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  • Mark Shaw

Solve problems with less policies, not more


In a recent complaint of race discrimination in the workplace, the Victorian Human Rights Commission noted that:

  • The training regimes appear to be exemplary

  • The official position taken by the employer is wholly exemplary

  • The code of conduct and other documents showed that the employer is wholly opposed to any form of racial or other unlawful harassment in employment

  • The difficulty is that it is one thing to have these policies, but it is another to enforce them

  • What is starkly lacking is an effective response on the occasions when allegations of racist conduct were raised

In some general advice provided in the public domain by a leading law firm, they recommend:-

“In addition to discrimination policies being implemented, a complaints management policy should be put in place and then consistently followed to protect business interests in the event of discrimination complaints being made by employees of your business.”


I’d argue 100% the opposite.


I’d argue what we need to do is exactly what the Commissioner suggested “Provide an effective response on the occasions when allegations of racist conduct are raised”


Another policy simply will not be an “effective response on the occasion” and will never address the need for enforcement the Commissioner referred to.  You need to successfully deal with the individual causing the problem without impacting on everyone else.


Remember in this case, the evidence suggests the individual had already ignored the:

  • Training provided

  • Code of conduct

  • Stated company values on unlawful harassment

  • Current policies

I’d suggest he/she will also ignore any new policy as well.


Instead my recommendation is to manage the problem caused by this one individual when she/he ignores the training, code of conduct and policies etc.  Focus on the problems caused and develop a solution to ensure the problem is resolved quickly.


I adopted this approach over 20 years ago and, as rare as they actually are, every judicial review of our approach in that time endorses it as “reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way”.  You can find more details on this approach at www.neoshr.com.au/blog and a free template at www.neoshr.com.au/resouorce-centre (under manuals) or read the book “The 2% Effect” available at www.diarmbrust.com/book.


…… you don’t need more policy, you need less.

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