Bakers Delight is taking proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment, recognising that it is a “high risk workplace” and seeking to get support in putting the best policies and processes in place to protect staff.
The brand underwent an investigation from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to better understand where it can take steps to ensure policies and procedures are in place to prevent any incidents of sexual harassment occuring.
In a statement that clarifies the investigation was not launched in response to any reported incidents, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Ro Allen, explains their reasoning: “Both the Commission and Baker’s Delight Holdings recognise that bakeries, like many other retail environments, can be a high-risk workplace for sexual harassment, particularly for women and casual workers.”
“Instead of relying on complaints to improve the workplace, the investigation sought to ensure policies and processes are in place to prevent sexual harassment occuring in the first place.”
The Commission recently published the report of this investigation into the adequacy of Bakers Delight Holdings’ framework for preventing and responding to sexual harrassment, citing further steps the company could take: developing a sexual harassment plan, implementing staff training, updating policies and procedures, having regular communication to employees and developing a central register of reports.
Similar to many duty holders, there were gaps in Bakers Delight Holdings’ compliance, but the Commission said that Bakers Delight Holdings agreed to all their recommendations and that during the investigation, the company had already begun to address these gaps.
Bakers Delight’s joint CEO, Elise Gillespie says she wants their bakeries to be a happy and safe environment for all their workers and that this investigation from the Commission has allowed them to identify proactive measures they can take to ensure this stays the case.
“We all have a responsibility for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace,” she says. “And we are confident the recommendations in this report will go a long way towards helping other Victorian retail and franchise businesses to comply with their positive duty to create safer, more respectful workplaces.”
In Victoria, there is a unique ‘positive duty’ requirement in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, where employers have an obligation to eliminate sexual harassment as far as possible– this means doing more than simply responding to incidents that have occurred.
“It’s not fair for the burden of fixing workplaces to rest solely with people who are harmed by poor behavior,” says Emily Howie, General Counsel of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. “Complaints processes are important, but more needs to be done to change workplace culture.”
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, recommended a similar positive duty be introduced at a national level in her [email protected] report.
For employers and head franchisors wanting to understand their obligations under Victorian law to create safe and respectful workplaces, the outcomes from the Commission’s investigations will be particularly helpful. It will also help employees of these businesses to better understand their rights.
“We commend Bakers Delight Holdings on their willingness to take action to prevent sexual harassment,” says Howie. “It sends a strong message to other Victorian retailers and head franchisors to do the same.”