Sexual Harassment has hit the spotlight these past few weeks after many Hollywood actresses and workers in this industry came forward to report Harvey Weinstein. There have been numerous claims made about the Hollywood producer and the floodgates have now opened giving many victims the confidence to speak out about their encounters, especially in the work place. Something we, as employers can’t afford to ignore.
What actually is sexual harassment?
In short, its unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates your dignity of the recipient and makes them feel uncomfortable or intimidated. It is behaviour that creates a hostile environment and is subjective in its nature. What one person may perceive as acceptable could be totally unacceptable to another, which is where the lines can often get blurred.
People tend to stay quiet if something occurs due to fears about being believed and harm to their careers. However, not reporting instances allows the harassment to escalate. Your employees should not be frightened to speak out and should feel that by raising awareness, they will stop this happening to others. As an employer you should be mindful of the warning signs and produce an environment where staff feel comfortable speaking out. Often appointing a person as a liaison within the business for this type of allegation can give your staff a clear signal that this behaviour is taken seriously and won’t be tolerated.
What should you look for?
- Repeated and deliberate touching, even if not of a sexual nature.
- Employees being addressed in a sexual manner.
- Explicit material e.g. mugs, calendars, screen-savers.
As an employer, remember that you have a duty of care to all of your employees and a legal obligation to thoroughly investigate the allegations that have been made. Correct policies and procedures should be in place and carried out which would be demonstrated in your employee handbook and all staff should be aware of the detail.
As an employer, these incidents can be difficult in managing. Our top tip would be make sure the investigation is handled sensitively from both sides and be objective in its approach.