Investigation: Preventing sexual harassment in retail franchises
The Commission investigated the adequacy of Bakers Delight Holdings’ frameworks for preventing and responding to sexual harassment in its company-owned workplaces and franchise network.
The investigation focused on Bakers Delight Holdings’ legal obligation to take reasonable and proportionate steps to eliminate sexual harassment as far as possible, known as ‘the positive duty’, under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.
What did the investigation examine?
The investigation looked at the adequacy of Bakers Delight Holdings’ frameworks to prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment. Specifically, we looked at the extent to which Bakers Delight Holdings complied with its positive duty and with the standards set out in the Commission’s Guideline on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Sexual Harassment.
We examined steps taken by Bakers Delight Holdings to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in its:
- company owned stores in Victoria
- head office
- Victorian franchise bakeries.
Bakers Delight Holdings has worked collaboratively throughout the investigation. Together we have identified steps needed to strengthen prevention and response frameworks and make their workplaces safer for workers. Bakers Delight Holdings has demonstrated its commitment to change by entering into a Compliance Agreement with the Commission to bring its practices in line with the standards required by the positive duty.
What is the positive duty?
Under the Act, duty holders in Victoria have a positive duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate workplace sexual harassment, discrimination, and victimisation as far as possible.
We refer to this legal obligation as ‘the positive duty’.
The positive duty requires duty holders to take action to prevent sexual harassment, not just respond to it when it occurs. Duty holders must take preventive measures regardless of whether a complaint has been made.
Why did we investigate Bakers Delight Holdings?
The Commission selected Bakers Delight Holdings for this investigation because:
- retail is a high-risk industry for sexual harassment
- retail has a high rate of young and casual workers compared to other industries, who may be less likely to make complaints about unlawful behaviour
- franchise arrangements can pose complexities for preventing and responding to sexual harassment.
This investigation was not launched in response to individual instances of workplace sexual harassment occurring at Bakers Delight Holdings.
Guidance for other employers and franchise owners
This investigation identifies steps that are reasonable and proportionate for Bakers Delight Holdings to take to comply with its positive duty.
These steps may not be reasonable and proportionate for every employer or head franchisor but nonetheless create useful guidance for other employers and head franchisors to consider when implementing the positive duty.
Although our findings are specific to the business operations of Bakers Delight Holdings, we encourage other employers and head franchisors to consider our findings and assess the kinds of reasonable and proportionate steps they might need to take to prevent sexual harassment.
Bakers Delight Holdings have agreed to take specific action to prevent sexual harassment in their workplace and franchises. This plan is an example of good practice for other employers and head franchisors to consider.
What did the investigation find?
The investigation found that, like for many duty holders, there were gaps in Bakers Delight Holdings’ compliance with the positive duty.
During the investigation, Bakers Delight Holdings had already begun to take steps to address these gaps and keep its employees safe from workplace sexual harassment, including:
- updating policies and procedures
- developing sexual harassment prevention and response training
- conducting assessments of sexual harassment risks
- centrally recording all reports of workplace sexual harassment
- surveying workers to understand the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment occurring.
What was the outcome of this investigation?
On 2 August 2022, Bakers Delight Holdings entered into a Compliance Agreement with the Commission, agreeing to take further steps to comply with the Act. These steps included:
- developing a sexual harassment prevention plan
- developing sexual harassment training for all Bakers Delight employees and training to assist managers to respond to reports of sexual harassment
- updating sexual harassment policies and procedures for responding to sexual harassment
- regular communication to Bakers Delight employees about how they can make a complaint of sexual harassment
- developing a central register of reports of sexual harassment.
Read the full Compliance Agreement (PDF 227KB).
Who is this report for?
This investigation report is for any person, but it will specifically assist:
Employers and head franchisors with operations in Victoria
- to understand their obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to prevent workplace sexual harassment
Workers in the retail industry and workers in franchise businesses in Victoria
- to understand the obligations of their employers to eliminate sexual harassment in their workplaces.
The full report (PDF 4MB) provides information on what this investigation means for all of these audiences.