By David Brown, Employee Expert
As business owners, we’re always managing risk and one of the risks that we see coming for you is around the greatly increased awareness and acceptance when raising a sexual harassment complaint.
The #MeToo movement started last year, following issues in the USA and has resulted in several high profile cases coming to light in the entertainment, business and government worlds – in Australia.
It’s our belief that women, for many years, have been exposed to, experienced and suffered, sexual harassment, in silence, in the workplace. The challenge for business owners is that with this greater awareness and acceptance, there will likely be an increase in complaints.
So what can you do to protect your business and your people?
Here are Four Things you can do to help ensure sexual harassment does not thrive in your business.
- Set the Tone
Lead by example – Let everyone know that in your business there are certain codes of conduct and standards of behaviour that you follow and that you expect your employees to do the same.
Reward and encourage – Ensure those people who act responsibly and respectfully in the workplace are rewarded. With this action the culture will start to change.
- Have a Policy Framework
You need to have a Sexual Harassment Policy in place. This policy will provide guidelines around both the types of behaviour that are accepted, and what is not accepted, in the workplace. You policy defines what constitutes sexual harassment, such as unwanted touching or unwanted comments.
We would also highly recommend that you have a Grievance Policy. This policy provides a framework to manage workplace grievances, protecting both the individual, the accused and the company. Grievances can be managed formally or informally
- Conduct Training
Conduct Appropriate Workplace Behaviour Training. Bring this issue out, front and centre, with training that covers sexual harassment and bullying and the range of behaviours that are acceptable. This is a great way of getting everybody on the same page. The other nice by-product of this, is that it can become very clear for employees the difference between when they’re being performance-managed, and when there may be a bullying scenario.
- If a Complaint is Raised – Don’t Panic!
Take all cases seriously and with caution – Confidentiality is for the protection of all parties and is critical. Only people that need to know about an allegation, should know. All witnesses are required to keep the alleged incident, the investigation and any outcome, confidential.
If you do have somebody raise a complaint, you must conduct an independent investigation. Ideally, get somebody from outside the organisation to conduct this.
An investigation works very much like a police investigation – the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty. The process goes like this:
- A statement would be taken from the employee who raised the complaint
- That statement would be then be put to the individual accused, to get their response
- Witness interviews would be conducted
- Then a decision will be made, on the balance of probability, did the sexual harassment occur or not?
- Depending on the findings, there may be disciplinary action
Put these four things in place and you will not only reduce the likelihood of inappropriate behaviour in your business, but you will be prepared, should it, unfortunately, happen.
For more information on implementing these Four things, that will protect your business and the people who work in it, please get in touch with the team at Employee Matters.