The critical importance of leadership in promoting and maintaining a safe, respectful working culture cannot be understated.
Any organisation wishing to ensure that it has an environment that is free from risks and hazards can only achieve this goal with strong leadership and a commitment to improving safety.
One indication of that commitment is the response by leaders to legislative change in the area of safety law.
For example, the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Act) received Royal Assent on 10 September 2021 and commenced operation on 11 September 2021. The new laws aim to combat the prevalence of sexual harassment in Australia by clarifying and simplifying sexual harassment laws, and encouraging meaningful cultural change in workplaces.
The question will be how the leaders in your organisation will respond to these new laws.
The major changes include:
- compassionate leave for miscarriages;
- “stop sexual harassment orders” available in the Fair Work Commission (FWC), commencing 11 November 2021;
- prohibiting harassment on the ground of sex will be expressly included in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984; and
- sexual harassment will be expressly made a “valid reason” for dismissal under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
These are very important changes.
But the critical step is how employers, and in particular their leaders, will respond to the laws. Will they use them as a leaping-off point to improve the safety culture of their organisation?
Steps for leaders to consider include:
- reviewing the workplace culture to determine what improvement is needed;
- creating preventative strategies;
- updating and reviewing policies;
- reviewing reporting processes to remove or minimise any roadblocks to the reporting of harassment; and
- educating and training staff.