How to Tackle Workplace Harassment

Introduction

Anyone can experience workplace harassment and it can occur in many forms – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and mental. For example, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that 67 percent of women and 32% of men in the legal profession have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet this is merely the tip of the iceberg, as the majority of cases continue to go unreported. Harassment occurs in all industries and can affect employees at any stage of their career. However, choosing to gloss over instances of workplace harassment can cause a lot of problems for your business in the long run. Not only do perpetrators receive the message that their behaviour is okay, the morale of your employees can be severely impacted. In this article, we’ll shed light on the various ways in which you can tackle workplace harassment.

For employers

1. Enforce rights and protections of employees

Employers should have a solid understanding of requirements outlined in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The National Employment Standards (NES) also outline the minimum standards for employment. Having adequate policies in the workplace such as a Grievance Policy, Discrimination Policy, Workplace Investigation and Bullying and Harassment Policy will communicate to your employees that you take incidences of harassment seriously. It will also provide a clear process for when harassment occurs.

2. Implement an accessible reporting system

Try to promote an open and transparent culture in your organisation. Similarly, ensure that the process of reporting harassment is easy for your employees to access. It’s also a good idea to allow for anonymous reporting and assure employees that making a complaint won’t jeopardise their employment in any way.

3. Keep clear records

It’s important to keep clear, accurate and in-depth records of every report you receive. If not for your employees, this can also serve to protect your business and ensure you’ve handled complaints in the most efficient and empathetic way.

For employees

1. Know your rights

Many employees aren’t aware of their rights in the workplace. However, there’s many laws surrounding what employees are entitled to in the workplace such as:

  • A safe and healthy workplace
  • A fair and just workplace
  • Fair pay and conditions

2. Keep your own records

If anything inappropriate happens at work, try to make a note of it. This can be useful later on when (or if) you decide to report the incident. This can be used as evidence later on, especially if it is behaviour that occurs more than once.

3. Follow up on your complaint

After you have lodged a complaint, track its progress. Ask your HR managers or your employers regularly to update you on the status of your complaint. Although these types of complaints can take time to investigate, it’s important to keep the ball rolling. If you feel the organisation isn’t responding adequately, you can talk to a lawyer to see what your legal options are. You may be able to take action against your employer for failing to provide a safe workplace or if the harassment you experienced caused you to leave your job.

Conclusion

Whether you’re an employer or employee, workplace harassment is not something you should ignore. Inappropriate behaviour in the workplace can be detrimental and affect the morale, productivity, and performance of employees. However, with strong policies and and understanding of your rights, incidences of harassment can be handled effectively.

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