What a risk assessment involves

What a risk assessment involves

Risk assessment

 Risk assessment: A procedure that is necessary for every workplace as there are myriad risks related to running a business. There are threats and opportunities within the market. Owners know that regardless of the type or size of their business, they will have to face risks. Sole traders, partnerships, small, medium or large companies – all of these businesses will struggle with uncertainty.

 Individuals should seek to understand the extent of the risks and try to minimise it. Becoming aware of the possibilities that could pose danger is crucial for the long-term success of the business and its stakeholders. Setting goals before conducting a risk assessment is also beneficial as it helps in keeping the procedure more organised. 

What is a risk assessment?

 A risk assessment identifies and assesses the hazards that could negatively affect the ability of a business to run effectively. Some risks could be small and have a small impact on an organisation while others could be significant and cause serious problems within a business. While the risk assessment will not be able to minimise all of the risks it can assist in developing strategies to address the most important ones. This will help the business run safely and with fewer costs. 

 

A risk assessment will outline:

  • Which department/area of the business is impacted
  • What the source or cause of the risk is
  • What strategies will be needed to minimise the risks

 The business will need to allocate resources to the risk assessment and its strategies to decrease the effect of risks in its operations. This will ensure that greater damage is avoided.

 

Identifying the risks

 Every business needs to be proactive with regard to risk identification so it can be prepared to avoid current and future dangers. An establishment can be exposed to risk in more than one area, which includes the internal and external work environment. Stakeholders might be consulted to help with identifying potential risks and assisting in their analysis. 

Some types of risk include:

Compliance 

 Owners need to be aware of any laws and regulations that are relevant to their business. Law is constantly evolving; new laws are being made and old legislation is being updated or becoming obsolete. A business needs to keep track of those changes to make sure it is complying and adapting to the changing legal environment. Failure to do so could result in a hefty fine, which was the case for USAA

Security and fraud 

 Data breaches and cyberattacks are common today due to advances in technology and how much of our operations have moved online. When customers share their data with a business, they expect that it will be protected and stored safely. Fraud is also an important risk as it can occur from an internal or external source.

Financial risk

 Market changes, currency fluctuations and rates increasing are all associated with the finances of a business. To avoid losses, the owners should always assess the economy and manage their investments effectively so revenue and asset losses do not occur. They should also keep track of debt to ensure that there is enough business cash flow to support further borrowing. 

 

Risk analysis

 Owners should analyse how the risks are affecting the business. They need to evaluate which assets are impacted, how big the impact is or how big the impact could be in the future. They need to find the source of the danger and how it could pose harm to their business. Moreover, they need to decide which risks they need to focus on. There might be various threats within an organisation, but identifying the one that is more likely to materialise and influence business activities is a crucial decision. 

 Depending on the type of risks that have been identified, the business can choose to look at different documents during its analysis. These consist of cash flow statements, legal acts or data policies. A strong analysis will help in taking action toward mitigating current and future risks. There are types of risk analyses, such as quantitative or qualitative, but it will be different for every organisation based on the kind of business they are conducting and the risks that have been identified.  

 With every risk analysis, there is a margin of error which could mean that the effect of a threat has not been correctly predicted or calculated. This is why the analysis needs to be extensive and thorough. 

Polonious Risk assessment

Control measures

 Risk control measures refer to tools and actions aimed at preventing or minimising risks. These measures are designed to address the findings of the risk identification and analysis and present a fitting solution to the problem. There are many types of control measures with the most common being training, new equipment, rules and procedures. Depending on the nature of the risk, if it is tangible or intangible, the owners need to consider which control measures are the most effective for their business. 

Some risk assessments might follow a hierarchy of steps:

-Elimination

-Substitution

-Engineering controls

-Administrative controls

-PPE (Personal protective equipment)

Elimination focuses on completely removing the risk from the workplace. This approach is always the most preferred because it offers the most protection.

 Substitution is the next step when elimination does not work or is not applicable. It tries to replace the risk by implementing a safer alternative. However, it is not always as effective as elimination. An example of substitution involves replacing cleaning solutions so employees will not be exposed to toxic chemicals. 

Engineering controls refer to the redesign of risks, such as implementing new software for increased safety, to reduce or remove a risk. 

 Administrative controls involve the provision of training, developing guidelines and setting employee assignments. Those can be designed to make employees familiar with SafeWork practices and how their desks should be set up to benefit them and avoid injuries. 

 PPE (Personal protective equipment) is the last step of the hierarchy. It requires employees to use or wear protective equipment to keep themselves safe. This can include face masks, high visibility clothing and protective gloves. 

Review of control measures

 Undertaking a risk assessment is an action that owners should commit to depending on the needs of their businesses. Control measures also need to be reviewed and updated if the risk is changing or if the measures are deemed ineffective. Over time the chance of a risk materialising might increase and have a higher impact on the business. Control measures will need to change to cover the different likelihoods and impacts and protect the establishment. 

Conclusion

 A risk assessment is essential to avoid injury, unnecessary costs and protect employees. There are many steps involved in a risk assessment and employers need to make sure that they address each step and are prepared and organised. The assessment could be expensive, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages that may incur even higher future costs.

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Credibility: How to determine credibility through interview questions

Credibility: How to determine credibility through interview questions

Credibility

Credibility can be determined by the investigator through interview questions, so they need to be strategic and carefully designed to help the interviewer understand the witness. Workplace investigations can sometimes lead to a ‘he said, she said’ situation; and if there is not enough or any physical evidence, it can be difficult to decide who is telling the truth. Interview questions need to be prepared in a manner that allows witnesses to share information and establish whether they are sincere. The investigator can use the interview questions to assess other factors related to a witness’s credibility such as their demeanour and motive. 

Open-ended questions to establish credibility

The examination should encourage long and detailed answers. The interviewer should refrain from asking yes or no questions to confirm a fact. They should allow each witness to give their own version of events and then cross-examine the various accounts to evaluate fiction from facts. They should avoid questions that are already indicating an answer or are obviously false. For example, ‘The equipment was misplaced wasn’t it?’  does not give as much room for an explanation as ‘Could you tell me what exactly happened with the equipment?’.

The first question indicates that there are two possible answers: Either the equipment was misplaced or it was not. It gives the witness a narrow space for an answer while the second question encourages them to speak about any detail that they think is related to the incident. It does not restrict them to a true or false mindset. This strategy promotes lengthier responses that give the investigator a better idea of what may have happened or how reliable the testimony is.

Questions to establish a motive

By asking questions about the witness’s actions before, during and after the incident the investigator can get a better idea of whether or not there is any motive or bias. To determine credibility, the interviewer needs to ask themselves: Is there any reason for the witness to lie? Are they covering someone or something? Are they leaving out important information? They can figure out the answers to those questions by asking questions such as ‘What did you do after you observed the incident?’. They do not need to hint at any particular action. 

The interviewer could also examine if the witness has a history of lying or any negative views of the people involved that could motivate them to alter their story. However, they should not rely on their history; they can use it towards the end if they have strong reasons to think someone is being untruthful, but not from the beginning of the investigation. Identifying whether or not the witness can benefit from an outcome that is favourable to them is more important. 

Demeanour can determine credibility

By asking questions that help build a logical order of events, the investigator can determine if the witness contradicts themselves. Asking the witness to revisit a certain part of the event can highlight if they are changing their story and their demeanour when trying to remember previous occurrences. Do they seem well-prepared? Are they nervous or scared? While the main focus should not be on the demeanour, checking their facial expressions and body language when confirming past statements or giving new ones can help. 

If the witness is denying that an event happened then questions such as ‘’Why do you think they would allege that it happened?’’ ‘’Is there a reason why they would say this specific incident occurred?’’. It is helpful to look at how they are trying to deny the occurrence; if they are being deceptive or sincere, if they are giving relevant facts or irrelevant information. Denial of events that occurred and are supported by evidence can damage their credibility. 

Interview questions to determine credibility-Cross-examiantion

Cross-examination

 Questions should be formed to address cross-examination. All parties involved should answer “What did the parties involved do during the incident?” and “How or why did the incident occur?’’ along with other questions that allow the investigator to compare responses. This will allow them to figure out which information is accurate and which person recalls a different series of events. 

 By asking questions that require the date, time and place of the event the interviewer can understand whether the person sitting across from them observed the event or if they are telling a story they heard from someone else. This will support the investigator in making the interview process less complicated and ensure that there is progress towards finding the truth. It is a great strategy to ask questions that cover a variety of topics within one incident.

 Considering how each party recalled information can also be a good indication of their credibility. Were they second-guessing themselves? Were they giving estimations or seemed unsure? Every observation is important even if it plays a small part in determining who is a reliable witness, it can contribute to the process and make it easier. Accurate and clear answers are better than emotion-based and uncertainty filled ones. 

 For example, “Anna was walking very fast when she slipped on the water and fell near the front door of the meeting room” is better than “I don’t think Anna was focused enough to see the water as she is very clumsy so she fell around the front area of the meeting room. I felt bad for her because it happened in front of everyone”. The first one is concise and clear while the second one includes some bias and irrelevant information. This is why questions should be worded in a way that encourages the interviewee to give their own version of events. 

Conclusion

  It is important to note that credibility can be hard to establish when bias is involved. Investigators may be tempted to look at past records from employees but this can further reinforce bias in the investigation. It could be that an individual who tends to lie is in this instance telling the truth. Conducting an extensive interview process with well-written questions is critical in establishing how plausible the answers received are. 

 Finally, coming to the conclusion that a witness is not credible does not necessarily mean they tried to lie or hide information. It might be that their recollection of an incident is not accurate or they did not observe it as closely or their ability to recall events is lacking.

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Why is a code of conduct important for your business?

Why is a code of conduct important for your business?

code of conduct

 Code of conduct refers to the guide that outlines a business’s vision, rules, values and ethical principles. It is essential to have a code of conduct within an organisation and to require employees to familiarise themselves with it. This is because a code of conduct clearly and explicitly highlights what is expected of employees in regards to their behaviour inside and outside of the company. It acts as a benchmark for employee performance and actions.

 The code of conduct should be written in a simple manner so it is comprehensible by every individual and it is easy to read. It needs to be part of the employees’ handbook as it covers every department within a business and it establishes a mutual understanding of what the company’s mission is.

What is included in a code of conduct?

 It can cover intellectual behaviour, interactions between colleagues as well as interactions between employees and competitors, workplace misconduct and disciplinary action. It can also cover the dress code to ensure that employees do not dress differently: for example, whether to wear casual or formal attire. The code of conduct can also include the expected attendance of employees and use of equipment and technology as well as confidentiality requirements. It should highlight how the company handles bullying and harassment along with discrimination. These make up only a small part of what is included. 

Why is a code of conduct important?

 Every company is different. It has its own beliefs, values and culture. Every employee is different, they come from different work backgrounds, companies and have developed their own set of behaviours. A code of conduct helps keep all individuals within an organisation to the same standard. The rules within it are to be followed by everyone within the business regardless of their differences.

 By outlining what is unethical and what misconduct is, employees are less likely to breach the code of conduct. They know what counts as inappropriate behaviour and avoid it, reducing workplace conflict as a result. This assists employees with their careers as it keeps their history clear of problems and helps them advance within the company and externally. Employees learn to avoid behaviours such as breach of confidentiality and disrespect of co-workers as they know it goes against the company’s values. 

 The code of conduct highlights the structure of the business and the roles and responsibilities of each member. This assists employees in knowing how to avoid issues with their team. When they familiarise themselves with the code of conduct they can better communicate with their colleagues as there is expected behaviour from both parties. This also builds loyalty towards the organisation as a lack of issues with co-workers leads to a healthier work environment. It also benefits the company in terms of productivity. 

 A good code of conduct helps protect the business from a reputational point of view as well. As it sets out the standards for interaction between employees and clients, stakeholders and competitors, society forms a positive opinion of the company. Respectful and ethical behaviour of employees reflects on the company and encourages it to be seen as ethical and respectful as well. It avoids negative publicity and improves the reputation of the business.

Code of conduct

Consequences of poor code of conduct

 For a code of conduct to be effective, it needs to be written correctly. If the code of conduct is lacking in one area, it could cause scandals and problems. Vague language could lead to the wrong interpretation of a rule or right and create a negative perception of the organisation. It could make the employees feel needlessly restricted in what they can and cannot do or say and make them feel trapped. 

 It is crucial to remember that even though a code of conduct exists it does not mean that every employee will follow it. This is why disciplinary action should be outlined in the case of a code of conduct violation or misconduct. It will act as an example that anyone who behaves in an inappropriate manner and goes against the company’s values will receive a warning or corrective action. If the code of conduct is not enforced by the company it suggests to employees that they can do whatever they want without consequences for unethical or disrespectful individuals. 

 If the code does not explicitly state that the rules and principles apply to every individual it can cause lower-level employees to feel unfairly treated. It can make them feel targeted if they have to follow a set of standards higher management chooses to ignore or breach. This creates a feeling of inequality that can cause misunderstandings and low productivity and profits and it creates conflict within the organisation. The code of conduct needs to be written in a way that is inclusive of everyone no matter their standing and the wording of it plays a critical role in avoiding confusion. 

Why is it important to update the code of conduct?

 The code of conduct should be reviewed as often as the business thinks is necessary. During those reviews, it is important to check whether updates are necessary. Society changes constantly and the code of conduct should be changed to reflect those changes and make every employee feel included and heard. It should highlight how the company is moral and progressive and pays attention to ongoing issues. If the company sees that there is a new issue that the code of conduct does not cover then it should be updated to include the issue and similar problems that may occur in the future. 

 The code of conduct should be updated to include new rights of employees within a business and new plans for disciplinary action. The company should constantly look at its management and adapt it to the new expectations of society. If it deems that its corrective procedures are not morally acceptable by the employees or the community, then that is a good indication that the code of conduct needs to be amended. 

 It is also crucial to receive feedback on the code of conduct from employees. Not only in terms of ethical principles but things like vague statements and readability. It could be that language used by previous CEOs, directors or senior management is not easily understandable by new employees. By receiving suggestions for improvement from employees the company makes them feel included and valued and creates a better work environment for everyone. 

 Overall it is important to remember that a code of conduct needs to be reviewed for the company to maintain a good relationship with its external and internal stakeholders and uphold clear and ethical values. 

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Setting objectives for workplace investigations

Setting objectives for workplace investigations

Objectives for Workplace Investigations
 Workplace investigations are complex and stressful procedures for everyone involved. They can be time-consuming and often emotions further complicate the process. People might be scared of losing their job, unknowingly breaching laws or making false allegations. The workplace consists of diverse people with different perspectives of what is wrong and right, and under pressure, it is normal for HR and managers to make mistakes. How can mistakes be prevented?

What are workplace investigations?

 Workplace investigations examine the breach of law or workplace policies. They deal with allegations of workplace misconduct and conflict that could include harassment and bullying. Allegations can be formal or informal and while some complaints don’t require an investigation, employers have a duty of care towards their employees. This means they need to explore each accusation and take it seriously.

 An investigation aims to collect facts and resolve an issue in a fair process for employees and managers. A judgement will need to be made based on the information that was gathered. As mentioned above, investigations are complicated so there is little to no certainty that everyone will be happy with the result.

Ramifications of inaccurate investigations

 Wrongful conduct is a serious allegation that has a huge impact on workplace culture. Even if an employee has made numerous unsubstantiated complaints, HR and managers need to look into each one and determine whether there is an issue.

 Defects in investigations that show a lack of meaningful action could lead to wrong decisions and unfair outcomes. Employees will be impacted negatively and face unforeseen consequences in their lives. It could affect their job, their income, their mental health and their overall wellbeing as they are being wrongfully accused of something they didn’t commit.

 Incomplete or one-sided investigations could potentially result in unfair dismissals. In 2012 John Ryan was fired from the Department of Human Services for leaking information. The Fair Work commission concluded that the reasons for firing him were appropriate but the dismissal was unfair. This was because the investigation that took place prior to the dismissal was very short and vague. A more thorough investigation should have been conducted to ensure that all evidence and facts were taken into consideration. The Department of Human Services had to compensate John Ryan for not reviewing all the information.

Objectives for investigations

 Preparation and planning are crucial for a comprehensive and fair investigation. It is clear that investigations are complex processes that require a number of steps and could have unwanted consequences. Setting objectives allows HR to have a logical plan of action and make knowledgeable decisions. It also ensures that the process is faster and the correct resolution is reached.

These objectives include:

  •         Being aware of all relevant parties
  •         Identify the issues and relevant evidence
  •         Having the correct attitude and being objective
  •         Has company policy or the law been violated?
  •         Taking meaningful actions towards resolution

Each of these objectives relies on a responsive investigator who is aware of employees and employers’ rights.

Being aware of all the parties of all relevant parties

 Knowing everyone involved in the incident is very helpful for a smooth interview process. In most cases those are:

  •         The party making the complaint/allegation
  •         The party being accused
  •         Managers and HR
  •         Supervisors
  •         Any witnesses that could confirm the validity of the allegations

 The investigator needs to know the position each person holds in the workplace and in the incident. It will assist them in understanding why they are being questioned and then explain the purpose to those being interviewed. The investigator could be internal or external depending on the business’s decision.

 Discussions need to be confidential for many reasons. The person making the complaint might not feel comfortable being identifiable and information about the issue leaking into the workplace environment could affect the productivity of other employees. Information collected should be confidential and kept within those involved. Failure to do so could result in the reputation of the accused and the accuser being damaged. However, employees might need to be notified so they can provide more evidence if needed. In that case, specific details could be disclosed to staff to ensure a lawful result.

Parties involved in workplace investigations

Identify the issues and relevant evidence

The goal of each interview should be to get a clear understanding of what the underlying problem is. It is not enough to investigate the surface of the dispute. Investigators need to do thorough research and determine what caused the issue to occur. They need to understand why the party being accused made those decisions and how those decisions affected the business and its stakeholders. In the case of John Ryan, the Department of Human Services interviewed only him and no one else, and even though they asked for his psychologist’s report, they didn’t collect any further documentation and made their decision rashly.

 Depending on the conflict, investigators need to be prepared to ask for proof and certain evidence to be provided to support the claims being made. The evidence could vary in nature and could be witnesses, data or any other information relevant to the incident. Evidence is important because it will be used in the resolution process as well. Failure to gather all relevant information could result in an unjust conclusion.

Having the correct attitude and being objective

 The attitude of the investigator will influence the ability of interviewees to provide information in an honest and precise manner. Aggressiveness should be avoided even if the matter is serious. It can make all parties feel attacked and less likely to cooperate. A professional and neutral demeanour is necessary to make employees feel that the purpose of the interview is to gain knowledge rather than accuse them of wrongdoing.

 Sympathy should be shown to all parties and there shouldn’t be any level of bias expressed or assumptions based on past events. If there is any doubt that bias might be present during the investigation then an external investigator could be a good solution. The staff involved should be updated on the progress of the investigation and each report needs to be clear of any judgemental or inflammatory language.

 The investigator needs to be objective and look at the facts rather than the emotions being displayed by the parties. This will avoid ‘He said, she said’ situations and rumours of the investigation being biased towards or undermined by a certain party. Interview notes should be completed before starting the next interview to allow for information to be verified. It will also ensure that all proof is being analysed carefully and evidence isn’t skipped. Personal opinions should not be a factor and for this reason, an investigator shouldn’t be someone with a conflict of interest.

Has company policy or the law been violated?

 Based on the facts gathered, a decision needs to be made on whether the law or the company policy has been breached. Australian legislation governs the laws and regulations in a workplace. Moreover, companies have their own policies that may have been breached. 

Breach of law is criminal and could have consequences outside of the workplace while company policy usually only has ramifications within that specific company. The seriousness of the actions must be determined and the way in which certain actions breach a law or policy must be outlined. For example, discrimination based on gender within a workplace is covered by the Fair Work Act, and actions deemed discriminatory under the act violate the law and could give rise to legal consequences. 

Establishing whether the actions fall under company policy or statutory law is a crucial step in resolving an investigation. It is important to remember that investigations conducted unfairly or without correct procedure could violate statutory and common law, such as an employer’s duty of care towards their employees.

Taking meaningful actions toward resolution

 The resources that the investigator uses during the process should ensure that no shortcuts were taken. This will allow for corrective action to occur in a fair and accurate manner. After all evidence has been collected and all relevant parties should be informed of the outcome of the investigation. The misconduct needs to cease to prevent any future damage. A good investigation report will need to be written to cover everything in the investigation. 

The final report should include

  •         The misconduct
  •         The timeframe in which the misconduct took place
  •         Who were those affected?
  •         How did it affect the workplace?

 The company needs to make decisions on how to deal with the issue and what corrective action is required. The policies of the company might need to be changed to avoid similar situations happening in the future. HR and managers need to be prepared to support those involved in the incident and provide support to those who need it. The support could include counselling or paid leave.  If termination is required, the company needs to show that it reached this decision in a fair and lawful manner.

Conclusion

 The company should agree on the best strategy for conducting the investigation before initiating it as objectives could be hard to change after some form of action has already been taken. Ensuring that employees feel safe and cared for at work should be the number one priority. Managers and HR owe the duty of care to anyone that works for their company and improving business culture benefits them by increasing productivity as a result of decreasing workplace conflict.

How can Polonious help?

Polonious’ Case Management software allows investigators to undertake accurate and fair investigations. It assists with storing notes and evidence safely and documenting every relevant action that has taken place.  Its ISO27001 certified security ensures the secure management of the evidence and files. This will prevent the leak of sensitive materials and provide complete employee confidentiality. 

Polonious can also make investigations less time-consuming by streamlining brief and letter preparation and ensuring that everything is a few clicks away. By having everything in one place; notes, relevant parties and evidence, investigations can be completed smoothly.

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Everything You Need to Know About Employee Handbooks

Everything You Need to Know About Employee Handbooks

Employee handbooks are a great way for a company to communicate to new and existing employees of their rights and responsibilities. But what exactly are they?

An employee handbook is a document which provides guidance and information related to a company’s mission, vision, values, policies and procedures. They are usually provided to new hires so that they know everything they need to know to get started at their job. These employees will feel more comfortable in their day-to-day activities and work as efficiently as possible right off the bat. 

Additionally, all employees will have a better sense of the company’s culture through the employee handbook. It is imperative that companies develop an effective employee handbook to ensure a positive work environment. 

This blog will explore how to write an employee handbook, what to include in it, and some examples from some of the largest companies in the world.

One important thing to note is that employee handbooks are not a form of an employee agreement. 

 

How to Write an Employee Handbook

Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing your employee handbook:

    • Structure your sections. Before even writing your handbook, you should plan what sections you will include and in what order they will be in. Consider using the sections that we will discuss later in this blog or have a look online for some templates. 
    • Make it easy to read and understand. This means using shorter sentences, simpler language, and avoiding using jargon.
    • Avoid large blocks of text. Consider including pictures and illustrations to explain concepts. You should also be using plenty of headings, sub-headings, bullet points, and paragraph breaks. This will increase the readability of the document. 
    • Give it to employees for feedback. Once you have completed the first draft of the handbook, it’s a good idea to hand it over to a group of employees for feedback. They are in the best position to tell you if it is readable and whether improvements need to be made.
    • Set a date to review it. Your job isn’t done when you finish writing the handbook. Things change all the time both in your internal and external environment. It is important that you set a date to review the handbook and make the alterations necessary to reflect these changes. 

What to Include

There are a lot of bases to cover when it comes to employee handbooks. Since all companies are different, some sections that we discuss will be more relevant to your company than others. This is also not an exhaustive list. You should think about what information your employees need to know to be effective workers in your organisation. 

 

Company Profile

You should give an overview of the company in this section. Some points to discuss include your:

  • Mission: What your company does, who it serves, and why it exists.
  • Vision: What are the long-term plans for your company?
  • Values: What are the beliefs that guide your actions.
  • Culture: What is your company’s structure, leadership style, goals etc.

Employment Basics

This section will give new employees a good idea of what the terms of their contract and job classification are. 

  • Employment contract types: Define all your employment contract types, such as part-time, full-time, casual, intern and apprentices. 
  • Equal opportunity employment: This will promote your workplace as one free of discrimination and harrassment
  • Recruitment and selection process: It is typical to include your hiring process, including pre-employment checks and referral programs
  • Attendance: Outline the procedures regarding what employees should do if they cannot make it to work

Workplace Policies

In this section, you should communicate what your workplace should be like and the policies that govern employees in that environment. The policies should cover areas such as:

  • Confidentiality
  • Data protection
  • Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Dress code
Dress Code

Code of Conduct

This section covers how employees are expected to treat other stakeholders of the business. Specific points that should be addressed here include:

  • Cyber security
  • Conflict of interest
  • Employee relationships and fraternisation
  • Employment of relatives 
  • Workplace visitors 
  • Solicitors and distribution

Compensation and Development

Employees should be made aware of how they are paid to show that your company values its employees and to act as motivation. 

You should include information like the pay-grade structure, when employees should expect to be paid, and overtime rules. In terms of performance management, you should explain the objectives of performance reviews, how they will be performed, and how you would expect managers to lead a team. Finally, you should highlight any opportunities for further training and development within the company. 

Compensation

Employee Resignation and Termination

Employees should also have an idea of how an employment relationship may come to an end. This section should discuss topics such as:

  • Steps of progressive discipline
  • Notice period
  • Resignation process
  • Laws regarding termination
  • Policies regarding references

 

Examples of Employee Handbooks

Below are examples of companies that have taken the time and effort to construct employee handbooks that are both engaging to read and contain all the information required for a new or even existing employee.

 

Valve

Valve is an American video game developer, publisher, and digital distribution company. Ever since being leaked in 2012, Valve’s employee handbook has received high praise online for its use of funny illustrations and off-beat sense of humour. Check it out here.

Valve Employee Handbook

Zappos

Zappos is an American online shoe and clothing retailer which develops a new employee handbook annually. In one edition, the handbook was written in a comic-book style

Zappos Employee Handbook

Netflix

As one of the largest streaming services in the world with its own production company, Netflix’s employee handbook embodies the phrase “simple yet effective.” Netflix goes straight to the point with a 129-slide slideshow full of short and simple sentences.

Netflix logo

Conclusion

Employees are the most important asset to a business. Ensuring that they are properly informed on the culture and policies of a company is essential in creating an effective workplace. As such, managers need to know how to write an employee handbook and what sections to include in it. Companies like Valve, Zappos and Netflix prove that these handbooks can be both informative and engaging to the reader.

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Top 5 Practices to Prevent Workplace Discrimination

Top 5 Practices to Prevent Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination may occur between colleagues, employee and employer, or between an employee and a third party. Specifically, it’s the unfair treatment of an employee or candidate based on the class or category to which they belong, rather than on individual merit.

Unfortunately, this issue is often overlooked or not spoken widely about, leaving employers and employees in the dark when it comes to dealing with discrimination. In many cases, this can also lead to employee turnovers due to a lack of effective measures to stop the problem.

Embracing cultural diversity and nurturing a fair and inclusive workplace culture is positive for your organisation and its employees, and is also the most effective way to avoid workplace discrimination and unlawful behaviour. Lawsuits are expensive and, beyond the immediate financial costs, they reduce staff productivity, wellbeing and morale. They also create reputational and brand damage.  

This guide will explain the many ways that workplace discrimination can occur (e.g., direct, indirect, intentional, unintentional and reverse). Then, you’ll learn how to identify and eliminate your own discriminatory practices. We will explain the Top 5 Practices to Prevent Workplace Discrimination from occuring in order to protect your employees and business.

This blog will provide a better understanding of the issue and important steps you need to take towards the prevention of discrimination in the workplace.

This blog will be structured as below:

  • Understanding Workplace Discrimination
  • Types of Workplace Discrimination
  • Top 5 Practices to Prevent Workplace Discrimination

Understanding Workplace Discrimination

According to the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman, Unlawful workplace discrimination occurs when an employer takes adverse action against a person who is an employee or prospective employee because of the following attributes of the person:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • age 
  • physical or mental disability 
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities 
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction or social origin

Discriminatory practices can happen at different points in the employment relationship, including:

  • when recruiting and selecting staff
  • in the terms, conditions, and benefits offered as part of employment
  • who is considered or selected for promotion
  • who is considered and selected for redundancy or dismissal

The following examples demonstrate implicit and explicit workplace discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity:

  • Recruiting staff solely on their ethnicity.
  • Knowingly or subconsciously selecting candidates that don’t appear to be from a culturally or linguistically diverse (CALD) background.
  • Declaring a job applicant unsuccessful on the basis that “they won’t fit in”.
  • Making assumptions about certain ethnic groups having or lacking particular skills.
  • Failing to deal with alleged cases of racial discrimination in a timely and appropriate manner.
  • Failing to award CALD employees with promotions and career progression opportunities, despite meeting all performance expectations.
  • Having a workplace culture that makes CALD employees feel uncomfortable or excluded.
  • Encouraging or endorsing jokes based on race.
  • Earmarking CALD employees for early departure in a redundancy exercise.
  • Dismissing or indiscriminately targeting a worker due to his/her English speaking abilities.

All employers have a responsibility to make sure that their employees, and people who apply for a job with them, are treated fairly. This responsibility is set out in anti-discrimination laws such as Australia’s Fair Work Act 2009, the Equality act 2010 in the UK, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the United States.

Types of Workplace Discrimination

Direct Discrimination

Workplace discrimination can be direct, indirect or both.

Direct discrimination, also called disparate treatment occurs when someone treats (or encourages others to treat) someone else unfavorably because of their protected class.

Direct discrimination happens because of stereotypes about the abilities and qualities of those in protected classes. These stereotypes lead to unfair and untrue assumptions about what a person from a protected group can or can’t do.

This type of discrimination is often intentional and more obvious than other forms of workplace discrimination.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination, often called disparate impact, is when a policy or condition is imposed that, as a side effect, disadvantages a protected group (or a person from one).

For example, implementing hiring criteria that just so happens to screen out women or minority group members has a disparate (and negative) impact on members of these groups.

Top 5 Practices to Prevent Workplace Discrimination

Develop an anti-discrimination policy

Companies’ anti-discrimination policies can vary widely depending on their culture and nature, however, it is important to highlight the employee’s right to work in a professional environment, where their skills, abilities, and knowledge are the most important factors in their success. Your company work policy should have zero tolerance for any form of harassment. Encourage employees to come forward and participate in the investigation, assuring they will be kept confidential (to a reasonable extent) as well as people who make complaints will be protected at all times. Having clear procedures and rules established is also a way to make managers and employees aware of acceptable workplace behaviour within your country. In case of misbehaviour, it will be easier to point to the policy than to refer to a law the employee may not have heard of.

 

Educate your workers

It is important to ensure that all employees are aware of potential discrimination issues in the workplace, have knowledge of your policies and procedures as well as how to report the allegation. It is recommended to have separate training for supervisors and managers as they are your first line of defense in preventing workplace discrimination. Also, you should strive to inform employees of the possible outcomes of discrimination, which include potential lawsuits. There are many ways to keep everybody informed and up to date about the issue, like face-to-face training, internal communications or even using visual aids in common areas to promote anti-discriminatory practices.   

 

Establish a process for resolving workplace discrimination issues

Any employee who feels they have been discriminated against or treated negatively should report the issue to Human Resources, their direct supervisor, manager or director, and they should feel comfortable and safe when doing so. In these cases, all companies must be consistent in addressing issues through a fair and reasonable investigation even if your business is not in legal jeopardy. This will show your companies’ expectations of equal and unbiased treatment among all employees. Solving workplace discrimination issues in a timely manner should be a priority as otherwise, trust and credibility may be lost.

Reduce bias in your recruitment process

Unconscious biases are stereotypes that we unintentionally have learned. They have the ability to affect our behaviour and perception of others. This is an issue that many companies may not have in mind, but a vast body of research shows that the hiring process is biased and unfair. This can frustrate diversity, recruiting, promotion, and retention efforts. Awareness training is the first step to resolve unconscious bias in the workplace, as it allows employees to recognize that everyone possesses them and to identify their own. It is also recommended to have a standardised interview process by asking candidates the same set of defined questions that allow employers to focus on the factors that have a direct impact on performance. Giving a work sample test can also be a great tool against unconscious bias as it forces recruiters to critique the quality of a candidate’s work versus judging them based on appearance, gender, age, and even personality. 

 

Consider more than one option for communication channels

An important part of the complaint process is providing effective and transparent communication channels. Ideally, have more than one option for employees to report discrimination, which will ensure that a supervisor cannot hide issues from Human Resources and upper management. Formal communication channels like an Intranet, emails, letters, or face-to-face interactions are crucial for the employee to be able to make their complaint and some even allow anonymous reports to be made in order to start an investigation. You can also consider keeping a more informal type of communication like holding lunchtime conversations and continuous collaboration among team members where you can identify potential discriminatory practices that otherwise may go unnoticed. 

Explore the Top 5 Practices to Prevent Workplace Discrimination in order to protect your employees and business

Explore the Top 5 Practices to Prevent Workplace Discrimination in order to protect your employees and business.

Embracing cultural diversity and nurturing a fair and inclusive workplace culture is positive for your organisation and its employees, and is also the most effective way to avoid workplace discrimination and unlawful behaviour.

Embracing cultural diversity and nurturing a fair and inclusive workplace culture is positive for your organisation and its employees, and is also the most effective way to avoid workplace discrimination and unlawful behaviour.

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