Code of conduct is defined as set of rules for an institute or an organization that dictates the behavior of the employees and prescribes the procedures and systems so as to contribute towards the welfare of the key stakeholders. It helps to protect the business by laying out expectations for the employees and creating a culture of inclusivity. Code of conduct is prescribed for each and every organization irrespective of its size so that the activities are carried out smoothly.
Any breach in code of conduct may lead to discrimination, exploitation, corruption and dishonest & fraudulent behavior. Recently, there have cases reported for exploitation and discrimination in Australia that violated the laws of international students. According to one of the study of 2005 that is based on 200 interviews, around 58% of the international students were not even paid minimum wage in Australia and earned between $7 and $ 15. Another survey conducted by United Voice revealed that around 60% of the international students earned $16.37 per hour and 25% of them earned only $10 per hour.
The report would thus aim to investigate into the matter of exploitation of international students for the organization 7-Eleven in Australia. In order to gain an insight of the matter, various code of conduct would be discussed and analyzed to arrive at a conclusion.
Analysis of Code of Conduct
As per the laws of the Australian government, the employees of an organization cannot be discriminated on the basis of wages, age, race, nationality, sex or their disability. Their rights are protected under Age Discrimination Act 2004, Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Australian Human Rights Commission,2017). The acts ensure that an organization make employment decisions on the basis of employee’s merit and performance. According to the Australia Human Rights Commission Act 1986, discrimination on the basis of color, sex, nationality, age, race, disability, sexual orientation, social origin and trade union activity is considered unlawful.
The organization 7-Eleven has been alleged for underpaying the international students and even two of the cleaning workers did not receive their salary for around three months (Arnold, 2016). The international students are generally part time workers and do not have an understanding of the working procedures of the company. The students are paid as low as $13 per hour and were afraid to report the issue to the authorities. The international students have been consistently facing the challenge of discrimination in Australia and the issue needs to be addressed in 7-Eleven by developing and implementing appropriate policies for the company.
Woolworths, Stockland and Wesfarmers have very implemented strict policies against such discrimination. Stockland’s diversity and inclusivity ensure that people from different background, caste, color, creed, nationality and origin are entitled to equal rights (Stockland, 2017). Wesfarmers has also implemented policies to ensure integrity, fairness, accountability, diversity and inclusion and safe working environment for employees (Wesfarmers, 2016). Woolworths has also very strict policies to protect the right of employees against discrimination (Woolworths, 2016). Thus, discrimination on the basis of nationality and origin is strictly prohibited by the law under Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986.
Thus, 7-Eleven must also establish some grounding rules to avoid discrimination among the employees on the basis of their nationality and origin to ensure diversity and inclusivity.
Integrity and Fairness
7-Eleven must ensure an integral and fair work environment to protect the right of each and every employee.
Treat Employees with Respect and Dignity
Each and every employee must be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of their caste, creed and nationality.
Equal Opportunity & Accountability
The organization must protect the rights of employees by giving them equal opportunities based on their merit and performance.
Diversity and Inclusivity
The organization must ensure that individuals from all walks of life irrespective of their caste, creed, color, origin, nationality and sex are entitled to equal rights. There should be no discrimination in terms of wages for the employees.
Exploitation is taking unfair advantage of an individual’s circumstances that could lead to the suppression of an individual. The government of Australia protects the rights of individuals against exploitation and discrimination. Their rights are protected under Migration Act 1958 and Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work, 2017). The Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection offers its support to the foreign workers in Australia by assisting them understand their legal employment rights in the country.
The Migration Act ensures that an individual is given equal rights in an organization as compared to his/her Australia counterpart. An individual is entitled to equal pay and other incentives as being received by his/her colleagues. Fair Work Act covers the working rights of employees under National Employment Standards. The act ensures that the full time employees do not work for more than 38 hours in a week along with additional reasonable hours.
Recently, it was reported that one of the store owner of 7-Eleven requested the staff members to repay the amount that were paid to them as their salary. It was also reported that around 12 of the employees were underpaid and the store owner tried to hide this fact. The workers were paid even less than $13 per hour. Also, one of the stores of 7-Eleven was penalized a sum of $68, 058 for underpaying the employees (Patty, 2016). A number of 7-Eleven stores have been penalized for underpaying their employees, most of them were international students who were involved in part time job (Kainth, 2016). The international students have also been reported to work for more than 40 hours a week that is beyond the maximum limit of worker. Further, they were only paid for half of their working hours as against being recorded in the payroll system being reported as ‘half-pay scam’. The store has also been accused of ‘Cash-back scam’ in which employees were paid their appropriate wages and then later on, they were compelled to pay back a portion of their wages (Tham, 2016). The work visa holders were also exploited severely to take advantage of their circumstances. The Migration Act and Fair Work Act cover the rights of international students and Work Visa Holders and strictly prohibit the unlawful activities as has been carried out by the 7-Eleven Store. Thus, the store must implement strict laws to forbid these unethical practices.
7-Eleven must establish fair practices that protect the rights of each and every individual. The employees should not work for more than 38 hour per week and should be entitled to a weekend of Sunday and Saturday. They must also be entitled to public holidays and parental leave.
The international employees must be entitled to equal pay and must be asked to perform the duties as per the occupation. They must also receive allowances for their travel expenses that enable them to move out of the country as required. The employees should not pay any cost for their recruitment.
Corruption leads to unethical behavior and breaches the individual rights of the employees. The Crime and Corruption Act 2011 strictly prohibits any activity that breaches the trust of an individual, is dishonest, misuses information, provides benefit to a person or breaches the rights of another person.
7-Eleven stores have been accused of by violating the rights of the employees and underpaying them. The store owners have been able to earn profits by making the employees work for half of their actual salary (Ferguson and Toft, 2015). They also compelled the employees to return back half of their salaries after they were fully paid according to the payroll system. According to Fair Work Ombudsman, the court imposed one of the largest penalties on the company for underpaying 12 of its employees in Brisbane (Patty, 2016).
Stockland has very strict measures to prevent corruption at work under its Fraud and Corruption Policy that does not permit any dishonest activity including diversion of cash and bribery. The company strictly monitors and regulates the activities pertaining to corruption (Stockland, 2017).
Thus, according to the government laws corruption is an illegal activity and affects the social and economic conditions of the country. 7-Eleven, therefore, must establish strict laws to prevent corruption at the workplace and protect the rights of vulnerable employees.
The organization must ensure that corruption is prevented through ethical behavior policy and whistleblower process. The company could adopt accounting and expense policies to prevent the activity.
The company must regularly monitor the activities of employees and store owners so as to preserve the name of the brand in the market.
The company must be vigilant towards the activities of the store to detect corruption through audits and interviews.
Assessment and Response
The activity must be assessed to determine the severity of breach and determine the punishment for the people involved.
Dishonest & Fraudulent Behavior
Dishonest & fraudulent behavior is the act of breaching the rights of an individual and causing him some loss. 7-Eleven stores owners have been charged for their fraudulent behavior by taking advantage of vulnerable employees. They just gave wages for half of their working hours and even compelled to return the paid wages.
Stockland has established very strict measures to control such behavior through its policies. 7-Eleven must also implement policies to prevent dishonest and fraudulent activities in the organization.
Act with Honesty and Integrity
The organization must ensure that all the employees and owners act honestly and strictly adhere to the laws and regulations of the company.
The organization should also take a step forward to help the vulnerable employees through its special provision for foreign workers.
Whistleblower protection ensures that those employees who report illegal activities of an organization receive protection under the Whistleblower Act 2012. The illegal activities could include discrimination, bullying, unsafe working conditions, unethical conduct and fraudulent activities.
In order to ensure fairness and transparency at work, the organization must implement laws protecting the rights of whistleblower.
The anonymity of the whistleblower must be maintained the company in order to protect him from any harm.
In case the organization is found to breach this policy then it should be liable to pay penalty.
Enforcement of effective code of conduct at workplace is the process of implementing the policies within the organization that would protect the rights of individuals. 7-Eleven has been reported to have violated several laws of foreign workers through acts of discrimination, exploitation and fraudulent and dishonest behavior.
Thus, it must enforce the following laws in order to maintain a healthy work environment:
The discrimination act must protect the rights of individuals by giving them with respect and dignity irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, race, origin and nationality.
The act must ensure that the workers do not work beyond the minimum working hours and are paid at least minimum wages.
Dishonest & Fraudulent Behavior
The firm should strictly monitor the activities of the managers and employees and the people involved in such activities must be punished.
Whistle blowing Protections
The firm must ensure the rights of whistleblowers to track unlawful activities within the organization.
The report has thus, successfully analyzed the discriminating activities of 7-Eleven stores that have led to exploitation and dishonest & fraudulent behavior by violating the rights of vulnerable employees.
After evaluating the activities of the organization, it was revealed that in order to completely eradicate discrimination against the foreign workers, 7-Eleven must implement fair policies to protect the rights of employees. The discriminatory policies would include integrity & fairness, treating employees with respect & dignity, equal opportunity and accountability and diversity & inclusivity to protect the employees from being discriminated on the basis of their nationality and origin.
To prevent the employees from being exploited by depriving them of their human rights, fair work practices and foreign employee empowerment policies must be implemented that would limit the weekly working hours and ensure equal pay for equal work. Further, corruption must be protected through a process of prevention, detection, assessment and response. Fraudulent and dishonest behavior would be prevented through the policies act with honesty & integrity and employee protection.
The whistleblowers of the company should be protected through confidentiality and breach policy. All these policies should be appropriately enforced within the organization to protect the foreign employees from discrimination, exploitation and fraudulent and dishonest behavior.
Arnold, A. 2016. Taken to the cleaners: International students underpaid exploited. ABC. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/international-students-exploited/7472384 [Accessed Online 25 April 2017].
Australian Human Rights Commission. 2017. A Quick Guide to Australia Discrimination Laws. Australian Human Rights Commission. Available at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/employers/good-practice-good-business-factsheets/quick-guide-australian-discrimination-laws [Accessed Online 15 April 2017].
Fair Work. 2017. 457 visa holders – workplace rights and entitlements. Fair Work. Available at: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/rights-and-obligations/457-visa-holders-workplace-rights-and-entitlements [Accessed Online 15 April 2017].
Ferguson, A., and Toft, K. 2015. 7-Eleven: The Price of Convenience. ABC. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/08/30/4301164.htm [Accessed Online 25 April 2017].
Kainth, S. 2016. ‘Exploitation of international students getting worse in Australia’. SBS. Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/punjabi/en/article/2016/09/14/exploitation-international-students-getting-worse-australia [Accessed Online 25 April 2017].
Patty, A. 2016. 7-Eleven store cops record penalty for exploitation of workers. The Sidney Morning Herald. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/7eleven-store-cops-record-penalty-for-exploitation-of-workers-20160621-gpo026.html [Accessed Online 25 April 2017].
Stockland. 2017. Corporate Governance. Stockland. Available at: https://www.stockland.com.au/about-stockland/corporate-governance [Accessed Online 15 April 2017].
Tham, J.C. 2015. Australia grows richer by exploiting foreign students. The Sidney Morning Herald. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/comment/tackling-the-exploitation-of-international-student-workers-20150818-gj1ge3.html [Accessed Online 15 April 2017].
Tham, J.C. 2016. 7-Eleven is the tip of the iceberg in worker exploitation. So who’s turning blind eye?. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/12/7-eleven-is-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-in-worker-exploitation-so-whos-turning-a-blind-eye [Accessed Online 25 April 2016].
Wesfarmers. 2016. Code of Conduct. Wesfarmers. Available at: https://www.wesfarmers.com.au/docs/default-source/corporate-governance/code-of-conduct---may-2015.pdf?sfvrsn=8 [Accessed Online 15 April 2017].
Woolworths Group. 2016. Our Code of Conduct. Woolworths Group. Available at: https://www.woolworthsgroup.com.au/icms_docs/183764_Code_of_Conduct.pdf [Accessed Online 15 April 2017].
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