Yesterday we set out the background; how sexual harassment is defined under English employment law, and the unwelcome prevalence of it in the 21st century workplace, exposed by #MeToo. Click here if you missed yesterday’s post (Part 1).
Today we’ve set out our four simple steps that every business should follow, regardless of size or industry. This is not rocket science but does require management to take a pro-active stance to build a positive culture where harassment is not tolerated, and to stamp out any actual incidents of harassment which occur.
- Policies – make sure you have a comprehensive Equal Opportunities Policy and Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy in place, which are reviewed and updated at regular intervals so that they remain appropriate and relevant.
- Awareness – Employees should be made aware of these policies and asked to read them. It’s also a good idea to summarise the headline points to employees, as despite your best efforts, some employees will never read the policies.
- Training – At a minimum, managers, supervisors and other senior members of staff should be trained so that they can learn to identify instances of sexual harassment and to tackle them appropriately. This means they need to understand not only equal opportunities and what constitutes sexual harassment, but also of how to properly follow your disciplinary and grievance procedures. Ideally all staff should be trained on your Equal Opportunities and Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policies.
- Action – If any employee raises a complaint of sexual harassment, even on an informal basis, or if you become aware of an incident which could constitute sexual harassment, your business needs to respond quickly and robustly. Take grievances (and also rumours) of sexual harassment seriously and ensure that they are investigated and a disciplinary procedure commenced where appropriate.
Check out our post tomorrow explaining why following these guidelines can not only protect your workforce but also help the business defend potential legal claims.