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Business / Workplace Culture

Australia - Business / Workplace Culture

It is normal in business in Australia to dress smartly. Men should wear a suit and tie and women should wear smart clothes, either a suit or smart skirt and blouse, if they are attending a formal business function. For everyday work more informal clothing can be worn. Most workplaces in Australia have a very relaxed environment. It is not acceptable to be overly demonstrative and suggestive behaviour is inappropriate. When greeting others you should shake hands and do the same when you are leaving.

It is important to be punctual at work. Lateness is not considered to be acceptable. If you are in a business meeting you need to be sure that you keep eye contact with the others in the room and keep to the point as much as possible. It is not usual to give gifts in business although if you are invited to a business related function you should take a gift. When you meet new business associates you should exchange business cards. English is the business language and very few companies will use another in the workplace.

Women have been rising rapidly in the Australian workplace in the last few years. Australia has been one of the most advanced countries when it comes to women’s rights and anti-discrimination laws. More women than men graduate from university. It is estimated that around 30% of small businesses are run by women and more than half of all those in the public services are women. More than one third of senior executive posts are held by women in the public sector. This contrasts with an estimated 12% of similar positions in the private sector. It would appear that in some areas there is still a glass ceiling although women are gradually breaking through.

Women feature in state and national government. Almost 30% of members of the federal government are women and there is a government department devoted to the advancement and equality of women. They ensure that all government decisions take into consideration a number of women’s issues. They have established programmes which take care of the welfare of women in the home as well as in work.

Australia has a sex discrimination act which was developed in 1984 to ensure that there is no opportunity for employers to discriminate against women as regards pay or working conditions. The sex discrimination act is also designed to work against sexual harassment to ensure that women can work without fear of being targeted by predators. Another initiative of the government is known as ‘AppointWomen’ where professionals can list their CV so that they can be considered for board appointments with local authorities and various other organisations to encourage the appointment of women to higher ranking positions within companies.

The sex discrimination law is not the only one which is designed to protect workers. In 2004 an age discrimination act came into being, in 1992 there was the disability discrimination act and in 1975 there was the racial discrimination act. All of these are designed to promote equal opportunities within the workplace and not just for women. An employer is not permitted to refuse an applicant a job on the grounds of sex, race or disability.

Unions are very important in Australia and it is estimated that more than half of all workers are members of a union. The Workplace Relations act has been set out to give unions a strong role in workplace relations. Australia has what is known as ‘freedom of association’ regulations which make it illegal for an employer to dismiss a worker on the grounds of union membership. All workers must be given access to the correct facilities for resolving any problems in the workplace.

Workers also have the right to take industrial action if they choose to. Employers can only take action against the employees if there has been damage to property or if the company has been libelled or slandered. In order for the industrial relations to be protected then the correct procedures must be followed. A worker cannot receive payment for those days when they are on strike. Strikes are not particularly common as there is a very comprehensive structure in place to ensure that no worker gets a bad deal.

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