Diversity & equal rights

It is an indisputable fact that women are not equally represented in leadership roles or management positions in Australian companies and governments, not even close. Even in 2016, this is the case in almost all arenas of business and politics and is most certainly a global issue, although Australia even appears to lag in this indicator among developed nations. This flows through to an under-representation of women on boards of directors of Australian public companies. Earlier this year consultant Conrad Liveris found that there were fewer women in CEO and chair roles in ASX 200 companies than there were men named either John, Peter or David in such roles. What an alarming statistic! In this note we consider whether this under-representation is caused by a failure to recognise that women as much as men are able to achieve and sustain appropriate business outcomes and conclude that this is a matter that good corporate governance can resolve.
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As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the 2017 campaign message asks us to #beboldforchange and to “take action to drive change for women to forge a better working world”.

The campaign’s aims are admirable and worthy of support. But I find myself querying whether such a campaign really helps our workplaces become more holistically diverse and inclusive.
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The Victorian Supreme Court recently issued a stunning decision awarding an employee over $600,000 comprising $210,000 for pain and suffering and the balance for lost past and future income, despite the employee having a significant pre-existing psychiatric illness and a finding that no bullying had occurred.  
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The stakes are risingIn the world of anti-discrimination law awards of money against employers for psychiatric injury or illness caused by sexual harassment by one of their employees have been rare and low, typically in the range of $12,000 to $20,000. Similarly, the anti-bullying jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission has seen limited orders made to prevent further bullying where claims have been made, and compensation is not available as a remedy for bullying behavior.

But things are changing, especially in the area of sexual harassment where awards of damages for psychiatric illness are increasing. This reflects change in societal attitude towards this type of conduct that has (finally) started to be reflected in judicial pronouncements.

The spectrum of mental harm that can be experienced by victims of sexual harassment or bullying covers depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) any of which can be debilitating for a significant period.


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Work imageWhat will work look like in the future and what lessons can employers take from that? Two recent reports have identified the trends in the way in which we will work in Australia over the next 20 to 40 years.

In the first, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce, the CSIRO looks at what they describe as six ‘megatrends’ for jobs and employment markets over the coming twenty years:
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FinanceScott Morrison’s first Federal Budget announced the creation of the ‘Youth Jobs PaTH’ (Prepare-Trial-Hire) program – a program designed to encourage up to 120,000 unemployed youth into the workforce through skills training programs, paid internships and incentive payments for prospective employers. While further details will come to light over the course of the Federal Election campaign, employers who want to participate will need to look before they leap, to make sure their participation in the program doesn’t lead them, later on, to fall foul of the minimum wage provisions in awards and legislation. 
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EyeWhen it comes to managing bullying in the workplace, the focus tends to be on dealing with the bullying behaviour after it has occurred or at least after the bully has started work. But are there ways to stop bullies from being recruited in the first place?

One place to start is screening during recruitment. There are certain personalities who deliberately inflict harm or lack the ability to understand the harm they are doing to others. These personalities fall within a category that psychologists call the ‘Dark Triad’ which comprises three sub-personalities: Machiavellianism, sub-clinical narcissism and sub-clinical psychopathy.
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As the Australian Football League 2016 pre-season approaches, there is a lot of talk in the media about “list management” by clubs. This generally involves retiring or trading “older” players – usually over the age of 28.

It is often assumed – rightly or wrongly – that football players lose their athletic edge around this age. But is it fair – or legal –  to use age as a blunt proxy for performance?  There are players (like Dustin Fletcher of Essendon fame) that perform brilliantly into their late 30s and beyond.
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Last week Seyfarth Shaw hosted its inaugural HR Leaders lunch which explored the key issues affecting Australian workplaces and HR. The lunch discussion focused on recent research and was attended by HR leaders from organisations in a range of industries including logistics, financial services, hospitality and manufacturing.
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