These are my top three picks for HR managers, employers and businesses in the Hunter Region to include on their list of things to do in 2018.
- Assess sexual harassment policies, training and protocols.
The recent Harvey Weinstein allegations and the #metoo campaign have shone a spotlight on workplace sexual harassment. With a legal landscape where there is a continuing upward trend in the quantum of damages for sexual harassment paired with considerable media coverage and social movements, sexual harassment is likely to be a front-running issue for employers in 2018.
ACTION: Employers should ensure their sexual harassment policies are up to date as well as note that it is not enough to just have a policy in place. From the perspective of legal claims risk management for employers, it is critical to ensure they can demonstrate that they took reasonable precautions to prevent an offending employee from breaching the policy obligations. It is therefore of vital importance that employers provide proper training (and record having trained) employees on policies and the type of conduct which will not be tolerated. Employers should also ensure that they have in place proper protocols for dealing with complaints.
- Know your obligations under the new data breach notifications laws.
If your business holds personal information, life changed rapidly on 22 February 2018 when the new data breach notification laws came into effect. The laws strengthen individual privacy rights and improve transparency surrounding data breaches and how businesses notify those affected. For anyone not compliant, beware! Serious penalties exist.
ACTION: Train and educate employees on the correct handling of information and recognition of data breaches. Management and IT teams need to have adequate systems and procedures in place that are compliant with the new regime.
- Ensure that confidential information is protected.
With confidential information (which includes things like client/customer/supplier lists, sales/pricing information, certain business methodologies, financial information, etc.) often a business’ biggest asset, it is no surprise employee post-employment confidential information misuse cases are ever-growing. Litigation is rarely an ideal solution to protecting confidential information from misuse by former employees. Proactivity and pre-emptive action will usually be a better solution.
ACTION: Pre-emptive action to protect confidential information includes ensuring that properly prepared employment contracts (with clauses legally reviewed to ensure maximum effect) and policies exist (and that the day-to day practices of your business align with the policy expectations). IT systems and processes must also have the capability to trace the dissemination of information and to monitor activities like printing and external device and cloud activity.
Note: This article should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to a specific set of circumstances.
MichelleDawson is a Newcastle-based Partner at Madgwicks Lawyers and a Law Institute of Victoria Accredited Workplace Relations Specialist and has worked almost exclusively in the area of workplace relations for over 14 years.
She advises employer clients in a diverse range of industries and sectors including professional services, tourism, hospitality, transport and resources, and works with employee clients from all walks of life.
Michelle has an in-depth understanding and thorough working knowledge of all employment, workplace and anti-discrimination legislation and law in Australia and is a well-practiced advocate in these areas.