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Managing workplace culture in a litigious world
Several decades ago, businesses weren’t held as accountable for their actions and the environment they provide for their staff. Since then, work environments have drastically improved, but the consequences of unfavourable situations do hold significantly more weight. Whether it’s a relationship issue, an environmental conflict or perceived negligence, the risk of litigation means businesses need to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe.
Consider the following to help your business avoid a worst-case scenario.
Recruit carefully and purposefully
Many businesses don’t invest enough time and effort into recruitment. It’s important to put just as much thought into your office culture as how good someone looks on paper. Creating a nurturing culture for your staff and ensuring there are easily accessible human resources available creates an environment employees are comfortable in – and therefore do their best work in. To mitigate the rise of office disputes and disruptions to your carefully curated environment, scout individuals who work well with your staff and make sure to discuss personality with their referees.
Ballarat branch manager Damon Edwards explains why relationships at work are so important in today’s litigious society. “We’re seeing more and more claims in the management liability space – claims against the company and individual directors, whilst they are fulfilling their roles as company executives. Things like statutory fines and penalties are imposed – for example, say an employee filed a claim of bullying in the workplace. Work Cover would come in to investigate, and if it’s found that the entity hasn’t provided a safe work place, fines could be imposed.”
Create a positive work environment
While you don’t necessarily have to create a Google style culture, it’s important to cultivate an environment where employees are comfortable and happy. One part of doing this is ensuring your staff has easy access to human resources and knows there are processes in place protecting them as well as the company. This encourages an open door for staff to speak up if they’re uncomfortable or having problems, and therefore makes it more likely you’ll be able to handle things internally. Having these processes in place is key to being able to address internal issues correctly and avoiding potential litigation down the line.
By being involved with your staff and staying on top of what’s happening in the office, you can nip potential problems in the bud. Internal situations tend to have warning signs before they escalate and can be defused quite easily given the right attention. Speaking to the employees involved or implementing new procedures as necessary can be the difference between a simple conversation and litigation.
“Insurance exposure is one of the biggest threats facing modern businesses. Employees are probably one of the biggest risks businesses take, in the sense that they can bring with them work cover claims, wrongful dismissal claims, bullying or harassment claims…all of these things are realities employers have to be prepared for. The best thing to do to avoid these situations is to employ the right people at the start. Not just hiring those who have the right qualifications, but ensuring they fit within the dynamics of a business is crucial,” says Justin Schembri, our Traralgon Branch Manager.
While you can never completely remove the risk of litigation, there are steps to be taken to prevent it, including having a comprehensive insurance plan in place. Covering all your bases will let you rest easy knowing you have safeguards in place. For more tips, download our management liability essentials guide.