Following on from the large number of sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood, the social media campaign #MeToo has highlighted that sexual harassment is a common occurrence across workplaces. In addition, many have also said that they don’t know any women who haven’t been the subject of sexual harassment at work – a shocking situation in 2017! So what can employers do about tackling the issue?
- Make sure you have a detailed policy in place which advises staff that you have a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual harassment. The CIPD suggests that “the policy can include a list of behaviours the organisation will regard as harassment, and explain the procedure that will be followed once concerns are raised. The consequences of carrying out sexual harassment at work should also be outlined to deter staff from carrying out this behaviour and to allow action to be taken.”
- Provide training to staff on your anti-harassment policy when they first join the organisation as part of the induction. This should be repeated at regular intervals to remind staff about expectations regarding behaviour at work.
- One of the issues identified in Hollywood was that a culture of acceptance of harassing behaviour had developed. “Everyone” knew that it happened but no-one tackled the issue. To ensure that your staff feel confident and supported you must take allegations seriously and investigate every incident raised. Remember – harassment is about how the individual feels regarding the behaviour that they have been subjected to. Don’t impose your views about what you think is acceptable. And don’t just pay lip service to anti-harassment – take appropriate action including disciplinary action if necessary.
Preventing sexual harassment is about ensuring that all staff can work in a safe and comfortable environment. In addition employers are also legally obliged to protect their staff – harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and employers are expected to take action to stop it happening in their organisation.