So here we are at the start of another year! It’s worth pondering about the HR trends we think will be big in 2017.

We think 2017 will be another big year in HR – both in terms of opportunity and also from a workplace relations perspective.  

There has been a lot of interesting data on workplace trends released during 2016 and this data gives us strong indicators for direction and policy over the next 12 months. 

Here are 5 key things we think you need to know.

1. Flexibility will be a defining differentiator for the Employer of Choice

In 2016, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found that 62.9% of organisations now have either a policy or strategy for flexible working arrangements. This is up from 60.2% in 2014-15

However, a 2016 CPA Australia report also showed that many employees thought working flexibly would have a negative impact on their career. With so much emphasis on flexibility and so many different flexible arrangements available, 2017 could well be the year this perception changes. And we believe the business that gets this right will hold the advantage for attracting and retaining key talent.

But remember, having a flexible business environment is about much more than simply having a policy in place. Your arrangements need to work practically for the business and employees, and your business culture, work practices and unspoken expectations need to support flexible work.

2. Domestic violence will be recognised as more than a domestic issue

The Gender Equality Scorecard also found that 39.3% of employers now have a domestic violence policy in place, an increase of over 7% from last year.

While this is important from a Health & Safety perspective, it also makes sense economically. A report by PwC this year showed that domestic violence costs $926 million dollars per year in productivity losses, and the startling domestic violence incidents statistics mean that no workplace is immune from the far-reaching affects.

A domestic violence policy provides a framework to support employees in need, including modifying work arrangements, providing support through access to an EAP, establishing a safety plan, and granting additional leave. If your business doesn’t have one, now’s the time to start.

Strict guidelines around confidentiality and a safe and non-judgemental environment are also important.

3. Bullying will be taken seriously –  very seriously

This year, the FWC handed down their first official decision on bullying since the introduction of new anti-bullying legislation. And its fair to say businesses on the whole are taking bullying in the workplace very seriously as more and more cases hit the courts.

The recent decision stated that workplace culture was a critical factor in establishing the bullying behaviour – in other words, if management allows a bullying culture to exist, your business may be seen to be providing the foundation for bullying behaviour to be allowed.

It is now clearer than ever that simply having an anti-bullying policy in place is not enough to protect a business if a claim is brought against them.

Policies need to be supported by an effective training program which clearly spells out what constitutes bullying behaviours – what’s acceptable and what’s not – and helps your people navigate what to do if they see or experience bullying. Your managers also need to be trained in their responsibilities and obligations – don’t just expect that they will know this.

Most importantly you are obligated to provide a safe workplace for all your workers. Bad behaviour needs to be called out as and when it happens. 

4. Workplaces will get healthier

The benefits of a healthy workplace and workforce include everything from improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved morale among staff.

But creating a healthy workplace is about much more than just helping people take care of their physical health (although that’s part of it). It’s also important to consider employees’ mental health. According to Heads Up, untreated mental health conditions cost Australian employers $10.9 billion every year. 

Providing a mentally healthy workplace isn’t just about promoting a positive workplace culture. Staff also need to feel they can speak openly about mental health issues. Management also need to be trained to spot risks to and symptoms of mental health issues early.

5. Government paid parental leave may change (again)

The media and politicians made a lot of noise about new parents ‘double dipping’ when it came to parental leave this year. So in 2016, the Government proposed legislation that would tighten access to paid parental leave. 

The current scheme allows new parents to receive 18 weeks of minimum wage payments from the government, regardless of their employee entitlements.

The proposed legislation would see new parents cut off from government payments if their employee entitlements are more generous than 18 weeks at minimum wage.

If the legislation passes, employers who offer paid parental leave may consider adjusting their current scheme so their employees are not disadvantaged.

Watch this space for any breaking news – the change was originally slated for 1 January 2017 but clearly this time has come and gone.

 

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