“Corporate liability provisions can be used to hold a company liable for any criminal offence where a corporate culture exists that tolerates or encourages a culpable conduct” (Attorney General, Christian Porter).
Business leaders are being held personally responsible for the conduct of their organisation now more than ever in Australia. With the surge of social media as an easily accessible court of public opinion and significant changes in legislation – it is imperative that your organisation is risk-free and that your staff feel comfortable, safe and happy. Thus, enforcing appropriate conduct is necessary.
The Australian Government is currently reviewing whether the law must have provisions that enable leaders to be held liable for misconduct by their business.
Leadership and Misconduct
Australia’s corporate responsibility regime is being reviewed, as announced by the Office of the Attorney-General. The review is specifically considering whether the law should contain provisions that allow for ‘Senior Corporate Officers’ to be held liable for misconduct by their organisation.
This pattern of accountability for appropriate conduct being held with the top-end of an organisation has been seen in the recent Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017, which made it possible to hold franchisors and holding companies responsible for contraventions of the law by franchisees. A fair warning to leaders to ensure that misconduct is not occurring in your organisation.
What does this mean for you? As a business leader, you must ensure that your organisation is conduct compliant. As both law reforms centre around misconduct and the practices in place to mitigate this risk, it is imperative that your compliance training is adequate to protect you and your organisation.
Misconduct can harm and create a risk in all areas of your organisation.
Impacts of inappropriate conduct include:
- Bottom Line: Misconduct can cost you in fines, or lost business. Have a look at Armory Films, ‘Billionaire Boys Club’ starring Kevin Spacey. After misconduct allegations released about the Actor, the film made only US $426 (AU $626).
- Productivity: Research from the University of Kent and University of Split have found that workplace bullying is a major source of misconduct that can have harmful effects on employees. These include, significantly decreased job satisfaction, which results in the reduction of performance.
- Reputation: With the exponential rise of social media, misconduct in an organisation can spread like wildfire and seriously harm your brand. Look no further than the #MeToo phenomenon, for a case study in inappropriate conduct and reputation.
Improving conduct in the workplace: the benefits of a Code of Conduct policy
The first step to improving conduct in your organisation is clarity, i.e. setting clear guidelines for what constitutes inappropriate conduct through a detailed code of conduct training program aimed at making staff aware of organisational guidelines. A policy framework of this nature will give your staff the tools and education to understand what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. In addition, as well as providing an outline of how to respond to certain situations, a code of conduct policy is a legally valuable tool that is evidence of an effort towards encouraging good behaviour in the workplace.
Outlining a code of conduct may reveal other compliance training requirements that your organisation may not currently have on board. Common examples include:
- Anti-Bullying and Harassment.
- Work Health and Safety
- Cultural Sensitivity
- Consumer Privacy
Remember: A compliance breach can come from anywhere in your organisation, and it is your responsibility to stop it in its tracks.
Action Steps for your Code of Conduct Policy
Well done! You have taken the first step towards improving conduct in your organisation by developing a Code of Conduct Policy. What steps can you take to ensure that it is being upheld?
- Exemplary behaviour. Modelling the right behaviour is imperative in encouraging positive action within your organisation. Your code of conduct will not work if your behaviour is not reflective of it.
- Ensure code of conduct training is equal. All staff must be given training in your organisation’s code of conduct policy to the same standard. Starting new employees off on the right path is the first step to a safe journey. The induction of new staff can also provide the perfect opportunity to review your compliance training for any need of updating. If your current training is clunky, expensive and lacks engagement, it may be beneficial to consider Safetrac’s online e-learning options.
- Establish an impartial ombudsman. You may find that staff will not report misconduct due to the fear of retaliation or other consequences that may affect their working conditions (i.e. the person whom they report to will take sides). For this reason, assigning an impartial ombudsman can assist in objectively investigating any instances of misconduct. This person could be an HR leader, a trusted manager or any other individual who can be tasked with respect for both parties and thorough investigation of the incident.
- Encourage whistleblowing: Although whistleblowing may have a negative stigma attached to it from a societal perspective, it is a highly effective way of uncovering inappropriate behaviour that may be affecting your organisation. Our Whistleblowing Training Course can help you protect whistleblowers in your business.
Now that you understand the importance of appropriate conduct and some of the ways in which to establish this within your organisation, it’s time to take the next step towards eliminating this risk entirely. Contact Safetrac to have a chat about your Code of Conduct training and other customised compliance courses today.