Regardless of your leadership credentials, employee engagement scores or long-standing reputation of your business, breaches in safety, invasion of privacy and workplace incidents such as bullying, harassment and discrimination can happen.

In fact, in today’s business environment, it is no longer a case of if but when. However, an incident such as bullying, harassment, or discrimination can happen, and successful claims of legal liability do not have to.

What is legal liability?

Legal liability sometimes referred to as ‘vicarious liability’, means that you are held liable for a certain situation, occurrence or incident in the workplace.

When it comes to workplace incidents such as bullying, harassment or discrimination, the question raised around whether you are liable or not is based on whether you have taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to avoid such an incident. In the eyes of the law, when it comes to workplace relations and safety, the starting point is whether your organisation has delivered suitable ‘training’ and whether you have appropriate ‘policies and procedures’ in place.

Far too often, the status quo of getting employees to sign off on an employee handbook, with either no training or very little training around things such as bullying, harassment and discrimination, puts an organisation on the back foot in the eyes of the law.

In the event of a claim for legal liability, what happens if your organisation has not delivered suitable training and/or does not have policies and procedures in place?

For anyone who has been involved in a workplace relations and safety matter that has gone to mediation or to court, you will recall that one of the very first questions that is raised is. What training does your organisation have in place? Followed by When was the last time you trained your staff?

If the answer is no or the last time training was done was back when the employee started with your business 4 or 5 years ago, then it is highly likely that your business and your directors will be exposed and can be held liable for the actions of the employee(s) responsible for the particular incident(s).

In some cases, the perpetrator could be a single rogue employee who, in hindsight, should probably not have been hired in the first place!

Don’t fall into the trap of being misled by the #1 myth when it comes to workplace relations and safety incidents.

We’re just fine, thanks, because we have policies in place, and people sign these off when they start with us.

Firstly, this is a myth because the only protection against successful claims of legal liability is that you have both training and workplace policies in place.

Secondly, having people sign off upon starting in your organisation is not nearly enough. You must be able to demonstrate that you have a robust workplace compliance regime in place that includes ongoing training and policy sign-off for the life of your employees.

What’s the simplest way to address our workplace training and policy requirements?

70% of Australian businesses do not currently have appropriate compliance management systems in place that enable them to meet both their training and workplace policy requirements when it comes to fair work, privacy and health and safety matters.

There are a number of factors for these scary metrics, with the primary one being that many organisations have in the past not paid respect to the massive impacts of such incidents in the workplace, to the individual, other employees, clients and the overall reputation of the organisation.

So if your organisation is in the 70% of Australian businesses that do not have appropriate measures in place, you may want to start by looking at an online workplace compliance system that enables you to deliver workplace compliance training, manage your policies and get real-time reports on completions for audit purposes.

It’s the most practical way to safeguard your business against the escalating costs of non-compliance. It’s also a very pragmatic way to send a clear message to your staff that everyone is responsible for contributing to a workplace that is a better, safer and fairer place to come to work!