Preventing Sexual Harassment in the workplace- is your business doing enough?

According to a recent BBC survey, almost half of British women and a fifth of men have been sexually harassed at work.

These are worrying statistics and with sexual harassment being under the media spotlight now like never before and rightly so, businesses need to ensure that they have strong policies, procedures and controls in place to avoid and manage any claims that do arise.

What can businesses do?

Cultural Change: start the conversation now and strip away the taboo of #metoo. We know that it’s easy for professional and personal lines to become blurred and for ‘banter’ to escalate, but the second that someone becomes offensive or offended then business leaders have a problem.

Lead from the top: You have the power and the presence to set the tone for your organisation. It’s vital that you lead by example, creating a workplace culture based on openness, respect and inclusion. Leave no room for doubt when it comes to behaviours that are unacceptable- reflect this in your core values and throughout your employment practices and you are a long way to avoiding and managing issues.

Create well written policies: It isn’t enough to download a template from the internet- your policies need to reflect how harassment is managed in your workplace and they need to be compliant with the law. Moreover, a well written policy communicates your commitment to the safety and well being of your employees and empowers you to take action- how can you do this without a well written framework for prevention and action?

Education and training: Create a culture of openness where it is very clear that any behaviours falling between overt sexual harassment and innuendo won’t be tolerated. Clients, employees and visitors to your business need to feel assured that complaints will be dealt with sensitively and fairly. No-one should be able to use the excuse ‘I didn’t realise that what I was doing was unacceptable’. Clear definitions of what sexual harassment actually means and robust anti-harassment training programmes for all employees will assist with this.

Reporting: A number of companies invest in independent whistle blowing helplines. Such tools can help employees to report issues if they don’t feel they can talk to their boss or anyone within the Company. In the absence of this function, employees and managers need to know when to escalate issues that arise and who they should contact within the organisation. Issues need to be investigated quickly and any ‘red flags’ addressed early. Most importantly, alleged victims need to feel assured that their complaint will be taken seriously and investigated in full, sensitively and fairly.

All of the above will help to create confidence in the workplace, protect potential victims, warn potential perpetrators that such behaviours won’t be tolerated and will help you avoid reputational damage in the event of any claims. Candid HR can help you with all of the above so please do get in touch for any assistance that may be required