA) has a clear policy about the records people who handle grievances are to keep. Records will be kept in a secure place and only those requiring access for a legitimate purpose will have access to them. In general more serious complaints, or those that aren't easily resolved, should have written records. Apart from anything else, if those involved choose to complain against an employer's action to an outside agency, records can be relied on to demonstrate that the (WCA) responded to the grievance in a lawful manner and that all reasonable steps where taken to prevent any contravention of discrimination laws.
MONITORING WHAT HAPPENS
The effect of (WCA) policies, procedures and training will be monitored to check that they are working. The ways this will be actioned are by:
Keeping (confidential) statistical records of harassment complaints, what areas they're coming from, how they were handled, and their outcomes.
Keeping an eye on workplace behaviour, morale and cultural climate.
Exploring areas that indicate that harassment might be going on - for example, unexplained reduced productivity, unusually high numbers of resignations, transfer requests, sick leave.
Ensuring regular management information exchange/contact with members of groups likely to be targeted for harassment.
SENIOR MANAGEMENT TRAINING
Senior management require training in:
The reasons for introducing the new policies.
What they have to do to help prevent harassment/ maintain good working relationships. This includes everything from being a good role model, to keeping an eye on the work environment and (WCA) staff behaviour, to preparing staff in advance whenever new types of people (who might become the butt of harassment) commence at work and how to approach potential harassment situations in a preventative manner. For example, sometimes managers and supervisors are aware that there are undertones of hostility going on although no complaint has been made. It may be appropriate in such a situation, to approach the person or group of people that may be the brunt of the hostility to make them aware of their options. It is much easier for (WCA) people to act if they know that management is concerned.
How they should handle (WCA) harassment complaints. Harassment complaints are often the ones most feared by managers and supervisors. Therefore managers and supervisors will be trained in their Equal Opportunity (EEO) obligations by consultants who specialise in this area. Managers and supervisors understand the relevant law including discrimination law, defamation law, industrial law relating to discipline and dismissal and occupational health and safety law. They also understand the concepts of substantive and procedural fairness. In particular they are able to ensure that their investigation is not biased or an abuse or process.
PROVEN HARASSMENT DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS
Depending on the severity of the harassment and the consequences of the action, the following options are available:
1) A warning if it is a first time offence.
If a complainant is agreeable, management seeks through discussion, a stop any offensive behaviour and if appropriate an apology from the respondent.
2)A second time offence will cause a week's leave without pay.
3) A third time offence will cause termination of employment at (WCA).
4)Some types of harassment may also be offences under the criminal law.