The topic of harassment, particularly sexual harassment, has been hitting the headlines recently and with ‘The Silence Breakers’ being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2017 and the continuance of the #MeToo movement, public awareness has drastically increased.
Harassment can occur at any time, in any place, including the workplace and can be unintentional or subtle and insidious such as telling sexist jokes even if not directed at anyone in particular but which colleagues (regardless of gender) find offensive. Few complaints are made because victims, worried about losing their job or other retaliation, do not feel able to speak up and too many people still turn a blind eye to the problem.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March is #PressforProgress and it is an opportunity for businesses to show what they are doing to ensure they create a workplace in which their employees feel respected.
Many businesses will already have an Anti-Harassment and Bullying policy in place, but to minimise harassment at work and the risk of tribunal claims, it is not enough simply to put this policy in your handbook. Recommended steps employers can take include:
Ensuring the policy is issued to employees and enforced so that individuals at all levels of the business, know the behaviour expected of them and the consequences of non-compliance;
Training managers and supervisors on recognising and having the confidence to address potential issues;
Establishing a clear reporting mechanism and an ‘open door’ culture so individuals feel able to speak up at an early stage in a confidential and sensitive environment;
Investigating complaints promptly and taking appropriate actions in response;
Monitoring the working environment and the policy terms and seeking feedback from their staff and revising their policy if required to ensure it remains fit for purpose within their specific business.
Implementing an effective system to stamp down on harassment in the workplace will not only mean employers are complying with legal requirements but will result in a happier and more productive workforce.
If you have any employment law queries in relation to the issues mentioned in this blog please contact Emma McLoughlin or your usual Morrisons’ adviser.