Checklist - policy development

Checklist for developing and implementing a policy on discrimination and sexual harassment

◻ State who is covered by the policy

State that the policy applies to all workers in their dealings with each other and with clients or customers.

  • workers who are full-time, part-time, casual, permanent and temporary;
  • contract or commission workers;
  • work experience, vocational placement and volunteer workers.

◻ State the organisation's attitude

Make a strong statement of the organisation's attitude to discrimination and sexual harassment.

The statement may include:

  • Discrimination on any of the grounds listed in state and federal legislation is against the law, as is sexual harassment, vilification and the seeking of unnecessary information on which discrimination might be based.
  • Senior management are committed to ensuring that the work environment is free from discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • Discrimination and sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
  • Disciplinary action will be taken against any employee (or agent) who breaches the policy.

◻ Outline of the organisation's objectives

Outline of the organisation's objectives regarding discrimination and sexual harassment

This demonstrates commitment to a comprehensive strategy for addressing discrimination and harassment. Employers may wish to say that their organisation aims to:

  • create a work environment which is free from discrimination and harassment and where all members of staff are treated with dignity, courtesy and respect;
  • implement training and awareness raising strategies to ensure that all employees know their rights and responsibilities;
  • provide an effective complaints procedure based on the principles of natural justice;
  • treat all complaints in a sensitive, fair, timely and confidential manner;
  • guarantee protection from any victimisation;
  • encourage the reporting of behaviour which breaches the discrimination and sexual harassment policy;
  • promote appropriate standards of conduct at all times.

◻ Give clearly worded definitions

Give clearly worded definitions of discrimination and sexual harassment. A definition of discrimination may say:

Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of their:

  • race, (including colour, descent or ancestry, nationality, national or ethnic origin);
  • age (whether young or older);
  • impairment (including biological, functional, learning, physical, sensory, mobility, cognitive, psychological, psychiatric impairment or the presence of an organism capable of causing disease);
  • religious belief or activity;
  • sex or gender identity;
  • relationship status (including being married, single, divorced, separated, de facto or in a same sex relationship);
  • sexuality;
  • pregnancy, breastfeeding, parental status (including being or not being a parent, guardian, foster parent, adoptive parent, or step parent);
  • family responsibilities (including the responsibility to care for and support a dependant child or immediate family member);
  • lawful sexual activity as a sex worker;
  • trade union activity;
  • political belief or activity;
  • association with someone else who is identified because of one of these attributes.

While discrimination in the workplace and in connection with work is the focus of this policy, discrimination in connection with the supply or goods and services to clients and customers should also be mentioned.

Expand on the definition in a way that is easy to understand by including explanations such as:

  • Direct discrimination occurs when a person, or a group of people, is singled out for worse treatment, compared to others in similar circumstances, because they have one or more of the listed attributes.
  • Indirect discrimination occurs when one rule applies to all, but in fact disadvantages a person or group of people because they are unable (or less able) to comply with the rule because they have an attribute.

Give examples of behaviour which could be discrimination, both direct discrimination and indirect discrimination.

A definition of sexual harassment may say:

  • Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual conduct either with the intention of offending, humiliating or intimidating the other person, or in circumstances where a reasonable person would expect that it would give offence.

Give examples of what could be sexual harassment. This includes:

  • uninvited touching or other physical contact; staring or leering at a person or at parts of their body; smutty jokes or comments; talking about your sex life or asking about another person's sex life; sexual jokes; sexual propositions; the display of offensive material; offensive phone calls or transmission of offensive sexual material by email, SMS or other social media; or other behaviour which creates a sexually hostile work environment.

◻ Set out where it can occur

Set out where unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment can occur.

The policy should state that a person may be discriminated against or sexually harassed by a supervisor or manager, co-worker, contractor, service provider, client or customer.

The policy may also state that discrimination and sexual harassment is not just unlawful during work hours or in the workplace itself, but in any work-related context including conferences, work functions, office parties and business or field trips and includes interactions with clients and customers.

◻ Make a clear statement

State that a worker must not discriminate against or sexually harass a customer or client.

A worker may be personally liable if a complaint of discrimination is brought against them. The organisation may also be vicariously liable for the actions of its workers.

◻ Explain responsibilities

Explain who has responsibility for ensuring discrimination and sexual harassment do not occur.

A statement that everyone has a responsibility to prevent discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Emphasise the primary role of managers and supervisors in ensuring staff and clients are not discriminated against or sexually harassed in the workplace or in connection with the person's employment. This may include that managers and supervisors have a responsibility to:
    • monitor the work environment to ensure that acceptable standards of conduct are observed at all times;
    • model appropriate behaviour themselves;
    • promote the organisation's policy on discrimination and sexual harassment in their work area;
    • treat all complaints seriously and take immediate action to investigate and resolve the matter;
    • refer a complaint to another officer if they do not feel that they are the best person to deal with the case (for example, if there is a conflict of interest or if the complaint is complex or serious).
  • Emphasise the responsibility of every employee not to participate in discriminatory or sexually harassing behaviour within the workplace, noting that all staff have a responsibility to:
    • comply with the organisation's policy on discrimination and sexual harassment;
    • offer support to anyone who is being discriminated against or sexually harassed and let them know where they can get information and advice;
    • maintain complete confidentiality if they provide information during the investigation of a complaint.

◻ Set out the consequences

Set out the likely consequences of discriminating against or sexually harassing someone.

Establish a range of outcomes, such as disciplinary action (demotion, transfer, suspension, probation or dismissal), official warning to be noted on personnel file, a formal apology, counselling.

◻ Provide information about where to get help

Provide information about where to get help if discrimination or sexual harassment occur.

Disseminate information to all levels of the organisation, using staff notice boards, common areas, email, intranets and staff meetings. Verbal communication of information for staff with cognitive impairments, low literacy or English language skills is of particular importance.

  • Provide names and contact details of equity contact officers or nominated person/s trained to assist in the formal or informal resolution of complaints.
  • Provide information about formal support mechanisms within the organisation e.g. employee counselling or support services, leave entitlements, the right to make a worker's compensation claim.
  • Translate information into appropriate languages for staff from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

◻ Explain the complaints procedure

Explain how the complaints procedure operates and options for complaining.

  • State that victimising a person because they have made a complaint, or are involved in a complaint is unlawful and will not be tolerated.
  • Give assurance that all complaints will be handled confidentially, promptly and impartially, and the principles of natural justice applied.
  • Recommendations from investigations of complaints will be implemented.
  • Different ways of resolving complaints should be offered, including:
    • self help: The person who has been discriminated against or harassed may want to deal with the situation themself after seeking information (e.g. from the equity contact officer, trade union, ADCQ or manager). This might include talking with the person responsible for the discrimination or harassment (To be used only if the person feels confident enough to do so.)
    • making an internal complaint: talking with the person's manager (or another manager if more appropriate) and telling them about the concerns. Depending on the nature of the information disclosed, the manager may take a range of actions which might include: immediate action; suggesting options for resolving the complaint; and offering to speak with the person being complained about. If these methods do not resolve the issue or the complaint is serious or complex, an investigation may need to be made. This will involve an investigation, the collection or evidence and witness statements, and making findings and recommendations to be implemented.
    • external complaints agency: making a complaint to an external organisation such as the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland or the Australian Human Rights Commission. Complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland must be made within one year of the events complained of, unless there is a good reason for the delay.