The need for sexual harassment policy in the workplace

Employees would like to feel safe in the environment they spend their maximum time in. Making a safe workplace is of the topmost agendas of all the firms, and this topic is treated with utmost sincerity. Unfortunately, workplace harassment is very common, and identifying it and eliminating it from its root cause is of utmost importance. Sexual harassment is the worst form of harassment. Though all people are susceptible to it, there are many cases where women have suffered from the ugly side of it. So, prevention of sexual harassment is the number one task in any workplace, and if not prevented or taken care of even after addressing, it can worsen and lead to something even more ugly. So, a strict sexual harassment policy must be in place, with training to the employees on preventing these kinds of acts on the premises. 

What is sexual harassment?

The cases of sexual harassment are increasing, and the people suffering from this undergo a life-long trauma. So, organizations must have strict sexual harassment policies in check and spare no one if that person comes on the radar. Any kind of discriminatory activity that attracts unwelcome intentions of sexual nature towards any person is called sexual harassment. It has a very wide base and includes all activities ranging from small like a sly remark or an inappropriate way of calling to huge sexual assault or sexual abuses. There is no gender bar for being the victim or the perpetrator in a sexual harassment case.

What can all be considered as an act of sexual harassment?

  • Discriminatory comments or vulgar jokes, which forms a cheap source of entertainment but can be considered sexual harassment
  • Eve teasing, invading someone’s privacy, uncomfortable invitations of meetups outside official premises
  • Creating an environment such that the co-worker feels uncomfortable working in the workplace
  • Sexual advances, asking for sexual favors, in return for employment, promotion, or any benefits
  • Any gesture by any employee which is laden with sexual hints
  • Staring, passing lewd comments, unwanted touching
  • Demand for sexual favors
  • Verbal, non-verbal, physical conduct of sexual nature
  • Showing pornography

What is the need for sexual harassment policies?

According to a survey, more than one-third of women have claimed to have undergone sexual harassment in workplaces. The devil is rearing up its ugly head in an increasing manner, and something or the other needs to be done to prevent it. So, every organization must have sexual harassment policies to discourage such behavior and protect its victim and its firm if something really bad happens.

A strict anti-harassment policy will act as a good deterrent and make employees aware of the policies by which the firm is guided and will also make it very clear to them what kind of behavior is strictly not acceptable in the workplace. It also lays out strict punishment that the perpetrator will have to undergo in case of complaints. A well-written procedure of what to do if such cases arise gives the victim a clear-cut path to follow. A written document also serves as a liability for the firm to protect the organization if discrimination lawsuit occurs.

What should a sexual harassment policy contain?

A sexual harassment policy of any firm must be crystal clear with instructions and what all needs to be done if a situation arises. Some of the important must include things are:

  • NO tolerance: The first thing that any firm’s sexual harassment policy must include is that the firm has ZERO Tolerance for sexual harassment activities and that strict actions will be taken against it.
  • Examples: Examples of what comes under sexual harassment will give a clearer picture to the employees
  • Definition: A must-have in all the policies, what exactly is sexual harassment
  • Reporting is a must:  In case of occurrence of such event, reporting to the concerned officials is a must so that further steps can be taken and investigation carried out
  • Protection from vengeful acts: The victim needs to have the assurance that if they come forward and complained, and then if they suffer any vengeful acts from the preparator, the organization has its backs
  • Procedure for filing complaints: A detailed step-by-step process of how the victim should reach out to the concerned authorities and how the investigation process will pan out
  • Confidentiality: Maintenance of strict confidentiality of victims as and where possible should be guaranteed
  • Training: A active program, where all the employees are trained against sexual harassment activities and what steps need to be taken in case of occurrence

What are the advantages of sexual harassment policies in a firm?

A must-have for all the firms, some of the advantages of a strong sexual harassment policy are:

  • Creates awareness and educates the employees of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a workplace and thus make people more aware of their surroundings and actions
  • Helps to better the workplace culture that is offered to the employees, where employees have the confidence that they can work ethically and no malpractice will take place, thus making them feel safe
  • Sends a strong message from the top-level positions that sexual harassment is something against which the entire organization stands together and strict repercussions are in place for the offender
  • Continuous training sessions provide a sense of team among the employees
  • Also provides training to the bystanders as to what can be done to stop the harassment in case if it happens in front of them
  • Encourages reporting, as most of the cases go unreported just because the victim was embarrassed, it encourages the people to come forward and help catch the offender so that the horrible act is not repeated again

What are the steps that must be taken to prevent sexual harassment cases at the workplace?

Some of the steps that can be taken to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace are:

  • In the case of victims, be clear and make the offender know that this kind of behavior is unwelcome
  • Deal with the situation upfront and raise your voice and make the matter known
  • Demand that the harassment must stop at once with a firm tone and professional body language
  • Discuss it with a friend or with someone that you can trust
  • Report the sexual harassment act to HR or the concerned authorities

What to do as an employer in case of sexual harassment occurs in the workplace?

As the concerned authority, if it is brought to your notice that someone suffers from sexual harassment in your workplace, then some of the steps that can be taken are:

  • Notify all the concerned authorities and the HR team

Treat the victim with respect and hear the person out carefully, be empathetic

  • Investigate at the earliest
  • Take the required actions that need to be taken during and after the investigation as mentioned in the policies
  • Include government agencies if need be
  • Find out ways in which the matter can be resolved
  • Document the entire investigation
  • Deal with the offender as described in the policy
  • Devise a media plan if the matter takes a huge turn

Sexual harassment is a growing offense in every workplace. Prevention of this is a daunting task that every organization faces. Women have to face the ugly brunt of this in maximum cases. Steps need to be taken to make the workplace a safer and more welcoming environment for the employees. Strict policies are in place. Still, it is a long road ahead, which can only be met if everyone works together.

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