Good governance is often said to involve the governing body adopting policies on a range of topics. Managers also typically have numerous workplace policies for employees to follow. This is all well and good … but there can be a sting in the tail.
The recent decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia in Romero v Farstad Shipping (Indian Pacific) Pty Ltd illustrates that employers should exercise care in how they prepare and promote their workplace policies. In this case, the Court found that Farstad’s Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Policy incorporated additional mutual obligations into the contract of employment, which Farstad had failed to comply with in carrying out an investigation into workplace bullying and discrimination. The Court looked not only at the language of the Policy but also at the surrounding circumstances, such as the way that it was promoted and reinforced to employees, and the fact that it was signed by employees.
This decision illustrates that great care should be taken in the drafting of workplace policies, as employers might be in breach of the contract of employment if they fail to comply with any additional requirements imposed by a workplace policy. Employers should ensure that their workplace policies are up to date, be aware of any obligations under them and ensure that they comply with any processes required by them.
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