A recent report from the TUC, in association with the Everyday Sexism Project, who surveyed more than 1,500 women found that 52% have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and out of these, 79% said that they did not report it to their employer.
These statistics are shocking, and demonstrate that whilst we may have come a long way in recent years, there are still serious problems that are deeply engrained into workplace cultures.
As an employer though, you have a responsibility to make your standards absolutely crystal clear. Here, we tell you what you really need to know in practical terms.
Don’t ignore ‘banter’
Most workplaces have their fair share of jokes and lighthearted jibes. It’s vital though that you recognise that it’s never okay to make ‘flippant’ comments. Even if the person making the remarks doesn’t think that they’re offensive or serious, this is no defense.
The research found that 32% of women have been on the receiving end of unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature, so it’s quite likely that this has happened within your business. The stance that you need to take here is clear. Tackle inappropriate behaviour head-on, regardless of the intention.
Look beneath the surface
Perhaps you’re thinking that you have no problems when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. After all, surely your employees would come to you if they were facing issues? But as the statistics state above this is not necessarily the case.
Sometimes the reasons why are somewhat obvious. Often, the perpetrator holds a higher position, and the victim worries about losing their job. So before you jump to the assumption that everything’s fine in your business, take a closer look at what might be happening.
Have a robust policy
Ensure that you have a comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment policy in place and that any existing harassment policies are fit for purpose. Tailor the policy to fit your business: consider the company’s culture and consider outlining relevant examples of what might constitute sexual harassment. Also consider whether or not this policy needs to be linked to other policies you already have, to ensure that all types of harassment are covered, for example to your social media policy.
If an incident is reported, ensure that allegations are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly, with appropriate action being taken against the perpetrator.
Employers must build a working culture where employees are encouraged to report incidents of sexual harassment and ensure that the allegations are treated seriously and with care. Not only will this create a more positive working environment, but it will help reduce the risk of claims and ensure the corporate reputation is protected. Dropping the ball when it comes to tackling sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t an option. Neglect your duties as an employer, and you could face employment tribunals, a fractured workforce, and a seriously damaged reputation.
If you’re concerned about any of the above issues in your workforce, or you’re eager to ensure that you’re meeting the mark, HR Revolution may be able to help you. Give us a call for initial advice around your circumstances and what your next steps need to be.