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Policies, Procedures & SafeguardsJune 17, 2016
In recent weeks, there has been plenty of media attention around Australian of the Year and former Army Chief, David Morrison’s WordsAtWork campaign. This campaign, which is currently supported by the Diversity Council of Australia, confronts the topic of words used at work that may exclude, or be offensive to, certain groups of people.
The WordsAtWork campaign is trying to prevent inequality within Australian workplaces by encouraging workers to stop using words such as ‘guys’, ‘girls’ or ‘sweetie”, and descriptive words such as disabled or reference to ethnic identification.
According to David Morrison, ‘guys’ can be considered a gendered word, which can cause women to feel excluded. While the campaign is not about being ‘politically correct’, the Diversity Council of Australia is trying to encourage workers to be mindful of the language they use, in order to drive workplace culture and productivity.
Here at Employsure, we are strong advocates for equality in the workplace, however, we believe the use of certain words at work really stems down to common sense and judgement. While using words such as ‘sheila’ will definitely raise eyebrows and any label referring to a person’s race or nationality is unlawful, there is something to be said for not completely sterilising a workplace.
Common sense when it comes to words that can and cannot be said in a workplace should be assessed subjectively. There will always be workplaces where a more laid back type of language is accepted. Problems generally arise when there is a misjudgment, and a certain loose comment or offensive word is considered acceptable by some, but not by others. Personal judgement should be applied when speaking at work. If you would take offense to what you are saying, or if your words could be perceived as offensive, then it is in your best interest not to say them.
Employers should always ensure their workplace is free from bullying or harassing behaviour, which includes harmful, discriminatory or degrading words. However, the use of the word ‘guys’ is a generally accepted phase which is gender neutral, with common sense dictating it would rarely, if ever, be taken offensively. We believe employers and employees cannot thrive in a workplace where they need to think about every word spoken, and be concerned about how it is perceived.
Employsure encourages employers to promote equality within their workplace, however, we do believe the WordsAtWork campaign, while trying to positively address the issue of inequality, goes too far, to the point of being impractical.
If you have any questions relating to equality and which words would be considered unlawful, contact Employsure today on 1300 651 415. Our team of specialists can assist with any confusion you may have.