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How to strengthen your sexual harassment policy

How to strengthen your sexual harassment policy (Last Updated On: November 26, 2018)

How to strengthen your sexual harassment policy

A landmark survey from the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is on the rise. The data from the Everyone’s Business report, the first of its kind in four years, sheds light on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. And some of the results are concerning. But it raises the broader question — what should employers do about it?

The data shows that:

  • In the last five years, 39% of women and 26% of men have experienced sexual harassment at work
  • Fewer than one in five people (17%) made a formal report or complaint about workplace sexual harassment
  • Almost one in five people who did report, were labelled a troublemaker (19%), were ostracised, victimised or ignored by colleagues (18%) or resigned (17%)

Employsure’s own data tells a similar story. Our own research report into Australian workplace culture found that:

  • 1 in 10 Australians say that their boss has made a sexual comment towards them
  • 3% of women say their boss has made a sexual comment towards them compared to just 7% of men
  • 9% of small business employees have experienced a sexual comment from a boss

Clearly it’s time for action, starting with your sexual harassment policy. Here’s what you should do:

Zero Tolerance

If you haven’t already, formalise a zero tolerance stance on sexual harassment in your relevant policies and procedures. With your position clearly defined, articulate it to employees through every communication method available to your business. Every staff member — both incoming and existing — should be aware of your company’s policy on sexual harassment, and how sexual harassment is defined in your workplace.

Train Your Staff

While your sexual harassment policy can outline the standards of acceptable behaviour and conduct, training will help your employees retain the information. Employees come from a vast range of backgrounds, beliefs, cultures and ages. Training sets out in very clear terms the type of behaviour that is unacceptable in the workplace.

Set up a safe and confidential way for employees to make complaints

Making a claim of sexual harassment can be daunting. For employees who have experienced sexual harassment, making a claim can be confronting and deeply personal. Often, many victims stay silent out of fear that it will harm their careers or label them as troublemakers. It’s important that staff are aware of the process to make such complaints, and that their information and details will be treated seriously and confidentially.

Investigate all claims

It is up to victim whether they consider a particular incident as a form of sexual harassment. Even if the incident took place out-of-hours, outside your workplace – or even if you don’t find the accusation personally offensive – all claims must be properly investigated.

Sexual harassment is set to take greater prominence in the world of employment relations and it’s important that you have the relevant policies and procedures in place to protect your staff and your business.

Need a hand developing a sexual harassment policy for your business? Speak with one of our Employment Relations Specialists.

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