Recent allegations of systemic harassment and bullying within a high profile law enforcement agency illustrate the importance of ensuring that important workplace policies and procedures are actually implemented within organisations.

A six-month investigation of the government department has revealed a systemic culture of sexual harassment and bullying, with nearly half of women employed in the agency reporting being sexually harassed in their place of work.

Shockingly, evidence of ongoing bullying was also found in the organisation at rates equal to double the national average. Two-thirds of those interviewed reported that they had experienced bullying in the past five years.

The chief investigator, Elizabeth Broderick, also found a reluctance among staff to make any formal complaints about such behaviour, with many believing that their careers would be threatened by lodging a complaint.

Most significantly, Broderick found a disconnection between the agency’s stated policies and procedures, and the reality within the organisation, with many male employees apparently unaware of the continued prevalence of sexual harassment and bullying.

Some shared the view that “we may have had issues in the past, but there’s no discrimination here now and women and men are equal.” Many female respondents meanwhile reported encountering a lack of respect for the capabilities and contributions of female staff members, and an indifference or hostility to formal complaints.

Above all, Broderick identified poor leadership to be the primary source for the culture of harassment and bullying within the organisation.
“Strong messages about the unacceptability of sexual harassment and bullying must be regularly and effectively communicated and offenders must be held to account,” she said.

Broderick’s findings direct us to two significant points with regards to workplace policies and procedures, which are applicable to many workplaces also subject to a situation in which policies are unknown or ignored by staff.

Firstly, all organisations should have a comprehensive policy manual (or “employee handbook”) which clearly outlines its expectations, standards, and responsibilities. This manual should define its policies in reference to the following:

• Equal Employment Opportunity
• Anti-bullying
• Anti-harassment
• Use of email, internet and social media
• Grievance
• Occupational health and safety
• Drug and alcohol
• Return to work
• Code of conduct
• Gifts and favours
• Leave provisions (including personal, bereavement/compassionate, annual, parental and long service leave)

Secondly, the investigation illustrates the importance of establishing procedures to assist managers in implementing and applying policies within the organisation. It is advisable that every organisation has a clear set of procedures for a range of circumstances, including:

• Selection and recruitment
• Induction, performance and probationary management guidelines and templates
• Promotions and transfers
• Role clarity (including position descriptions)
• Performance management
• Managing complaints
• Terminations


iHR Australia provides expert support in both these areas. We offer informed advice on the design and development of comprehensive workplace manuals, ensuring all necessary policy areas are addressed, in accordance with the requirements of your particular organisation.

Our advice on procedures for the implementation of workplace strategies will ensure these policies are fully applied within your organisation. We can provide expert assistance in the development of Guidelines and Procedures Manual for Managers, tailoring set guidelines, procedures and templates for the human resources practices most relevant to your particular organisation.

iHR Australia also offers formal training workshops around appropriate and inappropriate workplace behaviour, and the impact such behaviour.

iHR is the largest independent provider of anti-bullying, harassment, discrimination and EEO training in Australia. With anti-discrimination and bullying programs able to be delivered onsite at our organisation or yours, we use professional actors to present relatable real-life workplace scenarios. These programs can be tailored to suit your organisation’s specific environment or circumstances.

Furthermore, we recognise that responsibilities in the area of anti-bullying, harassment and discrimination differ at various levels of the organisation and accordingly, we offer programs specific to employee, manager and executive levels.

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