Nine steps to prepare for new anti-bullying legislation

Last week SmartCompany editor Cara Waters wrote an article titled, “Massive influx of bullying claims expected under new laws”.

I think a more apt headline may be, “be alert, not alarmed”.

Like all business risks, directors and business owners need to take the lead on this. Directors are responsible under the Corporations Act 2001 for:

  • Care and diligence – to act with the degree of care and diligence that a reasonable person might be expected to show in the role
  • Good faith – to act in good faith in the best interests of the company and for a proper purpose
  • Improper use of position – to not improperly use their position to gain an advantage for themselves or someone else or to the detriment to the company
  • Improper use of information – to not improperly use the information they gain in the course of their director duties to gain an advantage

If we are acting properly with care and diligence – all should be okay. I know as a director that I must ensure beyond doubt I have personally done everything I can to ensure that my team are safe at work (complying with Occupational Health and Safety director obligations). The new bullying legislation will provide the same onus on directors.

As leaders, doing a few simple things in preparation will keep our people safe, our brand safe and reduce the likelihood of claims.

Stuff happens in business – and we are dealing with people’s many and varied personalities.

At RedBalloon we love being ‘famous’ for being a great work place. I believe one of the reasons we have achieved this is because we have shared values. This goes a long way to creating mutual respect in the workplace.

As a leadership team we are committed to people coming to work every day able to do their best work. Despite this RedBalloon is at risk as much as any other business.

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So what happens if a bullying claim is made at RedBalloon?

First of all, we don’t panic – we have done the preparation. Directors are trained. The CEO goes straight to our policy, and follows it.

There is no need worry if you stay vigilant– and acknowledge this can happen in ANY business at ANY time.

  1. Do you have a strategy, policy, or process documented?
  2. Are potential areas of concern identified? (E.g. we have a policy about providing alcohol at work functions – because risky situations can also occur when coworkers are at work functions.)
  3. Are the leadership team and the directors informed, educated and committed to the process?
  4. Are the policies and processes shared with all leaders?
  5. Do employees know what to do if they have a grievance?
  6. Is there an independent ‘hot line’ employees can call (if they feel that they are unable to speak to someone internally – including HR)
  7. At what point is an issue escalated to either an internal or independent investigation?
  8. Is the employee kept informed and made to feel safe at all times?
  9. Are disciplinary actions taken quickly and effectively if required?

Here’s the good news: like so many HR practices there are experts who work in this area, who assist in designing policies, identifying risk areas, hotline and investigations services.

(Make sure they are licensed investigators – cases have been thrown out of court because the investigators were not licensed to conduct them).

Much of what I learned came from the research and work Risk to Business does.

Take the Workplace Risk Audit – see how your business fairs – maybe you are already on the right track.

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi Simson has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.

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