An equal opportunity contact person is a staff member you appoint to help the rest of your staff with any discrimination or harassment problems before they develop into bigger conflicts.
Contact people confidentially support and advise staff, and act independently from unions or management. They are not responsible for complaint handling, but can assist an employer.
A small business would only require one equal opportunity contact person. Larger organisations may need a contact person in each branch, section or department.
All staff should know who their contact person is.
A contact person can
- be a first contact for staff wanting to talk about workplace discrimination or harassment
- inform all staff about appropriate behaviours in the workplace, and the relevant policies and procedures
- explain options to deal with a complaint and the pros and cons of those options
- listen carefully and keep a record of actions taken
- refer to relevant support services like the Equal Opportunity Commission or SafeWork SA.
A contact person cannot
- investigate complaints
- mediate between a person complaining and the person being complained against
- decide if workplace policies or procedures have been breached
- decide if discrimination or harassment has happened
- be managers or people who are likely to later investigate or mediate complaints.
Choosing a contact person
Contact people need to fully understand and be confident in their role in the workplace.
Good contact people:
- reflect the diversity and gender balance of the workplace
- are senior enough to be taken seriously
- have the confidence of the staff
- are able to deal with personal and sensitive issues
- maintain confidentiality yet can judge when an issue needs to be referred to management
- Define the contact person role, limiting it to information and support, not complaint handling.
- Call for expressions of interest.
- Invite people recommended by staff, their union or supervisor to nominate.
- Consult with appropriate staff before appointing.
- Never force a person to take on the role.
- Ensure contact people represent your workforce and are trained.
Once you have appointed a contact person, they will need to attend the contact person training course.