What is Vicarious liability?
Vicarious liability refers to a situation where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. In a workplace context, an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.
As an example, you can be held responsible if an employee engages in unlawful discrimination, harassment or bullying.
You may be vicariously liable if the offender is your employee or contractor and:
- the victim is:
- your employee;
- your contractor;
- your contractor’s employee; or
- a visitor to your workplace; and
- you cannot demonstrate that you took reasonable precautions to prevent the behaviour from occurring.
How to avoid vicarious liability
To avoid being vicariously liable for your employees’ or contractors’ misconduct, you should take reasonable steps to prevent the conduct.
What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the size and the nature of your business, but it is important that you recognise an employee’s unlawful action and take steps to stop it.
Reasonable steps should include:
- Written policies and procedures in plain English of what constitutes unlawful discrimination, harassment and bullying; and the process of making complaints.
- Ensure to train all employees.
- Train senior employees how to respond to complaints.
- Ensure that the policy is easily accessible by all employees.
Ensure that complaints and reports are acted upon and resolved promptly, fairly and effectively, and that the policy is applied consistently through appropriate disciplinary action.
Having sound processes in place could save you a lot of headaches and money in the longer run.
To find out more or get help with your workplace issues, processes, or policy documents call Mats Eriksson on 0419 659 388