It’s on the tips of everyone’s lips. It’s all over the media. Its long fingers are reaching into even previously untouched, sacred workplaces, and even celebrities. It is – SEXUAL HARASSMENT!!! Once you get away from the #metoo campaigns and news stories, what is it, and what should a company do?
Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted, unwelcome and uninvited conduct, which is of a sexual nature, that most people would expect to find intimidating or embarrassing. As you may have already guessed, this covers a wide range of behaviours. So yes, this can include a joke, as well as more obvious things such as propositions or touching. It can also include actions taken outside of the actual workplace, outside of work hours.
So, what should a company do?
- Have a policy. This could be a stand-alone policy, or part of your equal opportunity, bullying and harassment policy. It should contain a definition of what constitutes sexual harassment, and what steps someone should take if they feel they are being sexually harassed.
- Make sure everyone knows about the policy. A fat lot of good it does a company having a beautifully drafted policy, but then it’s filed away where nobody can see it. Give a copy at induction, and make sure everyone can access a copy if and when they want.
- Enforce the policy. Live it. Have toolbox meetings about it. Act if you someone doing or saying the wrong thing. Allowing inappropriate behaviours to continue can lead to escalation of those behaviours, and messy, stressful, expensive claims.
This is only a quick blog guide to a quite complex issue. Every situation is different, so please do call me or email me if you want to discuss what’s happening in your workplace.