How policy training can help ...taking ‘all reasonable steps’

How policy training can help …

Most employers implement policies and procedures to minimise liability which may arise from employees’ actions. However, is your company taking ‚ ≤all reasonable steps’ to ensure not only the company’s employees are following the policies but are regularly trained, informed and continuously reminded of appropriate behaviour that is acceptable in the workplace?

It is through these actions that saw a Health Care Network escape liability, because it was found to have taken the appropriate ‚ ≤reasonable steps’.

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Recent case

A recent case before the Administration Decisions Tribunal (ADT) illustrates how important it is for employers to not only have policies and procedures in place, but to make their employees’ aware of the policies, train and implement them into the workplace and penalise employees who deem to engage in such conduct.

In this case, the appellant, C received a piece of paper from L that contained sexually explicit material. The document, which the ADT found was not written by L, was given to C while at a training session. C received the document and felt so violated it led her to the police station. C returned to work and made a complaint against L alleging sexual harassment.

C also sued her employer, Western NSW Local Health Network (Company) as a party to the proceedings, claiming they were vicariously liable for the conduct of L.

To determine whether the company was vicariously liable for L’s actions, the ADT had to consider whether the company had authorised L to engage in the conduct or to assess whether the company failed to take all necessary steps to prevent the conduct.

All reasonable steps

The ADT dismissed C’s complaint against the company and found the company never authorised L’s actions and took all ‚ ≤reasonable steps’ to prevent this behaviour.

This was established by the company providing to employees copies of the Code of Conduct, bullying and harassment policies, both of which were signed. L was provided with the Code of Conduct on five occasions, as well as undertaking mandatory trainings of harassment, bullying and Code of Conduct on four occasions.

It was further established that the company took all reasonable steps, because the complaint was acted upon immediately by HR conducting an investigation into the matter as well as the company apologising to C. As a result of this investigation, L was disciplined and provided with a first and final warning.

The ADT substantiated the complaint of sexual harassment against C. Despite the ADT being satisfied that L did not write the note and only passed it to her, his actions still constituted sexual harassment because it was an unwelcome sexual conduct which offended her, and L was ordered to pay $10,000 in damages to C.

Guidance . . .

To avoid your company being held vicariously liable for an employee’s conduct, ensure your company is taking all reasonable steps to educate staff about what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace.

A good practice is to have company policies and procedures in place, including a Code of Conduct and Harassment and Bullying Policies.

Your company must not only implement these policies but also provide regular education and training sessions to all employees, deal with all complaints promptly and investigate the situation thoroughly with penalties in place for breaches of the policies and conduct.

Fresh HR Insights has a full spectrum of Policies and Procedures available to purchase as individual or in package’s. We also offer in-house training sessions to ensure your company is taking all reasonable steps to educate your staff about what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace. Don’t leave it till it is too late ‚ ¨ contact us today on paulette@freshhrinsights.com.au or phone 0452471960

Source: Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors as shown on http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/default.asp