Is your compliance training relevant for the NZ market?
It is little known that employers can find themselves facing fines for breaches their employees have committed during the course of their employment – these can include harassment, bullying or discriminatory acts.
In a recent case in Australia, an employee was awarded $130,000 on appeal after being sexually harassed by another colleague in the workplace. Despite the organisation providing training for their staff that included awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace, the training made no mention of relevant legislation. In this case, the court found the training content offered was insufficient to adequately meet the employee’s training obligations. The case also suggests that courts will in future be more generous in their awards in similar cases.
Global or generic training is not sufficient
The case demonstrates the risks for employers in adopting ‘off the shelf’ or global policies and training packages. Employers should ensure their policies and training are specifically adapted to domestic legislative requirements and regularly updated as the law and compliance develops.
Dr Ross Patterson founder of Safetrac, the award winning compliance training provider, says, “Often organisations implement a “one size fits all” program from their international parent. As noted above, this approach can backfire and leave an organisation exposed when an incident occurs”.
Online training is just as effective
Another feature in the case was that the employee argued that the online training provided was insufficient and that face-to-face training would have been more viable. The court rejected the argument entirely, making it clear that online training is just as strong and effective as face-to-face training.
Steps you can take to avoid potential breaches
To reduce your risks of being liable for acts of your employee’s conduct:
• Provide regular training on appropriate workplace behavior, e.g. training about bullying, harassment, discrimination which references the relevant legislation;
• Educate employees on your company’s code of conduct, policies and the consequences of inappropriate actions in the workplace;
• Deliver either online or face-to-face training (the courts having demonstrated that online compliance training is just as effective);
• Ensure that a respectful culture is promoted within the workplace and senior management reinforces this within the company values & workplace behaviors;
• Ensure there is the ability to escalate concerns at work through providing clear reporting lines and a clear policy and process for doing so.