Employers that don’t assess the risks their company culture places on their employees are flirting with a lawsuit, says a leading workplace injury lawyer.
The warning comes after 2DayFM radio DJ Mel Greig yesterday filed a Fair Work Commission claim against her employer, saying 2DayFM’s owner, Southern Cross Austereo, failed to provide a safe working environment.
Greig, who has not returned to the airwaves since December, was one of two on-air hosts involved in the now infamous royal hospital hoax prank linked to the suicide of a British nurse who placed a call from Greig and her then co-host Michael Christian.
Anthony Carbone, the managing partner of Nowicki Carbone personal injury lawyers, says small businesses should seek expert advice about the risks their work culture, practices and policies pose to their staff.
“It’s a risk management issue,” he told SmartCompany this morning. “The allegations about 2DayFM, and its parent company, is that they not only condoned these pranks but encouraged them. When you take a step back and look at it objectively, it’s very poor behaviour.
“With the nurse, they couldn’t have known that she was suicidal. But you can foresee that if someone did commit suicide, the person who carried out the prank would suffer a psychiatric injury.
“The key to the whole general protections law is that you’ve got to foster the right culture,” Carbone says. “They really need to do a risk assessment of what they’re doing.”
Margaret Harrison, the managing director of Our HR Company, says that poor corporate cultures tend to cause unsafe workplaces.
“If there’s a culture of trust, and a culture of people feeling comfortable saying things, then it’s a brilliant culture,” she says.
“Where people are slightly afraid, and the economy isn’t good, people shut up and don’t say anything, so unsafe cultures flourish. Unfortunately, the unsafe cultures flourish much faster than good cultures.
“Workplace culture plays a large role in people feeling comfortable, and that they don’t have to slot into the idiotic behaviour some workplaces have.
“And the thing is some industries, particularly the media, can be quite blokey. Women often don’t feel entirely comfortable in such cultures. That’s why Greig, and her lawyers, have an opportunity here, to say this is a workplace that’s not great for women to be in, and the manager hasn’t done anything about it. That could prompt some good change.”
For support and information about suicide prevention, contact Lifeline on 131114.