Listening to recent news stories, I am appalled that - in 2018 - inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature is still going on in the workplace.
And, while the film and media industry has hit the headlines particularly heavily, sexual harassment is something that can affect all workplaces - across sectors, industries, and countries.
Employers need to make sure that they're educating their staff about sexual harassment, and taking a proactive approach to combat it.
Sexual harassment training has been around for a long time. Over the last 15 years, I've been personally involved in delivering 'dignity at work' training, for organisations of all sizes. But, as news events have unfolded over the last few months, it's clear that some employees remain ignorant - or dismiss the training, and continue to behave in the very way that it's designed to prevent.
A common thread seems to be a general lack of understanding about what behaviour consitutes sexual harassment in the first place. Raising awareness - via a training day, e-learning module or seminar - can only provide a limited list of unacceptable behaviours at work and can't cover all scenarios. Often, a delegate will ask, ‘isn’t all of this just applying common sense?’ And, in an ideal world the answer is yes – if only we could train everyone to be kind, considerate and compassionate.
The below article from HR Director is a useful reminder of the basics.
With celebrities continuing to speak out against the likes of Hollywood heavyweights such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, and with further accusations made against business leaders and MPs in the UK, the global conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace has accelerated at an incredible pace which does not look likely to slow down or stop. Social media campaigns such as #MeToo continue to play a prominent role in the media and people’s personal lives with new stories continuing to emerge on a daily basis – empowering those affected to speak out with less fear of detriment to their career from voicing concerns. It is therefore very likely that 2018 will be a year when businesses employ a significant focus on sexual harassment in the workplace. With this being the case, it is worth going back to basics to consider what actually constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace and what should employers be doing to ensure that they are compliant with current legislation?