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Sexual harassment - protecting your staff and your business

30 November 2016

James Francis, Partner

Now, more than ever, it is imperative for employers to have an effective sexual harassment policy.

 

Sexual harassment has always been a serious issue in the workplace, however, with the Weinstein scandal in the USA, and the allegations regarding Don Burke here in Australia, sexual harassment will now be front of mind for employers.

 

In these circumstances, is inevitable that where proceedings are commenced employers will come under great scrutiny from the courts in assessing whether they have done enough to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

How you can ensure the safety of your employees

A few steps that employers can take to minimize the risk of sexual harassment in the workplace include:

 

  • Preparing and promoting written harassment and discrimination policies;

  • Effective staff training; and

  • A robust complaints procedure which provides for prompt investigation and resolution of complaints.

 

It is essential that all staff at all levels are familiar with and agree to be bound by the obligations set out in any sexual harassment policy. As recent headlines have shown, it is often those in positions of power that engage in sexual harassment. It is therefore imperative that executive level staff throw their weight behind a genuine drive to prevent sexual harassment to ensure the confidence of staff.

 

Further, it is of paramount importance, as well as being a legislative requirement, that employers provide a safe system of work. Employers owe a duty of care to their employees to ensure that they can come to work and do their job without worrying about whether they are going to be subjected to inappropriate behaviour. A safe and supportive workplace engenders employee confidence. An effective and detailed sexual harassment policy will help provide employers the strongest possible defence against costly claims by employees.

 

But it is not enough just to have a sexual harassment policy – to minimise the risk of significant costs and compensation orders being awarded to employees, employers must take steps to reasonably ensure that all staff and any contractors are familiar with the terms of the policy.

 

A little forethought and preparation can go a long way to reducing the risks that sexual harassment in the workplace can create – both to staff and to the bottom line.

Questions? Contact us below.