Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

According to a global study carried out by ILO-Lloyd’s Register Foundation-Gallup, a staggering 23% of workers have experienced one or more forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. To put this into context, it means that more than one out of every five employee worldwide have had to deal with sexual harassment, and to translate this into actual figures, we are speaking about a total of about 750 million employees worldwide. 

This is a very critical situation we have on our hands, but no to worry, this article will be revealing proven strategies to prevent and curb this menace. But before we get started on the solutions, let’s dig deeper and find out more about sexual harassment in order to have a perfect understanding of what it is. 

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated (where a reasonable person would anticipate that reaction in the circumstances).

The International Labour Office (ILO) describes sexual harassment as a sex-based behaviour that is unwelcome and offensive to its recipient. However, the ILO goes on to state that for sexual harassment to exist, two conditions must be present, that is, sexual harassment may take the following two forms

1) Quid Pro Quo: This is when a job benefit such as a pay rise, a promotion, or even continued employment is made conditional on the victim acceding to demands to engage in some form of sexual behavior. 

2) A hostile working environment in which the conduct creates conditions that are intimidating or humiliating for the victim.

Additionally, the ILO highlights on some behaviours that can be qualified as sexual harassment, especially in the workplace. They include the following;

  • Physical behaviours like violence, touching, and unnecessary close proximity 
  • Verbal behaviours like comments and questions about appearance, life-style, sexual orientation, offensive phone calls
  • Non-verbal behaviours like whistling, sexually-suggestive gestures, and display of sexual materials. 

Having said that, and with a better understanding of what sexual harassment is, let’s look into ways in which it can be prevented from occurring in the workplace

How to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace

In order to successfully curtail every form of sexual harassment, there are several strategies that you can employ. However, here are six of the most effective ones;

1. Develop a sexual harassment policy

Sexual harassment prevention policy defines everything employees need to know about your organization’s stance against harassment. By developing a sexual harassment policy, it reflects that you have zero tolerance for all forms of harassment. 

2. Provide sexual harassment training to employees at all levels

Not everyone has a clear understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment, so there’s often a wrong perception that physical contact is the only form of harassment. This is not true, therefore, to build a safe work culture, it is first important to create awareness among your employees. 

3. Put proper reporting procedures in place

One of the effective ways to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace is to have proper reporting procedures, as such there should be a clear reporting system that victims can follow to report sexual harassment.

4. Train employees to serve as bystanders

Though HRs, managers, and supervisors are responsible for preventing sexual harassment, it is not always possible for them to monitor harassment 24/7. Therefore, you must train every employee to take the initiative and put them in charge of maintaining a safe workplace. This way, companies can ensure that the warning signs are seen, reported, and acted upon. Train them to serve as helpful bystanders to foster a respectful and positive work culture.

5. Take Every Complaint Seriously

Now that you understand what constitutes sexual harassment, the magnitude of the problem, and the procedures to file a report, it’s time to implement the policies and procedures by taking action immediately upon receiving a complaint. This shows that you have a zero-tolerance policy against workplace harassment. 

6. Take Appropriate Disciplinary Actions

Taking the right actions is crucial for building employee trust, as such, disciplinary action shows that every complaint is taken seriously and that the company takes immediate action to address the concern.

Without such proactiveness, employees will think that the company won’t take any action if harassment issues emerge. Also, it will discourage them from coming forward and speaking against the injustices happening within the workspace.

One thought on “Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

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