Let’s just examine the statistics again 1 in 5 people have reported being sexually harassed in the workplace, that is 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men. Sexual harassment does not discriminate it can occur in any occupation in any industry.
Every employee has the right to have a safe working environment free from sexual harassment. When we think of sexual harassment we typically think that the offender is a male, statistics in the Human Rights Commission report into Sexual Harassment confirms this. However, there has been an increase in the proportion of incidents of male to male sexual harassment which has increased to 23 % of claims.
There are 3 key elements to sexual harassment, these are the behaviour is unwanted, unwelcomed, of a sexual nature and one which a reasonable person may feel offender, intimated or humiliated (reference Human Rights Commission ).
Why is it so important for business to educate and manage sexual harassment?
As employers you are responsible for providing a safe working environment for your employees, this includes one free from sexual harassment. As an employer you are not only responsible for your direct employees, the Sexual Discrimination Act applies to various other people who may come in either direct or indirect association with your company, these include (but are not limited to): prospective employees, contract workers, prospective colleagues, contractors, customers a commission agent or a contract worker
With the amount of social media utilised in both in our private and business lives, company’s also have to be aware that sexual harassment does not only have to be in person, but can occur through various social media avenues, text messages, emails etc., and you can be held liable for what your employee may post online. Aside from being vicariously liable for an employee’s actions under the Sexual Discrimination Act you can be held liable personally, as an accessory and for victimisation.
The best way to avoid becomes liable for sexual harassment in your company is to ensure that you take the necessary actions to manage the possibility.
- Ensure that you have a policy in place
- Ensure that you employees have been educated in this policy and regular training sessions on the topic are undertaken
- Lead by example – sexual harassment will not be tolerated and is unacceptable in my workplace.
Why are these 3 elements important to your business? What is scary is that from the information gain from the Human Rights Commission National Survey in 2012, it was found there is limited understanding of sexual harassment in the general population. With this point in mind, it makes it more important for companies to education their workforce.
HR On Call TM can help you develop and implement a sexual harassment policy and provide the necessary training to your employees. If you are in the position whereby a complaint has been made we also have Dr Leigh Hodder available to undertake a workplace investigations process.