In light of the recent controversy surrounding allegations of sexual assault occurring in Parliament, organisations need to consider whether they are addressing systemic issues of sexual misconduct.
There has been a notable spike in the media recently with coverage of sexual misconduct allegations surfacing. In response to the allegations of sexual assault by a former staffer, Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched five inquiries covering various concerns. The underlying theme to the inquiries collectively is one of positive and safe workplace culture. The first and third inquiries aim “to identify ways that standards and expectations and practices can be further improved” to bring Parliament on par with other institutions. Workplace culture is of significant importance to ensure employees feel comfortable coming forward to voice issues and to prevent unsafe workplace environments.
These allegations are not the only examples of a high-profile institution failing to deal effectively with issues of sexual misconduct. In the past year we have seen the High Court deal with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by former Justice Dyson Heydon. A key takeaway from these recent issues being aired in public view is that even our highest institutions are not immune to issues of sexual misconduct.
Where it may have once been possible to conceal or cover up any allegations put forward, access to information has never been as efficient as it is today, proving more difficult to conceal or withhold employee concerns.
From a people management point of view, the major impact that this has on organisations and employers is one of ensuring that not only are their legal duties regarding work health and safety discharged, but that they meet their responsibility to create a culture which prevents these types of behaviours from occurring in the first place. It is crucial to develop and foster positive workplace cultures, as well as ensuring mature processes are in place for dealing with concerns brought forward by employees.
Challenges for organisations
The Government's response to these allegations indicate that prior policies were either ineffective or outdated. It is an obligation under Work Health and Safety for institutions to ensure, so far as reasonably practical, there is a safe environment for employees. Without the right reporting or policy framework, institutions run the reputational risk of being caught out when employee issues surface. Organisations and companies should regularly review their practice policies in place to keep in line with expectations.
Similarly, it is critical to have adequate policies and procedures in place to handle employee concerns. Support systems should also be put in place to encourage employees to come forward with information. If individuals feel comfortable in coming forward, it is less likely for issues to be “buried”, leaving organisations blissfully unaware of problems occurring. It is also helpful to have the issue referred away from the organisation and dealt with away from the workplace, hindering the chance of creating unpleasant culture in the workplace while matters are dealt with or investigated. This provides an opportunity for organisations and employers not only to review their policies, but also to examine the cultures they are developing.
PCS can provide services to assist with workplace culture, such as culture audits and policy reviews. By way of example, a culture audit will equip you with a comprehensive diagnostic on the current culture of your organisation or company, with recommendations provided on how to resolve any gaps. Regularly updating procedures through policy reviews ensure your organisation or company has policies that represent and work for you. PCS will leave you well-equipped and confident that your procedures and policies generate a positive and safe workplace culture.
- Organisations and companies need to have robust policies and procedures in place to address sexual misconduct.
- Understanding and implementing the PCS people management quadrants will provide the advantage of adopting a holistic approach to any challenges relating to people management that a
- PCS can provide assistance with developing, assessing and refining workplace culture through services such as culture audits and policy reviews.
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