Legislation around same-sex marriage will be debated and voted upon by the House of Representatives this week, following the Senate’s 43-12 vote in favour of changing the definition of marriage.
With the legislation expected to pass easily in the House of Reps, the potential for same-sex marriage becoming legal is very real and comes after a survey and debate that many people found highly divisive.
Many Australian businesses were vocal about their support for same sex marriage during the campaign in the lead up to the vote. At the time of writing there were more than 2200 organisations that had promoted their support of marriage equality on the Australian Marriage Equality website, including Perth Airport, Bankwest and Curtin University.
So how has your workplace fared throughout the debate, and do you need to put any plans in place to ensure your employees feel safe and supported, no matter which side of the debate they are on?
In Western Australia, 64% of people voted yes in the marriage equality survey, with 78% of the WA population contributing their vote.
Enabling a fair and understanding dialogue between the majority – those who voted yes – and those who voted no is instrumental to a positive workplace culture. If employees feel stifled in one area at work, then they are less likely to speak openly and freely on other matters – and that could be related to valuable intelligence that is vital to the continued success of your business.
Employees who are given the opportunity to engage in productive conflict – to discuss opposing views and work through conflict maturely, respectfully and effectively – are also more likely to then engage in that behaviour down the track on other matters.
The survey results and forthcoming legislative change also provides opportunity for your business to review its own policies and procedures to ensure inclusion is a key practice.
Diversity and inclusive workplace practices are not only good for business – research by McKinsey shows businesses with strong executive board diversity are likely to have stronger financial returns – they are also good for employee wellbeing, innovation and performance.
Your human resources team should use this time to review company policies – or, if you’re a small to medium enterprise with limited internal HR capability, then now is the time to engage with professional HR consultants who have the experience and expertise to undertake a full review of your inclusion and diversity procedures and policies, workplace culture and uncover any potential negative issues.
“The challenge for managers and employers in this situation is to foster open dialogue between their staff, while also balancing the fine line between free speech and hate speech,” says WCA Solutions Principal Heather Warner.
“It is during this time that reviewing and updating HR policies and procedures are more important than ever to ensure they are in line with the community and legislation.
“Far from being “tick the box” exercises, policies and procedures give staff the framework and guidance to ensure they are secure and comfortable in the workplace, allowing them to focus on their work and productivity.”
For more information on how WCA Solutions can assist you in reviewing or implementing internal procedures and policies focussing on inclusion, diversity, freedom of speech and employee wellbeing please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 08 9383 3293.