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Is Swearing At Work OK Or Not

Is Swearing At Work OK Or Not?


HR News November 7 2017 – Bullying/harassment at work is a hot topic. The case of swearing at work fits in that debate. In an interesting case this week, a Fair Work commissioner has ruled that in certain workplaces swearing at work is part of the normal interaction; and he also ruled that dismissing an employee for using foul language was unfair.

Swearing At Work Is Less Common Than Before

Peter Wilson, National President of the Australian human Resources Institute and Chair of CPA Australia disagrees. As does the Broadspring Consulting team. A union delegate described workmates using the f bomb and the c bomb. Discussion has been sparked by how language is changing and whether it is as common as it used to be for bad language to be used at work. And the general sense is that bad language is less often used at work than it used to be.

It’s in the news and was on the radio but what employers need to know is:

  • First, it’s not enough to assume standards of behaviour. If you are going to reward or penalise employees for meeting or failing standards, then you must document those standards and state them very clearly.
  • Secondly, Fair Work will take into account “typical” businesses and industry similarities when making decisions.

What lessons can be learned?

  1. Document your workplace standards. Do this in a Code of Conduct or similar document.
  2. Make sure that you clearly communicate workplace standards and that there is consistency in how those standards are applied and monitored at work.
  3. Ensure that policies around handling complaints and disciplinary action include definitions and examples of what is unacceptable. This can include swearing, shouting, physical abuse and threats.

Most people associate the standards of behaviour at your workplace with your company culture. As such they will be an important factor in attracting and retaining employees. So you cannot leave it assumed or unmanaged. In fact many allegations of bullying and harassment include allegations about the language that people used.

What Next?

If you feel that you should review your policies, Broadspring Consulting can complete an audit and health check of your policies. We’ll give you peace of mind and an action list if need be. Book a time to discuss your concerns.

Call us today