Sexual harassment in the workplace

In the post-Harvey Weinstein era the spotlight has landed squarely on employers’ responsibilities in providing an harassment-free workplace.

Many workplaces are reporting a steep increase in employees reporting incidents of sexual harassment.

Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees if the employer fails to take ALL reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment occurring in their workplace.

These steps include:

  • A clearly written sexual harassment policy which should include words like “Sexual harassment is against the law and may lead to both employer and employee being held liable”.
  • A strategy to clearly communicate this policy
  • Regular training of employees on the policy, preferably face-to face and twice yearly
  • A grievance procedure which is accessible and effective
  • A process to investigate claims of sexual harassment

You need to have all of these things in place to be able to argue that you have taken all reasonable steps to reduce the chance of any of your employees being sexually harassed in your workplace.

If you’re interested in reducing your risk of vicarious liability you should investigate harassment awareness training for both staff and managers, get a clear policy and a well-communicated grievance procedure. You should also appoint a contact officer to whom incidents are first reported.

It’s affordable, not time-consuming and will help protect you and your business. Talk to your outsourced HR consultant for further advice.