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How to ensure that sexual harassment is taken seriously in the workplace without alienating women.
The “#metoo” movement helped expose the prevalence of sexual harassment in society, particularly in the workplace. While the spotlight has been on women working in Hollywood’s film and television industry, hundreds of thousands of women around the world have responded, bringing to light their own experiences of sexual harassment.
The impact that this has had on workplaces is profound. The Lean In organisation has recently done some research of US workplaces in the wake of #metoo. Troublingly, they found that since the reports of #metoo in the media, almost 50 per cent of male managers are uncomfortable participating in common work activities with women. Examples included mentoring, working alone, socialising and travelling for work.
Though #metoo encourages women and men to speak up and call out sexual harassment, inappropriate workplace behaviour and sexual assault, the Lean In research suggests that it may have a negative impact on gender equality in the workplace. If male leaders are discouraged from mentoring women, taking women to meetings or travelling to conferences with women, then women could miss out on vital opportunities for career development and advancement.
Here, we give you three important tips on how to support gender equality and help prevent sexual harassment in your workplace.
Mentor and sponsor women
In many organisations, the majority of key leaders and decision makers are men. Among the ASX 200 companies in Australia, there are more CEOs and chairs named John than there are women CEOs and chairs. There are also more men called Peter. And more men called David.
A key way for women to move into leadership positions in the future is for male leaders to mentor them. Generally, women who are mentored can be more confident in their abilities, take more opportunities to progress and are guided in their careers.
Another way to support women’s careers is through sponsorship. This moves beyond career guidance and involves a male leader taking proactive steps to assist a woman’s career progression. Women who are sponsored by people in more senior roles may be recommended for more promotions and advancement opportunities, and can be supported for pay increases and career development.
Encouraging more senior men to sponsor and mentor women in your workplace is a great way to ensure that your organisation is moving towards gender equality in leadership positions in the future.
Treat sexual harassment allegations seriously
The crux of #metoo is that by standing together and identifying as having experienced sexual harassment, female victims can no longer be ignored or dismissed. It raises awareness about the spectrum of harassing behaviour and the wide range of women it impacts.
A survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in 2012 found that 25 per cent of women in Australia had been sexually harassed at work. The survey also found that only 20 per cent of people who were sexually harassed reported it. These numbers suggest that sexual harassment is normalised in many workplaces and that women consistently feel unable to report it. Unsurprisingly, the issues start appearing well before employees even make it into the workforce. AHRC’s 2017 report into sexual assault and harassment at Australian universities revealed that one in five students were harassed, and 87 per cent of sexual assaults went unreported.
All allegations of sexual harassment in your workplace should be treated seriously, investigated empathetically and dealt with in the framework of gendered power-dynamics. By this we mean that investigations and disciplinary outcomes should take into account the power imbalance that can exist between men and women; in which men feel entitled to treat women as sexual objects and women feel scared and powerless to stop it.
Certainly don’t just take our word for it – ask the women in your workplace. Open dialogue is really the first step to making workplaces fairer and safer for everyone.
Ultimately, if you have questions or concerns about whether your workplace has a problem with sexual harassment, takes sexual harassment seriously enough or is moving in the right direction for gender equality, ask the women you work with.
Aaron Goonrey is a Partner and Emma Lutwyche is a Lawyer in Lander & Rogers’ Workplace Relations & Safety practice. Aaron can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Combining a well thought out message with smooth intent is a match made in conversational heaven.
After 10 years of research and asking people why we don’t give feedback well, I’ve found that inevitably people say, “I don’t know how to say it. How to prepare. What exactly to put forward”. They are talking about the content of the conversation. If we are nervous or ill prepared, we can become anxious about how they will react so we fluff around and lose impact. We sometimes make the content so hidden under a rock that the other person walks away confused and unclear about what to do next. At worst their motivation, and your relationship, is damaged. At best, they are not impressed.
The two main reasons why the message suffers is a lack of confidence and lack of information. Your intent and your content. It’s easy to say, “just be confident, you’ve got this!” But we all know that doesn’t improve how we feel about having a tough conversation.
Information and confidence are things that we can improve. This is about us and well within our control. We don’t actually need to soften the content, just our delivery. Consider this: 10 per cent of conflicts are due to difference of opinion (content), while 90 per cent are due to tone (intent).
Content is what you say
Intent stems from why you are saying it.
Content is the easy bit. Well easier than you think. This is how we prepare and structure each and every conversation. It’s making sure we have enough examples and facts, have audited our opinions and feelings to make sure they are relevant and helpful, and are discussing the consequences of inaction or actions, to name but a few.
In terms of intent, if we enter in to a conversation with the right attitude, the right posture towards the other person and a kindness to ourselves, then it dramatically reduces tension and improves the outcome.
If the content is poor and the intent is not from a good place, then we have “damaging” conversations, which negatively affect relationships, trust and respect.
If we walk into the conversation with the best (authentic) intentions in place yet don’t work on what we need to say, then the conversations and its outcomes are aimless. We have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the interactions but we didn’t really talk about what we needed to.
When we make the time to work out the structure of the conversation, yet don’t take responsibility for why we are having the conversation, it comes across as transactional. Things are clear yet there is little connection between people.
If someone is well prepared when talking to you and takes full responsibility for their reactions, thoughts and actions, the conversation becomes remarkable.
After all, people hear your content but smell your intent
Getting the words, facts and examples clear is super important. Vital in fact. But working on where you are coming from is even more so.
Before you have that conversation, be still, breathe and ask yourself: What am I bringing to the conversation that will serve it? What am I bringing to the conversation that will detract from it? What’s my heart? My attitude? My thinking?
When we choose to bring clear content and good intent into each conversation we not only build better relationships, but also grow trust, respect, and create great cultures and strategies.
Georgia Murch is the best-selling author of “Fixing Feedback” and “Feedback Flow; The Ultimate Illustrated Guide to Embed Change in 90 Days”.
With the new data breach notification laws taking effect this month, HR needs to be aware of how they could impact their organisation.
How many businesses can you name who have been involved in high profile data breach incidents? Uber, Heathrow Airport and Equifax are among the many organisations which have had their data security systems hacked or compromised, and that’s only in the past two years. And who can forget the Ashley Madison website data breach of 2015, when the personal information of thousands of would-be, or actual, adulterers was stolen and leaked onto the internet for all to see?
Even if your business doesn’t possess such compromising data, it’s highly likely your business is still holding personal information which is subject to the Australian Privacy Principles – such as customers’ names and addresses. If this is the case, you should be aware of some recent changes to Australia’s privacy laws, which are going to take effect this week.
The old “Wild West” of data breach disclosure
Prior to the implementation of these new laws, Australian businesses were actually not required (strictly speaking) to report data breaches to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), or even notify the individuals affected. While disclosure was encouraged and is a prudent step in reducing public relations damage, businesses were largely left to manage their own obligations and compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles. This is no longer going to be the case.
The new laws
Effective from 22 February 2018, a new “Notifiable Data Breaches scheme” will be operational and will apply to all organisations with obligations under the Australian Privacy Principles. In essence, the new scheme will introduce an obligation to inform people whose personal information is exposed by a data breach likely to result in “serious harm” to those people. OAIC must also be notified about these data breaches.
The term “serious harm” is curiously not defined in the new laws. OAIC has published some new guidelines on this topic, which suggest that serious harm may include serious physical, psychological, emotional, financial, or reputational harm. It also recommends that the risk of serious harm be assessed holistically, having regard to both the likelihood of harm to the individuals involved, and the consequences of that harm.
We generally recommend that businesses whose data has been compromised, take a conservative approach when assessing harm, and to err on the side of the concluding that serious harm was involved, rather than not.
If a data breach is covered by the new scheme, the notification obligation will generally involve two steps:
preparing a statement which contains certain required information about the data breach (eg. about the nature of the information involved); and
providing the statement to OAIC, and notifying the affected individuals.
If your business only suspects that a data breach has occurred, it is not required to comply with the notification obligations immediately. However, your business will need to complete an investigation into the relevant circumstances within 30 days. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away!
What happens if your business doesn’t comply with the new scheme?
A failure to meet the requirements of the new scheme will be considered equivalent to interfering with the privacy of an individual under Australia’s privacy laws. This will allow OAIC to investigate, make determinations and provide remedies for non-compliance with the privacy laws. OAIC can also instigate various consequences for offenders, including public apologies, compensation payments and, for serious breaches or repeat offenders, civil penalties. The civil penalties are currently up to $420,000 for individuals and up to $2.1 million for companies.
What is your business required to do now?
OAIC has prepared a useful guide which explains the intricacies and requirements of the new scheme. We recommend you review this guide to ensure you are up-to-speed with the new scheme and what it means for your business.
As always, failing to plan is planning to fail. We recommend that your business prepare a data breach response plan (or update its existing plan), to ensure that it is ready and able to respond to any future data breaches, while complying with the new scheme.
Most importantly, you should review your current information security arrangements to ensure they are up to date and sufficient to protect the integrity of any personal information your business is holding. After all, if you can prevent the problem arising, you won’t need to worry about the solution!
Aaron Goonrey is a Partner and Luke Scandrett is a Lawyer in Lander & Rogers’ Workplace Relations & Safety practice. Aaron can be contacted at email@example.com
The favoured buzzwords of the year speak to the increased demands for verification of skills and experience.
What words are professionals using to describe themselves in 2018? LinkedIn recently released their annual list of “buzzwords”, compiled from analysing user profiles, and there have been some notable changes from last year.
“Experienced” came out on top, followed by old favourites “specialise” and “passionate”. Meanwhile, “excellent” and “focused” have disappeared completely, and “skilled” and “expert” are notable new additions. You can find the full list of buzzwords used in Australian profiles here.
Shiva Kumar, LinkedIn’s Head of Brand and Communications in Australia and New Zealand, says the shift in terminology can be linked to changing employer requirements.
“Experience is in demand, specialist skills are in demand, so that’s why people are including the words in their profile, to advertise how much they know and how much they can bring,” he says.
According to Kumar, words like “focused”, which appeared in the LinkedIn list for the past 10 years, are no longer in vogue because, ironically, they are bit unfocused or vague.
“We’re seeing a shift towards more specialised words that people can then marry up with their skills and experience,” says Kumar.
But if candidates think throwing in a buzzword willy nilly will improve their chances of landing a plum role, they should think again, advises Kumar.
Take “leadership” for example, a trait employers are seeking out more and more in candidates. “If you use the word leadership, then include some projects you’ve led, or jobs where you’ve managed a team,” says Kumar. “But don’t go overboard, you don’t want to include too much unnecessary detail or alarm bells will start to go off.”
Why “experience” trumps the lot
In times of economic uncertainty and decreased job security, employees and candidates need to verify their experience, rather than come across as easy going and authentic. It’s no longer about a self-assessment of your personality traits, hence the expulsion of the word “driven” and “organised”. Employers are apparently interested in concrete terms like “skills”, “experience” and “expertise”.
“This type of language can be viewed as a wider comment on how society is searching for accountability and verifiability – in part, a reaction to the fake news surrounding the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit referendum,” says Jones.
What about “soft skills”?
Interestingly, there were no “soft skills” (or core skills as HRM prefers) mentioned in the top 10 list of buzzwords. Yet we often hear that they are more in demand than ever. They appear to fall into the too-vague basket (think “positive attitude”, “team player” and “self-confidence”). HRM addressed the lack of core skill referencing last year. According to DeakinCo. CEO Simon Hann, “People don’t have the confidence to claim skills that they are not able to verify”.
So how do you distinguish your core skills on your LinkedIn profile or CV without stringing together a list of no-longer-popular buzzwords? Well, if you want to highlight communication skills, present your profile with warmth and clarity. Have a “positive attitude” when you discuss challenges you faced at work and how you handled them. Articulate solutions you came up with to display your “problem solving” skills.
It all boils down to backin’ up that buzzword with evidence, or not using it at all.
In her vlog, Ricky Nowak talks to Eva Brookes of EY about recruiting top talent, and how to attract the best women candidates.
Communications and executive leadership expert Ricky Nowak interviews Eva Brookes, Asia Pacific director of recruiting at EY. Here’s are just a few of Brookes’ tips.
“One of the key things is knowing which areas of the recruiting process and experience you need to hone in on. So it’s really worthwhile investing time looking into your process, and seeing where you can make a few tweaks that will enhance the experience for women. You do that by looking at the data around your brand, whether you have enough women on your shortlist – or is there something happening in the interview process where women are dropping off?
“Also doing research [is helpful] whether by surveys, by using an external consultant, or having conversations with female candidates who’ve joined your organisation, or perhaps those that didn’t join and really understanding what was it about the recruiting experience that impacted them positively or not so positively.
“Our advice is don’t be overwhelmed about where to start… there are some very practical and straightforward things you can do. For example, your job ads you can have them reviewed for gender neutral language – there’s programs out there that scan your job ads that check to see if you’re inadvertently putting people off from applying.
“You can also implement some models to start challenging how you’re hiring.”
Happy Valentine’s Day! Although perhaps you should think twice before asking your colleague out on a date.
Office romance is not what it used to be. Just ask Barnaby Joyce, whose alleged to have leveraged his position to get his mistress Vikki Campion a job in Senator Matt Canavan’s office in April 2017. Or remember John Neal, CEO of QBE, whose pay was docked by half a million dollars by the Board for not revealing that he was having an affair with his executive assistant. Love hurts.
QBE isn’t the only company getting tough on executive accountability. Some organisations are hedging their bets and creating stricter guidelines around office romance. Here are some of the more inventive examples.
Several large firms, including Facebook and Google, have introduced what’s called a “one-strike rule” for office romances. This doesn’t ban office relationships per se, but instead tries to legislate flirtation.
The one-strike is applied at the point of one employee asking another out on a date. If the answer is anything less than a “yes”, then the company insists that be the end of the courtship.
“Ambiguous answers such as ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I can’t that night’ count as a no,” Heidi Swartz, global head of employment law at Facebook, explains to the Wall Street Journal.
The ostensible purpose of the rule is to prevent harassing flirtation, where an employee repeatedly subjects an uninterested colleague to attention. A problem with the rule is that flirtation is almost always less clear cut than a date request, and therefore the rule doesn’t cover all that much.
For instance, what if a colleague never asked you out but instead commented on your looks everyday? It could be very unwelcome but the offending party wouldn’t have breached the one-strike rule.
The other criticism is that like almost all work policies, it has more to do with the business’ bottom line than any genuine attempt to make employees’ lives better.
“The idea that employees are allowed one approach to a fellow worker appears to be more restrictive than any Victorian era code of conduct,” says McDonald Murholme managing director Alan McDonald.
”The apparently prudish policy is surely not to protect individual employees from sexual relationships but rather protect the company’s bottom line from monetary compensation from sexual harassment claims.”
Some US companies that want to prevent any and all such claims have implemented a policy requiring all dating employees to sign a “love contract”. Unlike a couple alerting HR to their relationship causing a potential conflict of interest – such as when a manager and their team member date – this is far more stringent.
An example document from the US based Association of Corporate Counsel can be found here (paywall). It seems almost designed to make employees resent their company. Anyone signing it would be agreeing to not “engage in any public displays of affection” and that their “relationship will not have a negative impact on work”.
The problem with love contracts is that their legal benefits are dubious (it wouldn’t be too difficult for employees to argue some form of coercion) and they also they smack of an over-bureaucratised, and selfish workplace.
It’s as if the organisation is not only inserting itself into an area where most people feel it doesn’t belong (personal romances), but also insisting that it’s the most important thing in that area. So introducing love contracts could harm the company’s relationship with existing and potential employees.
A helpful tool for any professional or team transforming HR, that breaks down how to do so with a wide focus. Use it to audit your organisation.
For the last 30 years, HR transformation has been occurring along a simple theme: HR is not about HR, HR begins and ends with business. We find that many who focus on HR transformation are focused almost exclusively on how to organize the HR department. We believe in designing the right HR department, however focusing ONLY on the HR department is a narrow focus of the overall effectiveness of HR.
Using our empirical research with over 100,000 respondents and advisory services with dozens and dozens of HR leaders, we have distilled nine dimensions of an effective HR department.
9 dimensions of an effective HR department*
Reputation: What is the reputation of the HR Department?
Context/Deliverables: What are the criteria (settings) that shape HR work?
Strategy: What is the mission or strategy of the HR department focused on capabilities?
Design (process, roles, and structure): How is the HR department organized?
HR and Organization Capability: How does HR facilitate the definition and creation of organization capability?
Analytics: How do we make better HR investments and choices?
Practices: How do we create HR practices?
Professionals: What do HR professionals need to be, know, and do to be effective?
Work Style: How does HR go about doing its work
These nine criteria for an HR department may be seen as delivering value at four stages:
Foundational/Administrative: HR focuses on efficiency.
Functional: HR focuses on best practices.
Strategic: HR focuses on delivering strategy.
Outside in: HR focuses on stakeholders outside the organization.
By comparing the nine criteria with these four stages, you can get a matrix that can be used to audit the overall effectiveness of an HR department.
The stages of HR departments
What is the reputation of the HR department?
We are known for compliance, getting things done, delivering as promised. We are efficient and task oriented, and measure effectiveness by completing transactional items.
We are known for functional excellence and innovative ideas in HR areas around people, performance, information, and work.
HR functional excellence
We are known for linking our HR work with business strategy; we make strategy happen. We understand strategy and provide data that drive business results.
We are known for our knowledge of the business context including general business trends and external stakeholders (customers and investors). We can show how HR practices impact external value; we increase customer share, investor intangibles, and community reputation.
HR outside in
Definition of success
What are the criteria (settings) that shape HR work?
We are successful through efficient delivery of HR practices; we make things happen; our customers are employees and first line managers.
We are successful because of HR innovation; we focus on best in class, expert-based solutions: our customers are HR forums where we have great respect.
We are successful because we help make strategy happen; we focus on strategy time frame; our customers are senior leaders working on strategy.
We are successful by responding to conditions; we focus on the future; our customers are business customers and investors to influence business leaders.
What is the mission or strategy of the HR department focused on capabilities?
Who we are: We provide essential, foundational, and timely HR services focused on the terms and conditions of work.
What we deliver: We deliver HR foundational services efficiently, with a strong focus on compliance and employee relations.
Why we exist: to do the basics well.
Who we are: We are proactive in providing best in class HR practices. We optimize HR.
What we deliver: We design innovative HR practices related to people, performance, information, and work.
Why we exist: To innovate our HR practices to drive the HR strategy.
Who we are: We are strategic thinkers, strongly versed in business acumen and HR solutions. We serve line managers by understanding the critical capabilities the business needs and we prioritize our work based upon those needs.
What we deliver: We provide connection of HR practices to business success through strategic HR.
Why we exist: To partner with the business and provide strategic business solutions.
Who we are: We help meet business needs by having a thorough understanding of current capabilities, external trends, and external stakeholder needs. We contribute to the knowledge of what is coming next and how to prepare for the future, helping make sure that our HR work responds to external business conditions and links to customers and investors.
What we deliver: We deliver the talent, leadership, and culture to increase customer share, investor confidence, and community reputation.
Why we exist: To add business value, that impacts external stakeholders.
HR Design: process, roles, and structure
How is the HR department organised?
We do foundational HR work efficiently through technology and service centers.
HR headcount is determined by cost to employee ratios.
We are organized with a focus on cost efficiency and standard delivery of products and services.
HR is an efficient organisation
We have clear roles and responsibilities for who does what HR work. HR headcount is determined by cost plus impact of HR programs to employee ratios.
We are organized with a focus on cost efficiency and standard delivery of products and services. We eliminate redundancy by centralizing all specialized work and drive one-size-fits-all throughout the organization.
HR offers services
We match the HR structure to the business structure, we understand the difference between strategic and essential work and make structure choices accordingly. HR headcount is determined by complexity of work.
Our design is driven by how we best respond to business needs. We embed specialized roles where needed. Our line of sight is with the business where customization creates business value. Our structure creates line of sight for standardization where needed and structure reinforces the key touch points and relationships that optimize the business.
HR aligns to business
Centers of expertise design solutions related to external stakeholders;
we build positive relationships among the HR community.
HR headcount is determined by scope of impact.
The design logic is that for most companies, HR services represent a platform of resources that enable businesses to reach their goals. This makes HR an eco system designed to meet each business’ market opportunitiy.
HR is a market-oriented ecosystem
HR and organization capability
How does HR facilitate the definition and creation of the right organization for the business?
We help make sure that roles and responsibilities in the organization are clear.
Organization is structure.
HR reengineers or redesigns structure (boxes).
We work to do organisation design by integrating HR systems.
Organization is a system.
HR does a systems audit.
We use a model for organization design (STAR, 7S, alignment) that connects to strategy.
Organization is alignment.
HR does an alignment audit.
We define the organization as a set of dynamic capabilities that define what the organization is known for and good at doing.
Organization as capability.
HR does a capability audit.
How do we make better HR investments and choices?
We have HR metrics focused on a scorecard or dashboard that tracks how we are doing. Most often measurements focus on past indicators.
Cost of HR is the main focus
We have HR metrics to gain insight about people and organization. We use big data to see trends.
Metrics are based upon big data and insights we draw.
We have HR metrics focused on HR interventions that help deliver strategy. We also focus on predictive analytics to gain insights on the future.
We seek HR data that will have impact on forming and on delivering business strategy.
Metrics are based on the business scorecard. The HR scorecard is the business scorecard.
How do we create HR practices?
We have individual HR practices in people, performance, information, and work. We have HR systems in place.
We are best in class and next in class on innovative HR practices with top HR experts taking the lead in creating them.
We have integrated solutions that match business strategy with business leaders involved in creating them.
We offer integrated solutions tailored to customer and investor expectations who are involved in creating them.
What do HR professionals need to be, know, and do to be effective?
Our HR team needs to be great at administration. They need to understand process and legalities of talent operations.
Our HR team needs to have deep expertise in their respective disciplines. They should have advanced degrees and years of experience in their focus area.
Our HR team needs to know and understand the business, how we make money, who we serve, how we differentiate in the market, the industry and how the work of HR supports the outcomes of the business.
Our HR team needs to understand the full context, the market, stakeholders, strategy and capabilities in order to leverage HR work to drive better outcomes from the organization in service of the customer.
Credible activists and strategic positioners
HR Work Style
How does HR go about doing its work?
HR work and people focus on getting things done, on time and within budget; HR has good systems and technology. HR people are credible and reliable.
HR focuses on technical expertise that offer unique insights. HR people have or can access deep expertise. HR people work well within HR.
HR architects business solutions through collaborative relationships with finance, marketing, and information
HR anticipates business challenges and proposes solutions by figuring out what is next. HR people understand and have relationships with outside stakeholders.
These 9 domains represent the criteria for an effective overall HR department.
Review the 9 domains by the 4 stages of HR departments in Figure 1 and assess where your HR department is today. Use a scale from one to ten, with one being “low” and ten being “high”, to assess your HR department in each domain and stage.
The challenge is that you can’t do everything well, so if you’ve already addressed the low hanging fruit, think about what do you can decide to stop doing. You may be doing work in HR that the business loves you for that isn’t in line with where the business is going.
How do you manage that? It’s about being aggressive with priorities. You need to take one or two items and get real clear. Take the nine domains and focus on the one or two. You get in trouble when you try and do all things equally.
*These nine criteria for an effective HR department build upon and extend the RBL Group’s empirical research and books in a number of areas, such as: RBL’s 13 milestones of HR transformation (HR Transformation), the research results from round 7 of the HR Competency Study (HRCS), research from “Leadership Brand,” RBL’s organization capability audit tool, RBL’s four practices of an HR department, RBL’s work on HR value creation and “HR from the Outside In,” and HR department questions from the book, “Victory through Organization.”
In her latest opinion piece, Fay Calderone highlights a recent Fair Work Commission case that seems to signal the Commission’s growing support for #TimesUp.
Last month I wrote that public support for the #TimesUp movement against sexual harassment has been echoed by employers, business leaders and slowly but surely, by our courts.
A recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision suggests the pace may be accelerating. It seems in a recent case the FWC has been more forgiving of proceduaral deficiencies than it has before, perhaps in favour of the greater good of creating healthy and respectful workplaces (my words, not FWC’s).
I’m not for a moment suggesting we dispense with proper investigations, procedural fairness and appropriate disciplinary procedures. There have been countless decisions where such deficiencies resulted in the FWC finding an otherwise valid reason for termination on substantive grounds to instead be harsh, unjust or unreasonable. This leads to hesitation by employers to act on conduct issues, including sexual harassment. This can create greater risks, perpetuate dysfunction and increase costs arising from the revolving door.
The decision in Carmelo Sapienza v Cash in Transit Pty Ltd T/A Secure Cash provides some reassurance to employers taking a zero tolerance position on sexual harrassment.
Mr Sapienza was a banking courier when his employment was terminated with immediate effect due to inappropriate behaviour in dealing with clients. Three complaints were referenced in the termination letter, the most serious of which referred to Mr Sapienza acting unprofessionally and making young female employees of a client (ICE Design, a ladies clothing shop) feel very uncomfortable by allegedly:
saying words to the effect of: “When will you be leaving your boyfriend so we can run away together?”;
telling them they were good looking;
asking an 18 year old employee for her telephone number, and saying he had dated girls of her age;
telling the staff they had missed his birthday and asking “Where is my kiss?” whilst leaning over the counter and putting his cheek up to the girls’ faces;
getting physically close to female employees and putting his arms around their waists and on their hips; and
Mr Sapienza acknowledged that after getting to know the client’s staff well he did hug the female employees on arriving and leaving the client’s premises, and they hugged him in return. He acknowledged he may have put his arm on the hip of one of the employees but did not recall this event. Mr Sapienza also accepted he may have asked the female employees for a kiss due to his “cheeky” nature and tendency to joke around.
Mr Sapienza’s explanation for this conduct was that, as an Italian, he was used to affection and that he also hugged staff at other client premises. He said he believed the physical encounters were consensual and friendly, and had he thought otherwise, it would have ceased immediately. Mr Sapienza said there was no sexual connotation in his conduct and at all times it was consensual and friendly.
The employer filed a Response Form but, extraordinarily, did not even show up for the hearing. As such there was no cross examination of Mr Sapienza, his evidence was accepted uncontested. It was alleged that due to the nature of the complaints, none of the clients were prepared to identify themselves for fear of retaliation – a suggestion that was vehemently denied by Mr Sapienza. His evidence was accepted on this issue.
Having heard Mr Sapienza’s evidence, FWC Deputy President Bull held:
“I find that the admission by Mr Sapienza that he did hug and ask for a kiss from women as young as 18 years was sufficient to substantiate that the respondent had a valid reason for the applicant’s termination of employment. Despite Mr Sapienza’s explanation that his conduct was due to his Italian heritage and being of an affectionate nature, the actions were improper, unprofessional and naive, to say the least.”
It was accepted Mr Sapienza was not provided with an opportunity to respond to the reasons for the termination clearly documented in the termination letters, and that he was summarily terminated without even a verbal conversation with his employer. As such, whilst the employer had little if any human resource management expertise, it was found the process was seriously lacking in procedural fairness.
Nevertheless and quite bullishly by the FWC’s standards (pun intended), it was held that in view of Mr Sapienza’s admissions in respect to his physical contact with young female staff of a client, that the summary dismissal was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable noting:
“This conclusion is reached having regard to the considerable age difference between Mr Sapienza and the female employees. The explanation provided by Mr Sapienza of showing affection due to his Italian heritage falls short of justification for such behaviour towards otherwise unrelated persons. This is a complete and distinct difference from how one may conduct themselves with physical familiarity towards friends or in a family environment. If Mr Sapienza did not know or appreciate that it is inappropriate asking 18 year old females for a kiss and indulging in the practice of hugging as a greeting or goodbye, which may not be reciprocated willingly by much younger persons, he ought to.”
No doubt the news will spread to others, who ought to know as well.
Whilst this case provides encouragement for employers in dealing with sexual harassers, each case will turn on its facts and employers are cautioned to remain vigilant in the conduct of investigations, disciplinary procedures and in properly defending matters before the FWC. It does however provide yet another reminder that #TimesUp and the FWC is echoing the sentiment, quite surely in this case.
This content is general commentary and opinion of the writer provided for information and interest only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and it does not constitute and must not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers should obtain specific advice relating to their particular circumstances
In certain industries, safety innovations and good equipment can lead to higher levels of output and job satisfaction.
It goes without saying that one of the major traits of a forward-thinking company is the way in which it puts new technology to good use. This is especially handy in fields that involve plenty of heavy lifting, such as manufacturing, construction, warehousing and so on.
But workplace innovation doesn’t only deal with technology. In fact, applying new and interesting techniques of employee management is just as important as providing them with all the tools necessary to make their tasks easier to complete.
The results of innovative workplaces
Research shows that implementing novelty approaches in the workplace not only improves perceived productivity levels among employees, but it’s also beneficial to their general health. This is especially important in the aforementioned fields, which are some of the most hazardous ones in the industry.
The ideal firm of the future needs to be ingenious in terms of workplace safety. This involves both material aspects, such as having modern gear and equipment, but also an increase in morale, which in turn leads to better results overall.
There are three ways that innovation is changing workers’ productivity and comfort:
1. Better gear and equipment
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, gear and equipment failures among workers are two of the main causes of on-site injuries. It’s stipulated by law that an employer is obligated to always ensure their security, but sadly that doesn’t always happen due to lack of interest.
Still, something as simple as implementing new technologies in this area helps tremendously. For example, having the best work boots available on the market means that the particular individuals wearing them will not only be more protected, but they will also be able to withstand longer hours and experience less fatigue.
Similarly, modern models of gear and vehicles such as forklifts, cranes, trucks, and others function immensely better than their outdated companions. This lowers the risk of malfunctions occurring on site, which means the physical and psychological integrity of employees is better preserved.
2. Higher quality work
By providing employees with the best safety and field-specific equipment possible, you will ensure that they feel secure and respected on the job, which leads to higher motivation levels. When they feel like you care about all the hard work they are putting in, they will act accordingly and deliver higher quality results.
This is especially important in construction, as well as other similar fields because it reduces delivery time tremendously and ensures that the end product is sturdier and more reliable. Most people in your firm have the potential to be valuable assets to your company, but you need to put in some effort to bring that out as well.
3. Positive mindset
Studies have demonstrated that happy employees are 12% more productive on any given day. By providing them with conditions that are on par with the latest standards and regulations, as well as equipping them with state of the art machinery to make their job easier, you will ensure that they feel satisfied with their activity.
On top of that, a few content employees can create an atmosphere of positivity on site, which means that their co-workers will be more motivated to do their jobs right as well.
Innovation in the workplace involves everything, from using the newest available technologies in your field to making sure that management approaches are updated and catered to the needs of your staff. The most important outcome to all of this is that they will feel safe, happy and respected while on the job.
Positive feedback will soon come, and so will high-quality products. Productive employees are the building blocks of a successful company, which is why you need to do your best to ensure that is the case.
Vincent West has an educational background in Engineering Design and a personal interest in all things construction and workforce related.
A review of the changes to skilled migration visas, and what this means for employers.
Last April, the Prime Minister announced that the 457 visa would be replaced by a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018. That date is fast approaching.
According to November 2016 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of the 1.7 million recent migrants and temporary residents in Australia, 65 per cent are employed – that’s roughly one million people.
On these figures, employment of migrants by Australian organisations involves a great many employers and a bewildering amount of regulation. A lot of that happened through the 457 visa system.
Occupations being cut
Since the PM’s announcement, more than 200 occupations have been cut from the various lists of occupations from which employers can select migrant workers.
The remaining occupations have been divided into a Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and a Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).
Other changes include caveats and requirements imposed on certain occupations relating to things such as salary, work experience and location.
In addition, the English language exemption for workers in Australian companies with salaries over $96,400 has been removed, police clearance certificates are now mandatory, and the Department of Home Affairs (formerly Immigration) has committed to ‘naming and shaming’ employer sponsors who breach their obligations.
Some features of the new TSS visa are set out in this table.
TSS (STSOL occupations)
TSS (MLTSSL occupations)
Work experience required
None, other than occupation-specific requirements
2 years + occupation-specific requirements
2 years + occupation-specific requirements
Labour market testing (e.g. job advertising)
Only for certain occupations
All occupations, subject to international obligations
All occupations, subject to international obligations
Non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers
Applies (unclear how this will be implemented)
Applies (unclear how this will be implemented)
Expenditure equivalent to 1 or 2% of payroll
Contribution of $1200-$1800 a year per worker to Skilling Australians Fund
Contribution of $1200-$1800 a year per worker to Skilling Australians Fund
Up to 4 years
Up to 2 years
Up to 4 years
One onshore renewal permitted for up to an additional 2 years
Equivalent of IELTS 5 overall, with a minimum of 4.5 in each test component
Equivalent of IELTS 5 overall, with a minimum of 4.5 in each test component
Equivalent of IELTS 5 overall, with a minimum of 5 in each test component
Permanent Residency (PR)
Transitional pathway to PR after 2 years
Transitional pathway to PR after 3 years
No transitional pathway to PR
What do employers need to know?
Potential employer impacts of the proposed changes from next month include a reduced pool of talent from which to choose, with fewer eligible occupations and other factors that could make it harder to sponsor staff. In addition, for occupations on the short-term skilled occupations list (STSOL), potential recruits might think twice before relocating their families to a country with no clear pathway to a permanent visa.
With Home Affairs announcing an intention to publish the names of sponsors who fall short of their obligations, companies that fail to comply risk a negative impact on reputation that could be very damaging.
On the other hand, the proposed changes also come with unexpected benefits for employers. For example, for those occupations on the medium to long-term strategic sills list (MLTSSL), recruits will need to remain with the same employer for a minimum of approximately 4 years (taking into account processing times) if they wish to transition to permanent residency. This may be a welcome change for employers in high turnover industries, such as hospitality, where substantial savings can be made in terms of the time and cost associated with recruiting and training new staff.
What can I do?
Given that the new regulations are fast approaching, HR practitioners who deal with recruitment can do three things.
The first is to prepare by ensuring you understand your obligations, and that your compliance systems and records reflect that understanding.
The second is to consider alternative options. For example, where an occupation is not eligible for a TSS visa, ask yourself these questions:
Are there any other eligible occupations that might legitimately fit?
Would a 407 Training Visa work?
Would a 417 Working Holiday Visa or a 462 Work & Holiday Visa be useful, noting that they only last six months with a single employer?
Is a 500 student visa a possibility, mindful that it only allows part-time employment?
Where an occupation is not on the MLTSSL, some alternative options for permanent residency include the following:
Are there any eligible occupations that might legitimately fit?
Are 186/187 Direct Entry stream visas eligible? (but only before March 2018)
Are you in an industry that might permit a Labour Agreement?
Are you in a regional area where an 887 visa (via 489) might be appropriate?
A third course of action could be to lobby through AHRI, whose members collectively represent a significant proportion of employer sponsors. The Department of Home Affairs is currently taking submissions, and any comments you would like to make could be used to argue a case.
For example, even though the present window is fast closing, the occupations list will be reviewed every six months. AHRI is open to hearing from you about making submissions for any particular occupations you think should be on either list.
In the immediate term, you might like to post a comment here or respond to this brief AHRI questionnaire to express a view anonymously.
Ariel Brott is Co-Convenor of AHRI’s International HR Management Network committee. J is an Accredited Specialist Immigration Lawyer and leads the practice at Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers firstname.lastname@example.org