Prevention and management
You can avoid discrimination in your workplace by creating and communicating a clear policy stating that harassment and discrimination aren’t tolerated.
You can take the following steps:
- give every staff member a copy of the policy and ask them to sign to say they have received and read it
- display your policy on your company intranet or noticeboard
- discuss your policy at staff meetings – make sure staff understand it and what you expect of them
- provide staff training on discrimination and harassment
- set up a process for hearing complaints confidentially
- appoint a ‘Contact Officer’ to deal with complaints
- respond quickly, seriously and effectively to any complaints
- role model appropriate workplace behaviour.
We can help you to develop strategies and written policies to address discrimination and harassment. Industry and professional associations, employer organisations, unions and staff can also help.
It’s a good idea to provide your policy to every employee when they first start working with you.
If you run a very small business, a written policy may be unnecessary – but you must:
- tell staff that discrimination and harassment won’t be tolerated under any circumstances
- tell staff that disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who harasses a co-worker, client, customer or contractor
- give staff brochures containing information on harassment (ask our office or employer organisations for these)
- keep a diary note of when you inform staff about the policy on discrimination and harassment.
Talking to a person who is experiencing discrimination or harassment
If you are approached by a person who is experiencing discriminatory or harassing behaviour:
- be aware that they may feel angry, distressed, scared, frustrated or powerless
- support and reassure them they have done the sensible thing by seeking your help
- listen to them, take them seriously, be sensitive and don’t judge them
- reassure them that harassment is not acceptable and they have a right to complain and have the offensive behaviour stopped
- ask them how they want the situation to be handled
- discuss confidentiality, options and outcomes.
Talking to a person who is accused of behaving offensively
If you are having discussions with the person who has been accused of discriminatory or harassing behaviour:
- listen to their point of view
- advise them that even if they didn’t mean to, offence has been taken
- make clear what and when behaviour is acceptable and not acceptable
- discuss what’s needed to resolve the complaint
- get agreement that the offensive behaviour won’t happen again
- inform them of possible penalties if the behaviour doesn’t stop
- remind them about confidentiality and victimisation.
A Contact Officer is the employee you appoint to deal with issues of discrimination, harassment and bullying. Your Contact Officer should receive training so they can give staff information, impartial support and clarification about the company policies and complaint procedures.
Roles and responsibilities of Contact Officers:
- are the initial contact to provide employees with assistance
- discuss issues of concern and outcomes being sought
- explain options available which might help to resolve the issue such as:
- directly approaching others involved to discuss possible resolutions
- informal and formal complaints procedures
- external assistance – contact the relevant agency depending on the situation e.g. NT Anti-Discrimination Commission, EASA, Community Justice Centre
- arrange informal complaints procedures
- recommend actions to management that help to prevent or eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace
- act as a support person – be present while issues are discussed with the person involved and attend meetings with staff to discuss and develop equal opportunity policies and codes of conduct
- help educate staff by:
- raising awareness in the workplace of discrimination and harassment issues
- providing information on issues such as equality and diversity, work life balance
- assisting with training and education on equal opportunity principles.
- are approachable and apply good interpersonal skills deal with concerns impartially, sensitively and in a timely manner
- build trust, confidence and rapport
- listen without judgement
- maintain appropriate confidentiality
- display integrity and act as a role model for appropriate behaviours.
Contact Officers are not:
- responsible for the management of the complaint
- investigators or decision-makers
- Counsellors or Mediators.