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Taking reasonable steps

Equal opportunity laws require you to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment.

If one of your staff unlawfully discriminates or harasses another, you could be vicariously liable if you have not taken reasonable steps.

To decide what steps are reasonable for you, consider the size and structure of your business, resources, industry nature, working hours, levels of supervision, numbers of customers and staff, workplace culture and any history of discrimination or harassment in your workplace.

What is reasonable for a large corporation may not be reasonable for a small business.

Here are some recommended reasonable steps for any business to take:

  • Develop and promote a written policy that rules out discrimination and harassment.
  • Make your policy accessible to everyone in your business.
  • Brief new staff on your policy and other discrimination and harassment information.
  • Inform all your staff of what you expect of them.
  • Provide awareness training for managers and staff.
  • Display anti-discrimination posters in the workplace.
  • Review your policy regularly to keep it up to date.
  • Treat your staff fairly in all your dealings with them.
  • Consider making one of your staff an equal opportunity contact person.
  • Know how to handle inappropriate behaviours before they escalate.
  • Have an internal complaints procedure for dealing with problems if they arise.
  • Encourage staff to come forward with problems or complaints.
  • Treat complaints seriously, quickly and confidentially.
  • Monitor the workplace culture.
  • Survey staff on workplace behaviour or discuss it at staff meetings.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do staff know that treating customers and other staff unfairly is unacceptable?
  • Are staff treated fairly in all your dealings with them - hiring, training, promotion, changes to working conditions or dismissal?
  • Do you have a system for dealing with problems if they arise?
  • Do you know where to get help?
  • Is communicating with your staff a high priority?

Having a workplace free from discrimination and harassment is good for business because it allows people to concentrate on their work, making your business perform better.

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