Each employer and organisation must be committed to providing a safe, all-inclusive workplace that promotes respect and is free of discrimination and harassment (1). Within a workplace, an individual has the right to feel protected and participate freely in all areas of working life.
A workplace is often diverse, having employees from all backgrounds, religions, age, gender, sexual orientation and education status. It is the responsibility of the organisation and employer to ensure that all employees are provided with a safe, inclusive working environment, free of discrimination and victimisation. Equal opportunity is critical in the workplace to ensure all employees are treated similarly and are not disadvantaged by prejudice, allowing all to have access to the same opportunities and services as their counterparts. Contrarily, discrimination takes form of treating someone unfavourably or bullying and can take a direct form; someone is treated unfairly due to a personal characteristic, or an indirect form; a policy which applies to everyone can possibly put another at a disadvantage. It is critical to ensure all persons are treated fairly and promote an enjoyable working environment.
By doing so, it can promote increased productivity within the team as well as increase performance, where work is completed efficiently and accurately. It is mandatory that all employees and employers perform Diversity training at Peter Mac, utilising education to increase cultural awareness, tolerance of differences and knowledge to promote a positive working culture amongst co-workers. In an inclusive workplace, it is likely that employees will show an increased engagement within the organisation (2), building trust between different groups and learning to cooperatively work together to create a positive workplace. Equal opportunity is essential for the longevity of employees employed at an organisation as well as the productivity of the laboratory. Equal opportunity allows all individuals to feel valued and appreciated at work as well as accepted, creating a healthy and happy workforce.
Equal opportunity is governed at both a Federal and a State level. At a Federal level, the notion of equal opportunity is governed via the Australian Human Rights Commission, of whom investigate incidents that are classified under the Age Discrimination Act (2004), Australian Rights Commission Act (1986), Disability discrimination act (1992), Racial Discrimination act (1975) and the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) (3). All legislation prohibits and makes It unlawful to discriminate in employment on these bases and sets a precedence of what is accepted and appropriate behaviour.
Furthermore, the Australian Human Rights Commission recommends that all organisations follow the guide to “Workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying” as well as implementing the “10 steps that you can take to create a fair and productive workplace” (3), which highlights the importance of implementing discrimination policies as well as processes to handle complaints regarding equal opportunity. These guides written by the AHRC aim to create a more diverse workforce where staff satisfaction is increased as well a broadening employment opportunities for all individuals via eliminating feelings of exclusion and impertinence.
Furthermore, Victorian legislation ensures equal opportunity is implemented via the Equal Opportunity Act (2010). The Act aimed to strengthen already present discrimination laws as well as strengthen the Commissions role in cases of discrimination. Like federal legislation, the act encourages the identification as well as the elimination of discrimination, providing organisations with adequate tools to facilitate dispute resolution. Via the implementation of these acts at both a federal and state level, it reduces barriers that may be in place that hinder employees from progressing and entering the workforce as well as aid diversity to thrive within an organisation.
Employees in a workplace have the right to feel safe and ensure their health is not compromised. It is the responsibility of the employer and the organisation to put employee wellbeing at its forefront, taking responsibility for what happens within the workplace environment. Duty of care refers to organisations and employers demonstrating primary responsibility for the health and safety of its workers as well as others whom are influenced by its work.
In a laboratory setting, duty of care includes and is not limited to, maintaining instrumentation and decreasing exposure to chemical hazards, providing information on chemical hazards and how to deal with potential exposures, providing adequate training and feedback, providing areas for rest and relaxation, ensuring staff do not work excessive hours and providing adequate clothing (Personal protective equipment), without any cost to workers (4). Furthermore, employers also have a duty of care of the employee’s psychological state associated with work including, overcrowding, shift work, overtime and work related stress and fatigue.
By ensuring a duty of care is carried out, it demonstrates to employees that their wellbeing is valued, building trust and job satisfaction. Furthermore, it ensures they feel empowered to raise concerns about potential risks that may occur within the laboratory. At the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, duty of care is demonstrated through the availability of risk assessments on hazardous chemicals used, monthly instrumentation maintenance checks, ensuring all workers are competent in work they are undertaking via competency training records as well as providing workers with an area where mandatory breaks can be taken. This allows workers to be provided with safe working practices, putting their physical and psychological wellbeing at the forefront of the organisation.
Moreover, it is a requirement that organisations and its members adhere to ethical professional guidelines. In the workplace, ethics are moral guidelines that drive individuals and the organisations behaviour in respect to what is right and wrong and what is good and bad. In the laboratory, ethics can come in the form of employer to employee relationships as well as employee to patient relationships. Employer to employee ethics refers to the protection of immoral behaviour that may occur, whilst protecting basic human rights in the workplace. By practicing ethics, it aims to provide security to workers, knowing they are respected and they are free from discrimination and harassment. This aims to promote mutual trust between all individuals, increasing productivity in the workplace. Moreover, Employee to patient ethics refers to the wellbeing of patients and ensure their confidentiality. All laboratories must adhere to confidentiality of patient information as well as ensure no information is disclosed to any other persons. By following laboratory ethical practices, it builds trust and confidence between patient and clinician relationships, as well as retaining important bonds between the patient and hospital involved.
Duty of care is governed at both a federal and state level. At a Federal level, duty of care is governed via the creation of common law, specifically tort law. Legislation such as tort law aims to protect individuals form wrongful conduct by other such as employers, whilst providing claimants the opportunity to sue for compensation (5). This implementation of tort law is aimed to provide relied to injured parties and impose liability on the parties in whom have inflicted the harm, ensuring they are deterred from causing further damage to individuals. Furthermore, Duty of Care is governed at a state level in Victoria via The Wrongs Act (1958). The Wrongs act is principal legislation that applies to common law, investigating claims of negligence and breaches of duty of care. Like federal legislation, the act aims to protect all persons directly and indirectly affected by harm that is caused by negligence, protecting claims and ensuring they have the right to have cases properly investigated by external bodies. More so, the act aims to deter parties from behaviours that may cause harm to individuals in the form of negligence.
- Equal Opportunity [Internet]. Education.vic.gov.au. 2019 [cited 9 September 2019]. Available from: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/hrweb/divequity/Pages/default_eeo.aspx
- 7 Reasons Why Workplace Diversity Training is More Important Than Ever! [Internet]. CCSU Continuing Education. 2019 [cited 9 September 2019]. Available from: https://ccsuconed.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/7-reasons-why-workplace-diversity-training-is-more-important-than-ever/
- What does equal opportunity in the workplace mean? | GradAustralia [Internet]. GradAustralia. 2019 [cited 9 September 2019]. Available from: https://gradaustralia.com.au/diversity/what-does-equal-opportunity-in-the-workplace-mean
- [Internet]. 2019 [cited 16 November 2019]. Available from: https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/employers-your-responsibilities
- What is a tort? | ALRC [Internet]. ALRC. 2019 [cited 16 November 2019]. Available from: https://www.alrc.gov.au/publication/traditional-rights-and-freedoms-encroachments-by-commonwealth-laws-alrc-interim-report-127/17-immunity-from-civil-liability/what-is-a-tort/