#MeToo has been trending over the last few months and it has enabled an unprecedented number of sexual harassment victims to come forward. The high-profile allegations made by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow against equally high-profile offenders such as Harvey Weinstein and film star Kevin Spacey, have brought the under-reported and apparently endemic issue to the forefront of topical issues.
The Party season approaches, and this time of year presents a wonderful opportunity for building great team spirit at work! Unfortunately though, over indulgence can often lead to lowered inhibitions, over excitement and over familiarity, which in turn can be a recipe for disaster.
Make yourselves aware of the potential issues and equip both yourselves and your staff with the awareness and necessary tools to prevent and deal with sexual harassment. By doing so you will be able to exercise your duty of care, keep your staff safe from discrimination and hopefully have very merry festivities!
What is harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. Harassment (in this context) can be a single act of unwanted treatment that may degrade, humiliate, offend or intimidate another person – male or female. Treatment of this nature is unlawful. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against a person on the grounds of sex.
Overcome the fear of reporting
As above, revelations in the press have demonstrated that currently there is a severe problem around sexual harassment. Troublingly, it seems that many individuals struggle to come forward on their own to report what has happened to them. Be sure that your employees are reassured that they would be supported if they ever experience treatment such as this.
Below are some tips you can take now as an employer to overcome reservations and concerns your employees may have about telling you they have been sexually harassed by a colleague, or anyone else, during the course of their work.
HR Solutions’ 8 top tips to beat the fear of reporting sexual harassment
- Publish a clear zero tolerance statement and circulate it to all staff.
- Be sure that all your staff know of two senior people that they should confide in if need be.
- Ensure you have a harassment policy that is reader friendly, sets out clear steps which someone in distress could feel are achievable. The policy should not deter people from coming forwards (i.e. explaining possible outcomes for the accused may induce feelings of guilt – put these in the disciplinary policy instead!)
- Adopt an open-door approach to encourage employees to speak with their line managers.
- Raise awareness. Advise your staff about what sexual harassment is (give examples) and explain your policy about what to do if they experience it. Break down the stigma and get them talking about it.
- Invest in training for both managers and staff so that they can recognise harassment and deal with it effectively, whether they are
- Explore unexpected resignations including any that allude to a workplace issue.
- Look into stress related absences and check if there is anything going on at work you should know about.
Prepare for a complaint by familiarising yourself with the Harassment Policy now. If you do not have one of these, you could use your Grievance Policy instead. If you have neither policy in place, get them now! If you should receive a complaint and you still have neither policy in place, then you will need to refer to the ACAS Code of Conduct.
Once you are aware of an issue, whether the alleged victim(s) want you to take action or not, employers have an immediate duty of care to protect the member of staff and to prevent any further harassment or victimisation. (Victimisation is detrimental treatment directed to a person who has made or supported a complaint about discrimination.) This means that employers will still need to take steps to investigate the claims thoroughly and take an appropriate level of disciplinary action if required.
Join us on 12 December, 11am for a free one hour webinar entitled ‘Sexual Harassment, The Party Season!’.
Sexual Harassment Webinar (Free)
Register at: www.hrsolutions-uk.com/upcoming-webinars
If you are unable to attend our free live webinar on Sexual Harassment, you will be able to watch a recording, on demand, which will be uploaded onto our webinar archives at: www.hrsolutions-uk.com/resources/videos-webinars-archive