Gold Fields commits to improving workplace culture as review uncovers ‘deeply concerning’ findings

Gold Fields interim CEO Martin Preece

Gold Fields interim CEO Martin Preece

Photo by Creamer Media's Donna Slater

30th August 2023

By: Chanel de Bruyn

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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To download a copy of the EB&Co report, click here  (3.10 MB)

The world’s seventh-largest gold miner by production, Gold Fields, says it is committed to eliminating inappropriate and harmful behaviour in the workplace after an independent review confirmed that many employees and contractors have experienced bullying, sexual harassment and racism.

The company in 2022 hired specialist consultancy Elizabeth Broderick & Co (EB&Co) to undertake an independent review of its workplace culture.

A report on the review outcome, published on August 30, showed some areas of strength, but also revealed “a number of deeply concerning” findings, including that, overall, half of the participants in the survey reported having experienced bullying, sexual discrimination or racism in the past five years."

More specifically, 47% of respondents reported having experienced bullying; 23% of women and 7% of men reported having experienced sexual harassment; 15% had experienced racism; and 29% of respondents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer or asexual (LGBTIQ+) reported having experienced harassment.

“Bullying, sexual harassment, racism and any forms of inequality and exclusion have no place at Gold Fields. I want to apologise to the people in our business who have been exposed to these behaviours.

“The purpose of this independent review was to help us to understand and address these unacceptable behaviours decisively and create a workplace that everybody feels part of, is attractive to talent, and where everyone can reach their full potential,” says Gold Fields’ interim CEO Martin Preece.

He notes that the company’s board and executive leadership team have made “an unequivocal commitment to vigorously pursue the recommendations set out in the EB&Co review as a priority”.

The report notes that many of the employees and contractors who participated in the review described the culture of Gold Fields as strong, rewarding and supportive.

“Participants across sites also spoke of the fulfilling work, the cohesive teams and the establishment of close collaborative relationships.

“The strong focus on safety was also considered by many to be a key positive feature of working at Gold Fields,” the report states.

Eighty-four per cent of the employees who participated in the review agreed that people behaved in a respectful way towards others at Gold Fields, while 78% said they did not experience any inappropriate behaviour from a colleague or anyone on site while working at Gold Fields.

Further, 74% of participants said they felt valued and equal to other workers at Gold Fields, while 70% said they felt recognised and fairly rewarded for their contribution at work.

Participants working at Gold Fields’ corporate office, in Johannesburg, South Africa, noted that the culture at the corporate office was better in the past, but employees were less positive than their counterparts in other regions.

Only 46% of corporate office employees said people behaved in a respectful way towards each other; 53% said they did not experience any inappropriate behaviour; 38% said they felt valued and equal to other employees; and 45% said they felt recognised and fairly rewarded.

“Employees shared that the corporate office in Johannesburg had a culture characterised by ‘fear’, ‘favouritism’ and ‘bullying and belittling behaviour’ by some leaders, including executives.

“The review team spoke to a number of people from the corporate office who displayed a concerning level of trauma and distress. There was a strong sense that the only option for them was to leave the company as ‘nothing will change’,” the report states.

Meanwhile, at the South Deep mine, in South Africa, 82% of employees said people behaved respectfully towards each other; 79% that they did not experience inappropriate behaviour; 77% that they felt valued; and 71% that they felt recognised and fairly rewarded.

Employees at South Deep and the Johannesburg corporate office were also more likely to have experienced racism in the last five years (at 23% and 28%, respectively).

Instances of bullying were found to be worse at the corporate office, at South Deep and at Gold Fields’ operations in Ghana, while employees in the Americas region were less likely to have experienced bullying in the past five years.

Employees in Ghana were the least optimistic of the various regions about gender equality.

Only 51% of Ghanaian employees agreed that requests for sexual favours in the workplace were rare, compared with the average of 74% of Gold Fields’ employees overall.

Further only 63% of Ghanaian employees said sexist comments and jokes in the workplace were rare, compared with 75% of employees overall, and only 62% said sexualised conversation and banter in the workplace were rare, compared with 75% of employees overall.

In terms of sexual harassment, employees at South Deep were more likely to report that they had experienced sexual harassment in the last five years, at 15%, while employees in the Americas are significantly less likely to experience sexual harassment, at 5%.

Eleven per cent of employees in Australia and 9% of employees in Ghana reported having experienced sexual harassment in the last five years.

In terms of racism, 77% of Gold Fields employees agreed that racist jokes and comments were rare in the workplace, although only 63% of employees in Ghana agreed.

Further, 90% of Gold Fields’ employees agreed that workplaces were inclusive of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, with employees at South Deep (85%) and the Johannesburg corporate office (74%) less likely to agree.

Among its recommendations, EB&Co has suggested that the Gold Fields board and executive committee take responsibility for cultural change and invest in specialist diversity, equality and inclusion expertise and capability at a senior level across the various regions.

It also believes leaders at all levels should be held accountable for the culture, health and wellbeing of their teams and be provided with the capability and practical skills to deal with harmful behaviour as soon as it occurs or is reported.

“Harmful behaviours cannot and will not be tolerated in our workplaces. These findings show not only the prevalence of these behaviours, but the toll they take on the health and wellbeing of our people,” asserts Preece.

He points out that Gold Fields’ corporate offices, regions, functions and operations have already begun taking action on the recommendations made by EB&Co.

The company plans to commission another independent review in three years’ time to assess the progress made in improving workplace culture.

“The board is distressed at the EB&Co review findings and the negative impact of these unacceptable behaviours on so many Gold Fields employees and contractors.

“We will be monitoring the efforts of the executive committee and other levels of leadership to eliminate these behaviours at Gold Fields workplaces. We appreciate the work already being done to achieve this goal and expect that the further work will have the desired effect,” says chairperson Yunus Suleman.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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