Do your employees know what Discrimination is?
It is one of those topics that can be somewhat taboo. We are clearly aware of what some of the most extreme forms of discrimination are, but then there are some areas where people aren’t so clear. Even if the law is.
Are your employees aware of the types of behaviour that are considered discriminatory?
The first question is an important one, because in a work environment people work quite closely together, over an extended period of time. While most people may be aware that exclusion on racial grounds and use of inflammatory language is not acceptable, there are other areas they may not be as aware of. As an example, it can be seen as a discriminatory act, if you invite all of a team except one person out to an event, if the invites are made within the workplace.
There are lots of behaviours that people carry out within the working environment, unconscious of the fact that others see it as discriminatory. It isn’t acceptable to brush this under the carpet and assume the potentially affected person is being over-sensitive, it will require an investigation and a great deal of time at the very least. It could, of course, lead to legal matters in some instances.
How can you help make them more aware?
In many cases, it is as simple as running an awareness or training programme that ensures your employees not only understand the laws in New Zealand, but also their responsibilities within it. In order to change any action or behaviour, we at first need to be aware that it is wrong, and what the correct type of behaviour is. For this to be effective it needs to be done continually, not just once.
An effective method for delivering this is via online training. There are a number of benefits to this approach. Firstly, the training is consistent. Secondly, you can ensure that everyone has received and taken the training. Thirdly, online training systems come with an assessment, so you’ll have records to hand that people have successfully achieved the required standard. Fourthly it saves a great deal of time, as, for example, Safetrac’s discrimination course takes a maximum of 45 minutes to complete. Finally, it is easy to run the same training or shorter 5-minute ShortBurst refresher courses annually, to ensure that the knowledge is retained and kept up to date as the law changes.
If you are using online – make sure it is relevant, not generic.
There are a lot of compliance training providers out there. They are, however, not all the same and many global providers, provide generic courses which aren’t specific to New Zealand laws. This is important as in a recent case in Australia, an employee was awarded $130,000 on appeal after being sexually harassed by another colleague in the workplace. The organisation did provide training for their staff in this area, but it made no mention of relevant legislation. You can read more on this story here.
Training is, of course, just part of what good employers need to do. Training will make employees more aware, but to lessen your risks you’ll also have to look at building a respectful culture within the workplace, promoted by senior management that reinforces the company’s values. You’ll also need to provide clear reporting lines, and a clear policy and process for the workforce to escalate any concerns.