The Harvey Weinstein scandal has once again shone a light on the very serious issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. Though we’ve come a long way in recent years in terms of creating legislation to protect individuals against inappropriate behaviour and gender related discrimination, it’s crystal clear that there’s still a great deal of work to be done.
As a business owner, you have a responsibility. To meet your legal obligations and your duty of care as an employer, you need to make sure that you’ve got provisions in place to deal with sexual harassment claims. In practical terms, what exactly does this look like? There are several things that you need to consider to ensure that you’re fulfilling your obligations. Let’s take a look at the questions that you need to be asking…
Are you merely being reactive?
Dealing with sexual harassment shouldn’t just be about handling issues once they arise. It’s about being proactive, and taking extra steps to create a positive working environment. Are your staff trained in what’s acceptable and what isn’t? And are your line managers and employees in a position whereby they feel comfortable in challenging unacceptable behaviour from the offset? Your approach should be about creating a positive culture, rather than just firefighting.
Are you handling complaints swiftly and sensitively?
If a member of staff came into your office right now with a complaint of sexual harassment against another employee, what exactly would you do? You need to be certain that you’d be able to act quickly and professionally. Remember that a thorough investigation should be carried out, and you should never jump to assumptions about what may or may not have happened.
Do you have a policy in place, and is it being implemented?
The value of having a robust policy covering harassment in the workplace is often overlooked until it’s needed. Having a clear set of procedures that outline how a complaint should be made and how it will be dealt with is essential, and has many benefits for you as a leader, and for your employees. Still though, you need to remember that this isn’t about ticking boxes. Your policy is only going to work for your business if it’s clearly communicated, implemented by your management team, and underpins a wider organisational culture that refuses to tolerate bullying or harassment.
The headlines in the news at the moment may be dire, and indeed deeply distressing. Sexual harassment is very clearly still rampant in many industries and workplaces. The conversation though does present an opportunity to talk about these serious issues, and consider how positive change can be made. How can your business play a role in stamping out unacceptable behaviour?
If you would like any assistance or guidance in dealing with any issues please contact us now.