In the Australian business environment, there are still far too many businesses that either do not understand their legal obligations or choose not to meet them when it comes to the provision of compliance training and having suitable workplace policies and procedures in place for things such as bullying, harassment and discrimination.

To give you a feel for some of the most common myths when it comes to why businesses choose not to invest in a robust workplace compliance system, please read on:

Myth #1 – We are just a small business and haven’t had a problem with this sort of stuff before.

Firstly, the law does not discriminate based on size. Regardless of whether you are 5 or 5,000 employees, your business has the responsibility to meet its legal obligations when it comes to the provision of compliance training and having suitable workplace policies and procedures in place.

With recent surveys from the Australian Human Rights Commission reporting that 30% of people have experienced some form of bullying behaviour in Australian workplaces, it doesn’t take too much math to work out that exposure starts in an organisation from as small as 5 employees and increases exponentially as size and operating locations increases!

Myth #2 We’ve got an employee handbook and a few policies that people sign off on when they start with us, so I think we are ok for now thanks.

Given the exposure that such practises present, we’ll pick this up as a separate blog post as part of this series. At this stage, let’s take the time to point out that the foundation for protecting your business against successful claims of legal liability when it comes to fair work is that you have both the training and policies in place and that you are rolling these out at induction and on an ongoing basis.

In saying that, it’s more than just protecting your business; it’s about doing the right thing. A big part of doing the right thing is educating your employees on what is fair and equitable behaviour and what it takes to be part of a safe workplace.

Myth #3 The cost of rolling out bullying, harassment and discrimination training and policies in our large business is cost-prohibitive and comes second to other compliance-related topics, so we will deal with incidents if and when they occur.

Yes, a few hundred thousand dollars to settle a bullying claim or a single incident of sexual harassment is far less of a cost than diligently training and re-training thousands of employees on an ongoing basis.

However, I’d like to suggest this is not a good measure of ‘risk versus cost’ because the real cost comes down to things such as ‘reputational damage’ or, even worse, the ongoing lack of engagement across your workforce if these things are happening and polluting the workplace.

We don’t need to look too much further than some of the recent reports coming out of the health sector in Australia when it comes to bullying and sexual harassment, which has for a long time played second to health-related compliance topics for audit purposes.

At Sentrient, we encourage you to have a vision for all people to do the right thing.

We encourage you to do the right thing, not just because it is law, but because everyone has the right to be safe at work and to be treated fairly and with respect.

So regardless of the size of your business, where you are located, or the industry that you are in, we’d encourage you to consider the message you are sending to your staff when it comes to fair work, privacy and health and safety.