Pregnancy and potential pregnancy discrimination is unlawful, but it is not discriminatory to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate the effects of pregnancy.
You should refer to the different support structures available to pregnant employees and information available related to pregnancy and discrimination.
What is pregnancy or potential pregnancy discrimination?
Pregnancy refers to the time when a woman is carrying a foetus, and to the physical characteristics of pregnancy such as having a large abdomen and tiredness.
Potential pregnancy is defined as the fact that a woman:
All employees are covered by the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the relevant State or Territory legislation, including casual, fixed-term and continuing staff (whether full-time or part-time), apprentices and trainees. These Acts make pregnancy and potential pregnancy discrimination in employment unlawful.
A staff member who is breastfeeding will be entitled to regular breaks in paid time for lactation purposes. Supervisors should provide reasonable flexibility for this purpose, and breastfeeding staff members should consider both organisational and personal needs when determining the timing of breaks.
Adapted from Worksafe Victoria publication: Guidance Note on the Prevention of Bullying and Violence at Work, Feb 2003
Workplace bullying is often subtle or hidden. Those with little direct experience of bullying may find it difficult to identify. Supervisors (as representatives of the employer) should not assume that the workplace is free of bullying simply because there are no immediately obvious signs. There are a number of risk factors that can increase the likelihood of bullying occurring in a workplace.
Bullying risk factors can be revealed through:
Note: If an allegation of bullying is made, or an incident is observed, supervisors should act promptly to resolve the situation (see Responding to incidents / reports)
Indirect signs of bullying
In a workplace, bullying can sometimes be signalled indirectly. Because these signs may not always be connected with bullying, they need to be examined within the overall context of the work area / organisation.
Indirect signs of bullying may include:
Other factors that can contribute to risk
Research has identified that significant organisational change, such as major internal restructuring or technological change, may inadvertently create an environment that increases the risk of bullying.
Supervisors should be aware that some employees can be more at risk of workplace bullying. These employees may represent a minority in the workplace due to factors such as: age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, parental status, marital status, religion or political views. They may also be new employees, trainees, contractors or casuals. Workplace relationships Unsatisfactory workplace relationships and poor workplace communication, such as inadequate information flow or lack of consultation with employees, may create an environment in which workplace bullying is more likely to occur. Workplaces that tolerate teasing and practical jokes against employees, or tolerate initiation practices for new employees, are more likely to experience workplace bullying.
Work system factors that may increase the risk of workplace bullying include:
If risk factors have been identified, the supervisor should take action to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring in their area.
Preventative measures should target the source of risk, and may involve a Cost Centre-wide response as well as addressing symptoms in a specific area. Where multiple risk factors are identified, there is a greater likelihood that a section or Cost Centre-wide response is required. A combination of measures may need to be used. Action may include:
Supervisors should encourage reporting because there are factors that can make employees reluctant to report bullying. Incidents may not always be reported because employees might
Encouraging reporting can assist the supervisor to:
A supervisor may find out about bullying in a number of ways such as
Each situation that is reported or observed will usually be different. Therefore, to ensure a consistent approach, it is important to have an agreed procedure in workplace for dealing with reports. A supervisor can
Key principles to resolution
|Treat all matters seriously||This encourages reporting and shows employees the Flinders’ commitment to its “No Bullying” policy|
|Act promptly||Prompt intervention can assist in resolving reports as quickly and as fairly as possible|
|Non-victimisation of person who reports||It is important to ensure that anyone who raises an issue of bullying is not victimised for coming forward|
|Support for both parties||Once a report has been made, the person or persons involved should be reminded of the support systems available to them. The person or people against whom the allegations have been made should also be informed of opportunities for support.|
|Communication of process||All parties need to be informed of the relevant policies, the available resolution processes within those policies, who can help along the way, what they can expect will happen during and at the end of the process|
|Confidentiality||Those involved need to be assured that confidentiality will be maintained. This is important to prevent the matter from escalating|
|Natural justice||Natural justice principles are designed to protect all parties involved.|
Suggested approaches for successful resolution
These approaches can be used in combination or on their own, depending on the situation involved. They can also be used as a step by step approach to resolution.
The resolution approach taken by the supervisor should reflect the seriousness of the situation. It is important for the person who reported the situation to agree with the proposed approach or combination of approaches for resolution.
Assessing whether a direct approach will help resolve a report/incident of bullying is a positive first step.
Where serious allegations have been made, the direct approach is not appropriate. As an example, a report involving an escalation of bullying into violence or threats would not be suited to a direct approach.
The direct approach involves a clear and polite request for the behaviour to stop. This request can be made by the person affected, their supervisor or manager or another relevant person. (eg Head Equal Opportunity Unit, Personnel Consultant).
Anyone requested to act on behalf of the person affected should adopt a confidential, non-confrontational approach with a view to resolving the issue.
Examples of the direct approach:
If the direct approach succeeds and the offending behaviour stops, it may not be necessary to have a further step. In other circumstances, monitoring the situation for signs of recurrence may be appropriate.
Discussion involving an independent third party
The objective of this step in a process is to settle an issue with as little conflict and stress as possible.
The agreement of all parties to participate in this discussion is important for success and the independence of the third party needs to be recognised by all parties involved.
The discussion should focus on resolving the problem and agreeing on actions that will be undertaken to assist the resolution.
This action can be undertaken at two stages in the resolution process
There are some circumstances where it would not be appropriate to use this method. Such circumstances include situations involving allegations of occupational violence, or where there is a significant difference in power between the parties.
Where the behaviour does not cease after a direct approach or discussion, an investigation to establish whether or not the report is substantiated should be undertaken. Where a serious allegation has been made, an investigation should be the first step taken.
Prompt and careful investigation can lead to quick resolution and will demonstrate to employees that bullying is taken seriously.
Investigations should be conducted by an impartial and appropriately skilled person. Investigations and their outcomes should always be documented.
The parties affected should be kept informed and provided with all necessary documentation.
Actions to assist resolution
Complaint resolution is a very important part of dealing with bullying in the workplace. Supervisors should make sure that the people affected by the behaviour are satisfied their concerns have been dealt with appropriately.
The options for resolving a complaint of bullying will vary on a case-by-case basis according to seriousness and other circumstances. Some options for resolution are outlined below. A number of these may be used in combination.
After a situation has been resolved, a supervisor should also examine the work situation to identify and address any underlying risk factors that may have contributed to the bullying occurring.
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