Is Common Sense Enough?

One could debate that if our people just used more common sense, then legislative compliance would not need to take up so much time in the workplace. But there’s a glitch in this way of thinking.

We are living and working in a global environment where common sense is not always so common. Many would even say that common sense is on the decline. Regardless of whether you subscribe to the doomsday effect of a slide in common sense across the globe, I am sure you would agree that as workplaces become more heavily reliant on legislative compliance to police common sense, the exposure to claims against an employer, regardless of the size of the organisation, become significantly higher.

So to answer our question. Is common sense enough? Yes, common sense is a really good start. But, no, common sense is not enough because people do not always practise common sense. In fact, sometimes people are so far from the line of common sense that it makes you wonder what planet we are all living on.

What does this mean for small and medium businesses?

In October 2016, an Australian Newspaper published an article titled – Porn on your company laptop is wrong? Who knew? It presents a case where an employee was accessing inappropriate content on a work computer that was of a pornographic nature.

The employer did not have a workplace policy in place to suggest that this was inappropriate behaviour. Because the employer did not have a workplace policy in place, then supposedly, the individual should have been none the wiser! Oh, ok. Well, you can decide on whether that would sit in the ‘common sense’ bucket or not.

But in this case, the employer was left with a bitter pill to swallow for taking action against an individual who failed to practise common sense in the workplace. I certainly don’t profess to be a lawyer….. But….. Common sense or good lawyering? You decide!

What should concern small and medium business boards, shareholders, owners, and executives is that this incident took place in a small and medium business with about 20 employees. In fact, many of these types of incidents take place in small and medium businesses, in all industry sectors and from all across Australia.

Why? Because businesses with less than 200 employees typically have less protection in place than larger organisations. This is partly because small and medium businesses have fewer resources than larger organisations, and this means they are more likely to accept the status quo.

What makes this even more of a challenge for small and medium businesses, in particular for Not-For-Profits and community-funded organisations, is that typically in Australia, outsourced help for compliance-related systems and training programs has tended to be cost-prohibitive.

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