Addressing unlawful conduct: How to provide support and reporting channels?

When employees feel safe to speak up and know their voices matter, productivity skyrockets — 4.6 times, to be exact! Also, encouraging and supporting employee voices is a key driver of success, with companies fostering equality and positive workplace cultures consistently outperforming competitors.

As an employer, you have the power to ensure all voices are heard, valued, and safe—whether in everyday operations or when dealing with instances of unlawful conduct. And, with the Australian Human Rights Commission gearing up to evaluate compliance with the new Positive Duty standards (Guidelines for Complying with the Positive Duty under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)) starting from December 12th, it’s vital to instil proactive measures and ensure your employees feel safe.

Today, we’re diving into Standards 5: Support and 6: Reporting and response, exploring actionable steps you can take to support your employees and establish safe reporting channels for addressing unlawful workplace conduct, all while boosting overall satisfaction and productivity. Let’s get started.

 *See this article  for the coverage of standards 1, 2, and 3 and standard 4.

Providing support and report channels step-by-step

Whether in life or business, addressing complex challenges becomes more manageable when you break them down into smaller, achievable tasks.

That’s why we’re here focusing on five specific steps, drawn from the new Positive Duty’s Standards 5 and 6, that will guide you in addressing unlawful conduct and fostering a safer and more productive workplace environment.

Assess your company’s culture

First, examine your company’s culture and past instances of unlawful conduct in the workplace. This assessment helps uncover patterns and potential catalysts, such as lack of awareness, a culture of silence, or gender inequality, which are some of the most common underlying factors.

Moreover, the assessment helps pinpoint potential challenges in implementing new policies, like resource shortages or resistance to reporting. It gives you a head start, informing you upfront which areas or departments might need extra focus when crafting your positive duty strategy.

Provide support system

Once you’ve assessed your company’s culture, it’s time to set up a robust support system. The best practice is to ensure your team can access internal and external assistance. That means having in-house trustworthy people—senior members or health reps—and connections to counselling or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) outside.

When setting up this support system, put people first. Include them in the process (e.g., conduct surveys regarding the type of assistance they find most helpful) and ensure everyone knows about these resources—put them up on notice boards and the intranet, and use info sheets and posters. Let them know support is available.

Establish safe reporting channels

In Australia, only 18% of workplace sexual harassment cases are reported. This data clearly shows that companies need better reporting systems so everyone feels safe and heard when speaking up.

Therefore, establish various safe and confidential ways employees can report unlawful conduct. Allow them to choose a preferred reporting method—verbal, written, anonymous, or attributed—focusing on early intervention and safeguarding your teams from retaliation or further harm.

For example, introduce an anonymous hotline or an online reporting platform where employees can safely report incidents of harassment or misconduct.

Ensure timely, trauma-informed responses

Be there for your team when they come forward. Act fast and take every report seriously, making sure your approach is sensitive to trauma. Let people affected have a say in what happens next and ensure they feel safe throughout the process.

Additionally, prioritize safety and minimize harm after incidents. Offer leave options, adjust work as needed, and provide continuous support.

Maintain documentation

To demonstrate you’re following the new Positive Duty Standards 5 and 6, document your efforts in supporting employees and establishing safe reporting channels.

The following are some of the records you should be able to provide:

  • posters, brochures, and emails that outline available support options (St. 5)
  • proof of the support provided, such as emails or notes documenting conversations (St. 5)
  • a documented procedure for reporting unlawful conduct (St. 6)
  • securely store data about reports (St. 6)

*For a complete list of required documentation, see the official Guidelines for Complying with the Positive Duty under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Dealing with unlawful conduct: Doing it right

Ensuring your company has proper support and reporting channels for handling unlawful conduct isn’t just a legal checkbox. It shapes how your team feels about the workplace, influences their perceptions of the organization, and ultimately impacts their performance.

The steps outlined here guide you to building a transparent system that keeps your employees safe and productive while helping your company meet the new Positive Duty requirements.

Looking for assistance in setting up adequate support and reporting systems? Contact us to discover how we can help.

Addressing unlawful conduct in the workplace demands a proactive stance and ties directly to employee satisfaction and productivity.

Hello, everyone, I’m Paulette, the founder of Fresh HR Insights. 🌼 I specialize in HR and industrial Relations, and my passion lies in helping small businesses overcome HR challenges to build robust and successful enterprises. Over the past 12 years, I’ve partnered with countless business owners, providing them with invaluable expertise to navigate complex staff situations. Let me help you and your business.