Managing bullying and harassment in the salon

Workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment is an emerging and ongoing issue for salons across the hair and beauty industry, writes HABA’s Juliet Docwra.

With the many ways staff are now able to interact with each other, including social media, text, gossip, and inappropriate discussions with clients, there are more ways than ever for inter-personal issues to be misinterpreted or get out of hand.

In cases where a complaint is made, the Fair Work Ombudsman is required to investigate to ensure that staff and salon owners are protected under the individual laws present in each state for anti-discrimination and human rights legislation. This can be a costly exercise for business owners and without the appropriate preparation can result in claims and, if found guilty or negligent, can result in huge payouts for the salon owner in question. Recently Winslow Constructors suffered through a $1.36 million case with a sexual harassment and bullying /abuse claim made by one of its labourers. Being a steward over your workplace behaviors in today’s environment has never been more important.

Workplace bullying is described as repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards an individual or group that creates a risk to health and safety and has the effect of victimising, humiliating, undermining, or threatening an individual or group.

Workplace bullying applies to everyone ‒ there are no exemptions. Are you treated harshly? Have you treated an individual differently to others? Standing idly by while someone  is being bullied or harassed at work is just as bad as being the one who repeatedly creates an unsafe or uncomfortable working environment.

A broad range of behaviors can be classed as bullying, and these behaviors can be direct (eg. verbal abuse, spreading rumours or interfering with personal property or work equipment) or indirect (eg. unjustified complaints, setting unreasonable tasks or excluding someone).

So how do you control workplace bullying and harassment ?

  1. Don’t put your head in the sand.

If there is an issue occurring in your business, tackle it head on. There is no sense in pretending there isn’t a problem, as ignoring or taking longer to deal with the issue can result in greater work, heartache and escalation of the situation. Deal with issues as they arise and ensure that in all instances a fair and equitable agreement is achieved with your team.

  1. Establish a firm Workplace Discrimination Policy.
    A good Workplace Discrimination Policy is centered around a commitment to providing a safe and healthy salon environment for staff and owners, creating an environment that is free from discrimination, bullying and harassment. The Workplace Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment Policy should define what constitutes acts of bullying, discrimination and harassment while highlighting the impacts that this has on the individual, your business and generally on society. The policy should include ways for staff to report issues and reference the Discipline Policy to ensure that appropriate actions are taken in instances of these kinds of behaviors. HABA provides its members with a template for a Workplace Discrimination Policy and advice on how best to implement it in your salon, making it easy to protect your business from these kinds of claims.
  2. Encourage the right kinds of behavior
    By holding high standards for yourself and your staff, you can create the kind of working environment in which you want to operate. Refuse to get involved in gossip and ensure that these kinds of conversations are quickly squashed by management and members of the team. Encourage positive and inclusive behavior, like team nights out, where all are invited, to enhance the ability for the team to bond and ensure all members are treated equally. Ensure that staff know to come to you with legitimate complaints so that issues can be handled appropriately and quickly, rather than escalating on the floor. By encouraging the right kind of behavior, you can ensure your salon is a place that your team want to work and protect yourself from legal action.
  3. Don’t be afraid of tough decisions
    With an appropriate Workplace Discrimination Policy in place, as a salon owner you are within your rights to issue warnings and in extreme cases dismiss a staff member over behavior deemed unacceptable by this policy. In the instance that a particular staff member is not complying with the outlined rules or continues with unacceptable behavior, it may simply mean that they are not the right fit for your team – and while that is a tough decision to make, it is a better solution than losing your entire team or being forced towards legal action.
  • Juliet Docwra is the junior industrial relations advisor at HABA (Hair and Beauty Australia Industry Association.  HABA members can contact the association’s team of industrial relations advisers during business hours to resolve their issues. With members across the country, the team at HABA is well versed in the finer points of law specific to the hair and beauty award, and is able to assist salon owners in developing different policies and procedures as required to protect their businesses.

For more information visit askhaba.com.au

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