Sexual harassment at work

The month of October 2018  saw an alarming number of allegations of sexual harassment. This includes the demise of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, Netflix cutting ties with actor Kevin Spacey and the spread of allegations to Westminster.

With a BBC survey finding half of women in the UK and a fifth of men have been sexually harassed at work or at a place of study, it is clear managers must promote a culture whereby staff can bring up any concerns of sexual harassment in the knowledge that they will be heard and dealt with.

Free tools to help your company prevent sexual harassment in the workplace

VinciWorks provides free tools to help organisations spot signs of sexual harassment at work and understand how to promote an inclusive, safe working environment for all staff. Our short risk assessment is completely anonymous and is designed to measure the perception of sexual harassment in your workplace. VinciWorks has also published a sexual harassment policy template that can easily be edited to suit any organisation and industry.

How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace: 10 Ways to Deal With It

Here are some clear guidelines for ensuring sexual harassment is not occurring in your workplace. This should help you play a part in ending sexual harassment at work for good.

1. Understand the definition of sexual harassment

All staff should understand what is meant by sexual harassment. Here are some examples:

  • Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments
  • Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker’s back, grabbing an employee around the waist etc.
  • Repeated requests for dates that are turned down or unwanted flirting
  • Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters
  • Playing sexually suggestive music

2. Incorporate training on harassment and discriminatory treatment in your workplace

Mandate regular and ongoing training for employees and supervisors. Provide refresher training on an annual or as-needed basis. VinciWorks has an e-learning course on diversity and equality that includes the topic of harassment.

3. Ensure your workplace has a sexual harassment policy in place

Your organisation should publish a sexual harassment at work policy and ensure all staff are familiar with it. The policy should include clear whistleblowing and reporting procedures. If you are unaware of such a policy in your workplace, speak to your line manager about having one put in place.

4. Raise awareness of sexual awareness in the workplace

The most effective form of prevention is awareness. Those who are aware of behaviours that can be interpreted as harassment are less likely to behave in that way and more likely to notice any form of harassment. This short assessment will help staff measure their perception of sexual harassment in the workplace.

5. Have clear harassment reporting procedures in place

All staff must feel comfortable reporting any behaviour that makes them or other staff feel uncomfortable. One thing we have learnt from the most recent allegations is that staff have protected, rather than reported colleagues behaving inappropriately at work.

6. Incorporate staff welfare into review meetings and appraisals

These types of meetings are more than just a chance to review your employees’ performance and achievements; rather, this is an opportunity to give staff a voice to report any staff that have made them or their colleagues feel uncomfortable.

7. Deal with any allegations and concerns immediately

Any instance whereby a fellow staff member or employee shares a concern with you should be dealt with as soon as possible. All the more so when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. The clear procedures in place should allow for the concern to be raised promptly and efficiently.

8. Have a dedicated person in place to review any allegations

Does your workplace have a dedicated staff member responsible for dealing with any concerns of sexual harassment? In a small or medium sized business this will often be an HR person, while in a larger organisation there should be a staff member dedicated to handling any concerns staff have (including all areas rather than just the area of harassment).

9. Zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace

It goes without saying that there should be a clear zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment in your organisation. Regardless of an employee’s stature within the organisation, should they be found guilty of sexually harassing a colleague or staff member there should be immediate consequences. If deemed necessary, a statement should be filed with the police.

10. Report any concerns immediately

If you feel someone in your organisation has behaved inappropriately towards you or you have concerns regarding a colleague, raise your concern immediately. Your company policy should highlight the importance of confidentiality so you can raise your concern without fearing any negative consequences such as docked pay or being fired.

Preview VinciWorks’ upcoming anti-harassment training

VinciWorks is currently developing a new anti-bullying and harassment course, MyStory. The new mobile-first e-learning course has directly applied the lessons of the #MeToo movement and the wealth of research into why traditional sexual harassment training doesn’t work to create a brand new kind of anti-harassment experience. Feel free to preview our new anti-harassment training for free and let us know any feedback you have.