Women and men have been facing the issue of sexual harassment at workplace for decades. As per the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication):
- physical contact and advances
- a demand or request for sexual favours
- sexually coloured remarks
- showing pornography
- any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
Although the Sexual Harassment Act has been in place since December 2013, many employees are exposed to physical and verbal sexual assault. As per a recent survey with around 6,074 participants (both male and female) conducted by Indian National Bar Association, around 38% respondents confessed to being sexually harassed at the workplace. The same report reveals that 65% of the participants revealed that most of the companies did not follow the procedure prescribed under the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013
Sexual harassment has been a plague-like issue that is reported in countless organisations, whether big or small. So how do you deal with this plague to create a safe and comfortable work environment for employees? The managers and the human resource department can follow various tips to avoid sexual harassment at workplace.
Here are 7 tips to prevent sexual harassment at workplace that employers and managers should follow
Establish a Strict Policy
As mentioned above, sexual harassment at workplace takes place even when there is a national Act for prevention and prohibition of the offence. Therefore, the first step towards curbing it is adopting and establishing a strict policy against such behaviour. Most companies have their organisation handbook that states different rules, guidelines, and policies. Include the anti-sexual harassment policy in that handbook at the earliest.
Define what all is considered as “sexual harassment or abuse” according to your organisation. State that any type of behaviour defined as sexual harassment will be intolerable. Also, mention the entire process of filing or reporting a sexual or inappropriate behaviour. When people will know that you are serious about the inappropriate behaviour in and around the office, people will think twice before doing something unsuitable.
Educate Your Staff
Hold training sessions in your office explaining everything about this anti-sexual harassment policy. All your employees, at different levels, should be part of such sessions. You can even hold separate sessions for senior-level employees so that they can be extra careful with their teams. Also, make it a point that you explain the same to every new employee in a brief manner. Just like any other rule or policy or your organisation, the new employees should be familiar with the anti-sexual harassment policy as well. This way, you can educate your existing and new employees with the anti-sexual harassment policy. By conducting training sessions, you are telling your employees that you care about their safety. This will also alert people with unrighteous habits.
Set Ground Rules for Parties and Picnics
We all know that employees tend to loosen up and become franker during non-working events such as parties and picnics. However, these are the times when most events of sexual harassment are reported. Such events and activities are ideal for boosting team-spirit. But if inappropriate behaviour keeps happening during such events, organisations will largely suffer. Thus, You must set some strict rules and policies for such events as well. Remind your employees that they should avoid unsuitable comments or inappropriate behaviour even during the non-working hours. By doing so, you can ensure that your employees maintain the right decorum during parties, picnics, and get-togethers.
Define an Easy Reporting System
When you have an anti-sexual harassment policy and a system to report sexual behaviours in your organisation, your employees should know about it. They should know the exact process of reporting an incident. This will help them reporting the event immediately, without going through any additional stress. For instance, if you have a specific form that facilitates easy reporting, ensure that all your employees know about it. This too should be a part of your training sessions and induction sessions for new joiners.
Also read: 15 Ways HR can show Employee Appreciation
Sign Forms for Office Romances
If you have couples in your organisation, ask them to sign the office romance forms. By doing so, you can prevent future cries of sexual harassment. If the couple undergoes a dispute or an argument, there are chances that one of them can allegedly blame the other one for sexually harassing or abusing them. Thus, encourage consensual agreement forms. Ensure that both parties state that they are part of the relationship willingly. These forms state that the relationship is consensual and if the relationship ends, the parties will not do anything work related to retaliate against the other.
It is crucial to let your employees know that you are listening to their pleas. You should take every complaint seriously and investigate all accusations, even if they seem relatively minor. Taking immediate action to investigate and address a situation of a sexual harassment report can not only decrease your organisation’s liability but also lets employees know that this kind of inappropriate behaviour is unacceptable. Therefore, as soon as you receive a complaint, get on to it and take an action immediately.
A majority of victims, whether men or women are afraid of coming forward and reporting the event. Although the major reason for not coming forward is the fear of insult, it is also because of the retaliation of the accused. The accused person may get even more violent and may even take revenge for reporting his or her behaviour. This is why it is important to remind all employees that retaliating against someone for filing a sexual harassment claim is wrong. You must let everyone know that if retaliation happens, the organisation will take an even more serious action against that employee.
You should make every effort to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their employees. Understand that sexual harassment at workplace is a gender-neutral issue. Be fair with everyone, be serious about the policies, be strict with people, and be transparent about sexual harassment at workplace. Don’t be biased or forgiving in nature as this will only motivate such undesirable behaviour in your office. Follow the tips mentioned above and take a step towards a safe, comfortable workplace environment.