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#metoo: Managing harassment out of the workplace

12 Jul 10:00 by Debbie Morrison

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If the last 12 months have taught the world anything, it’s that every person regardless of their age, ethnicity, sexuality or gender has the right to go to work in a professional and inclusive environment where they can perform their duties free from lewd and suggestive comments, unwanted advances and physical harassment.

 

As more and more high profile cases continue to make the headlines, where senior male figures have been called out for using positions of power to mistreat their female peers or subordinates, there can be little doubt sexual harassment (or any other kind for that matter) isn’t just an issue confronting Hollywood and the Entertainment Industry.

 

While individual workers are, ultimately, accountable for their own actions, it’s clear managers and employers have a responsibility to set the tone for what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. It’s not unreasonable to foresee many companies may soon find themselves firmly in the legal crosshairs following instances of harassment that occurred ‘on their watch’.

 

So, what can you do to stop it?

 

Firstly, the rules around such behaviour must be crystal clear for all employees – male and female. No grey areas. No excuses. No exceptions. Document the rules, share them with all employees and remind your entire team during the course of the year so it’s always fresh in their minds. Step out of line? Then prepare to face serious consequences.


Secondly, it’s essential to encourage an open workplace culture where all employees, regardless of seniority, are empowered to speak up on any issues of harassment they may personally experience or observe. Have a clear process of reporting such behaviour – and stick to it. The days of turning a blind eye are long gone, and rightfully so.

 

Thirdly, if complaints are made they must be acted upon, formally and transparently. As we’re beginning to see, attempting to keep things hush or sweep indiscretions under the carpet is a hopelessly misguided business strategy that does no favours for any party. Inevitably the truth will find its way into the public domain, and the ramifications will then be far worse – eroding reputation and confidence – not to mention the considerable distress such surreptitious actions can cause for those affected. Recognise the issue, own the issue, and take swift steps to address it – be that by engaging formally with both parties, HR, or even the police if a situation warrants it.

 

Finally, and this is where things can get messy, it’s important to understand and recognise the rights of your employees. Sometimes the way forward will be very clear. But if a situation seems complicated and the right course of action is less obvious, it’s vital to seek qualified legal assistance before making decisive actions.

 

To discuss effective anti-harassment strategies for  your workplace, contact ELR Executive today.

Email: info@elr.net.au

Phone: 02 9275 8855