The Australian workplace landscape is undergoing a major overhaul. Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 stands as the most significant evolution in workplace law in recent times. Passed in 2022, this legislation sets rigorous standards to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, covering even non-physical forms like online harassment.
Why the urgency?
By 23rd December 2023, Australian businesses must adapt to these new laws. Failures to do so can be severe: hefty fines, reputational damages, and the potential public shame of non-compliance. Liability for harassment has broadened to include not just employees but also contractors and volunteers. Employers are now obliged to take proactive measures to prevent harassment, including policy development and implementation, training employees, and acting decisively on reported incidents.
What are the consequences of non-compliance to the Respect at Work Act 2022?
Aside from the clear goal of ensuring every worker is safe and protected from harassment, other key business considerations include:
Legal repercussions: Employers may face legal action and be held accountable for any incidents, leading to financial penalties.
Reputation and business impact: Negative publicity can severely tarnish a company’s reputation, resulting in business losses and challenges in both retaining and attracting employees.
Drop in shareholder value: Negative effects on your brand can diminish both immediate and future shareholder value.
Employee grievances and potential litigation: Harassed or discriminated employees have the right to file complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission, triggering investigation and potential legal action.
Productivity Decline: A work environment tainted by harassment and discrimination can result in unhappy employees and reduced worker morale.
The criticality for industry
The Respect at Work Act 2022 is particularly vital for the mining industry. A 2022 survey conducted by the Mining Energy Union found that a staggering 43% of women and 18% of men working in mining had experienced sexual harassment over the past 12 months. Aspects such as the male-dominated workforce, isolated environments, gender inequality, and hierarchical power imbalances exacerbate these issues.
The mining industry still has significant strides to make in ensuring workplace safety and respect, as underscored by the Enough is Enough report. The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) is actively addressing this issue through a task force focused on creating a safer industry environment. Their approach includes enhancing leadership, emphasising education, fostering diversity, refining security measures, overseeing out-of-work activities, and improving incident reporting and investigation processes.
Additionally, the Western Australian Government has upgraded the Respect in Mining program, providing a suite of tools designed to enhance safety for women in mining environments and provide clear behavioural standards and expectations. The collective industry aim is to embed safety and respect as core principles, emphasising the immediate need for industry change.
Safety and respect through digital collaboration
Drawing inspiration from successful models such as Verisafe, there's evidence that a collective industry approach can create profound change.
Governing bodies could regulate frameworks and proactive measures across organisations, ensuring industry standardisation and compliance. The CME task force initiative could adopt this solution to facilitate commitment to safety and respect across the industry through collaborative digital technology. Such standardisation and unity in approach not only amplifies the message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, but creates safer workplaces for everyone.
For the individual, training is essential to foster a culture of respect, and ensure proactive prevention of harassment. MyPass enables the monitoring of training and inductions to ensure employees are equipped with the tools to address harassment in the workplace. This real-time data ensures organisations can track training validity and expiration.
For companies using MyPass’ digital Skills Passports, each worker is required to have just one profile, providing a transparent record of worker history. Both good and bad performances are traceable, meaning this history follows workers across jobs and sites.
With the implementation of the Respect at Work Act 2022, it’s time for organisations to take action. The clock is ticking, with the deadline set for December 2023. MyPass contributes to solving this important issue, ensuring businesses remain compliant and proactive in this new era of workplace safety and respect.