Considerations of intersectionality
Consideration of intersectionality
"The intersectional approach, however, recognises that there are particular consequences when two or more forms of discrimination interact. Conceptualising discrimination on the basis of a single attribute in isolation hinders our ability to respond effectively."
- Australian Human Rights Commission[i]
In building an inclusive culture, consideration must be given to multiple identity dimensions of APS employees, such as First Nations heritage, age, cultural and linguistic background, disability, sexuality and gender. Acknowledging the complex layers of identity we all bring to the workplace will provide a stronger foundation for reducing the impact of compounding disadvantage. This concept is referred to as intersectionality.
A snapshot of intersectionality in the APS as shown in the 2021 APS Employee Census:
|53%||Identified with TWO or more
Included diversity groups:
|36%||Identified with ONE diversity group
from the above list
|11%||Identified with NO diversity group
from the above list
|Proportion of APS workforce|
||The APS is still building its knowledge around intersectionality, but it’s an important consideration when developing diversity programs, initiatives and actions.|
Bullying and harassment in the workplace
Bullying and harassment are unacceptable behaviours in the workplace, causing harm to individuals and undermining inclusive culture.
||Understand the diversity intersections that exist within your agency. This will help cater policies and activities aimed at addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace and increasing feelings of inclusion.|
While the reported rates of bullying and harassment in the APS Employee Census have been trending down over the last five years, more than 1 in 10 respondents are still reporting experiences of perceived bullying and/or harassment in the preceding 12 months. While this downwards trend is also consistent across diversity groups, employees with disability remain more likely to report experiencing perceived bullying and/or harassment. Employees with disability consistently report higher rates of bullying and/or harassment, and in 2021 the reported rate was 9 percentage points higher than employees overall.
The APS is reporting lower rates than Australian State and Territory Governments where comparison data is available (range 13.9% - 28%)[ii].
59% of respondents that had experienced perceived bullying or harassment in the last 12 months did not report the behaviour or have it reported by someone else. This figure was higher for men (64%) than women (56%). Of the people who did not report the behaviour, more than half identified that this was because they did not think any action would be taken.
||Build employee awareness of, and confidence in, systems for reporting on perceived bullying and harassment. This could include information campaigns about acceptable workplace behaviours, what happens when a complaint is lodged, or how to report on behalf of someone else if you witness an incident of bullying or harassment.|
Employee networks are a way for agencies to bring people with similar experiences together. Having an employee network provides a way for agencies to engage with employees on various issues and is a visible mechanism to show that a particular group is important and valued in the organisation. Diversity networks are an effective way for agencies to engage with employees who identify with particular diversity groups. Agencies can gain insight into lived experience, emerging issues, gain feedback on proposed policies/strategies and action plans, and interact in a partnership on issues that affect those employees. 84% of agencies reported that they have at least one diversity network within their agency. Another 5% who do not have internal networks indicated that their staff are members of the diversity networks within their portfolio department.
Number of agencies reporting an employee network for specific areas:
||Build inter-agency connections to support employees in agencies without diversity networks to access the networks of other agencies.|
Flexible work in the APS
The benefits of working flexibly include adapting work to individual needs. It allows employees to shape their way of working to suit them. Flexible working is a powerful tool to enable inclusion to flourish. It can provide benefit to a broad group of people, including people who care for children, people with a disability, people transitioning to retirement or just those seeking a personal work-life balance. For this reason, flexible work features in all three of the current diversity strategies.
What does flexible work look like in the APS?
Two thirds of the APS workforce reported accessing flexible working arrangements in the 2021 APS Census
Why do people seek flexible working arrangements?
There are many reasons employees may request flexibility in where, when, or how they work:
|Balance family and caring responsibilities||Support health and wellbeing||Making work more accessible||Improve work/life balance||Reduce commute time||
As part of transition to retirement
Benefits to the APS:
Flexible ways of working delivers broader organisational benefits by:
- increasing employee productivity and engagement
- strengthening the APS employee value proposition
- improving recruitment outcomes by widening the candidate pool
- increasing workforce agility and mobility
- attracting and retaining a skilled and diverse workforce
- enabling inclusion to flourish.
64% of agencies reporting facing some barriers in providing access to flexible working arrangements. The top three barriers were:
- Critical functions required on-site 53%
- Access to classified materials 24%
- Availability of IT assets 21%
11.5% of APS employees consider a lack of support for flexible work practices to be a great or very great barrier to their ability to perform at their best.
9.7% of APS employees consider increased flexible work practices to be the most important initiative they would like to see in their working environment.
Women are 4 times more likely to work part-time than men. 20% of women work part-time compared to 5% of men.
Case Study - Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Accreditation – Department of Education, Skills and Employment
Following Machinery of Government changes in early 2020, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) inherited accreditation as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). With this accreditation soon to expire, the new department recognised our people as critical elements of our purpose, and was committed from the outset to building an inclusive workplace culture.
One of the ways in which this commitment was supported was through seeking re-accreditation as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace. In a department in which women are more than 60 percent of employees, seeking re-accreditation was an easily achievable way to start building an inclusive workplace culture early on while assisting employees to balance their work and personal commitments.
By seeking re-accreditation and creating a supportive environment for breastfeeding employees, we ensured the workplace did not represent a barrier to breastfeeding. On a practical level, this has meant employees are provided private and comfortable facilities to breastfeed or express, time during the working day that is considered on duty to breastfeed or express, and comprehensive and inclusive policies and procedures providing guidance to employees, managers and colleagues.
A Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace does not just benefit breastfeeding employees - it builds upon and embeds DESE’s inclusive workplace culture. By supporting employees to successfully combine breastfeeding and paid work, we broaden the pool of potential talent, strengthen our reputation as a family-friendly employer, improve retention and support earlier return to work. This allows DESE to reflect the community we serve and support all employees to be their best.
There have, however, been some challenges along the way. As a multi-site department, DESE has sought to ensure employees in regional and shared locations are able to access the benefits of accreditation. While inclusive policies and procedures support all employees regardless of their location, ensuring access to facilities that meet the accreditation standard can be challenging. With eight accredited breastfeeding facilities outside of Canberra, DESE’s ongoing journey as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace has relied upon an informal network of employees across locations to ensure our facilities are welcoming and comfortable.
Recognising the crucial role that colleagues play in providing a supportive workplace for breastfeeding employees, central to DESE’s continued Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace accreditation has been the collaborative relationship between HR and Internal Communications. This collaboration has allowed the roll out of wide-reaching, regular awareness campaigns across a variety of channels to highlight to all employees the benefits and support offered as part of being a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace. DESE has been reaccredited for the next two years and now meets best practice for current standards. This means DESE is now one of the ABA’s most dedicated accredited Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces.
Case study – Auslan Interpreters with security clearance
Security cleared Auslan interpreters required in the workplace
The Department of Home Affairs, in conjunction with other agencies, have commenced workshops regarding the need for a panel of Auslan service providers who hold relevant Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA) security clearances. This initiative has been escalated to the APSC as a high priority inclusion project and, with support from the APSC, we hope to see this initiative implemented and being utilised by staff across the APS in the near future.
Annabel Bishop, from the Australian Border Force (ABF), who is profoundly deaf since birth, has outlined how this panel would positively impact her experiences in the workplace. Currently, access to interpreters with the necessary security clearances is limiting, and impacts Annabel’s ability to fully participate in ABF workplace forums, including team meetings and training. Annabel works in an operational role within the ABF, which sees her regularly accessing information that is subject to security clearance. This proves difficult for Annabel to engage in meetings with clients and colleagues, when she is unable to access interpreters who are suitably cleared to provide the services required.
The Department of Home Affairs recognises the importance of addressing this issue, and is suggesting a whole-of-government approach to creating a procurement panel for providers who have Auslan interpreters and live transcribing services with the relevant AGSVA security clearances. This will ensure that staff with accessibility requirements, like Annabel Bishop, can participate fully in the workplace without any barriers.
* Auslan = Australian Sign Language
[i] Australian Human Rights Commission, Intersectionality of Age and Gender. Accessed at https://humanrights.gov.au/about/news/speeches/intersectionality-age-and-gender#:~:text=Conceptualising%20discrimination%20on%20the%20basis,and%20race%2C%20age%20and%20gender.
[ii] Figures gathered from publically available State and Territory public service reports.