All workplaces need to provide a safe working environment. That goes beyond health and safety measures and requires a consideration of other, often intangible issues that can make a workplace “unsafe” for an individual. These intangibles are often behavioral and can impact different people differently which precludes a “one size fits all response”.
We are talking here of harassment both physical and verbal, violence towards others bullying, intimidation or any other behaviors which negatively impact a person. The language we use with each other and the behaviors we display can, over time create for those involved, a culture of “normality“ but that can change very quickly if a new member joins the group, or a group members situation changes, when such behavior and language can cause distress. Such distress can manifest itself overtly in a person’s own display of behavior but in can also be internalized leading to more physiological harm.
Think about the workplace culture you have across all levels. Is language carelessly used such as racial, homophobic, or other inappropriate joking, physical conduct etc.? Are you seeing signs that an employee is being negatively impacted by what others would see as harmless banter?
Remember it is how an individual is impacted that is the focus of alleviating any harm.
Set some ground rules as to what are and what are not acceptable workplace behaviors, walk the talk by displaying the behavior you expect. Encourage people to raise any concerns and act quickly to remedy it. Sometimes you may see signals of harm that an individual does not feel like they can raise directly eg a drop in their productivity, a change in their normal behavior, increased absenteeism or lateness. Such signals should be followed up on.
Security of the workplace or indeed any accommodation you provide means also restricting third parties from entering without approval. It’s also a health and safety concern if people are entering at any time without your knowledge, this includes third party canvassers or opportunists wanting contact with your employees. Again, have a protocol that requires either that such entry is not allowed or is granted according to a clear process.
Information sharing is another security issue. No personal information should be shared if randomly sought by a person unknown. That includes confirming a person’s presence at work. Of course, where such information is lawfully sought then it can be shared but the confidentiality of it needs to be maintained. Similarly ensure your own records of employees are secure and access to them is limited to persons with a legitimate need to have such access but that too should be subject to strict controls.
Tūhana Business and Human Rights is NZEE’s Human Rights Foundation Partner, to help members implement the UNGP framework in their operations and help identify and prioritize the risks they pose to people through their own business operations and supply chain and develop responses that look to prevent, mitigate, or remedy human rights issues.