Recent headlines have been full of the damning report that a quarter of fire and rescue services in England have received complaints of bullying, harassment and discrimination from employees.
The examples in the report are shocking, including male firefighters mocking a female colleague and telling her they were going to “rape her”; a senior officer accused of making racist comments to a black colleague being written off as simply “having a laugh”; and reports of staff being reluctant to speak up after being told it would be “career suicide to do so”.
So, how do workplaces change culture? Bullying and discrimination in the workplace is always unacceptable and, left unchecked, can spread like wildfire. A safe and inclusive workplace starts with proactive prevention strategies. Failure to tackle systemic issues in your workplace can lead to expensive and damaging claims from your employees. Below are our top fire safety tips to ensure you don’t get burned:
Risk assess the area and get appropriate insurance in place
As always, the first place to start is having a look at your company policies. It is extremely important to ensure that you have clear policies on bullying and harassment and equality. However, simply having the paperwork in place is not enough. The policies need to be relevant and appropriate for your business, be properly implemented, regularly updated and employees need to not only know where they can access them but what they actually say.
Fire awareness training
To ensure that employees do have a clear understanding of what behaviour is acceptable, regular employee-wide training sessions need to be implemented. Training is crucial in prevention against harassment and discrimination. Employees should also be made aware of what the potential consequences of their behaviour and breaching the rules could mean for them (which may include being fired), as well as how to report incidents that they have either witnessed or been affected by. The training needs to be engaging and conducted regularly to ensure that all employees are up to date on your policies and procedures. Additional training at leadership level on how to address and prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace, such as for your HR Team, any line managers or directors or partners, is also vital to ensure that those at the top are also sending out the right message to your employees.
Fire marshals and safety officers
As well as the training, creating a respectful and inclusive workplace culture needs to be led from the top down. Employees need to be encouraged to treat each other with respect and dignity. Make sure that employees are encouraged to report any incidents of discrimination, bullying and harassment and ensure that there is a safe and confidential system in place for them to do this, without fear of repercussions. Create an environment of open communication and regularly check-in with staff to make sure that they are feeling supported and comfortable in their workplace. Any complaints or grievances surrounding any of these issues should be investigated carefully, fairly and transparently under your grievance procedure to smoke out the issues, with any disciplinary action being taken promptly if appropriate, to seek to extinguish the problem.
Creating a great workplace culture doesn’t only mean you’ll avoid potentially expensive claims, but it can also improve the performance, attendance and retention of staff.
If you are experiencing discrimination or harassment in your workplace or you are an employer who has a burning question and needs assistance with this topic, please don’t hesitate to contact our Employment Team we would be de-lighted to help.