Sexual harassment can be defined as the unwanted or unacceptable conduct of sexual nature that can be regarded as offensive, humiliating or intimidating and could have a negative impact on the work environment. A Sexual Harassment Policy acknowledges the right of all employees, customers, clients or suppliers to work in an environment free from sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is when:
- the sexual behaviour is repetitive – although one single act can also constitute sexual harassment.
- the victim of sexual behaviour has clearly stated that this type of behaviour is offensive, unwelcome and/or unwanted.
- the perpetrator continues the sexual behaviour knowing it is unacceptable or unwanted.
Types of sexual harassment
- Non-verbal sexual harassment includes looks, gestures, whistling and suggestive symbols and pictures.
- Verbal sexual harassment includes offensive spoken words, shouting and excessive criticism.
- Physical sexual harassment includes abusive behaviour, pictures, material production and circulation of written material.
Employers should create and maintain a working environment in which the dignity of all employees is respected. The employer is also responsible for creating a workplace climate in which a victim to sexual harassment feels his/her grievances would be adhered to and not fear being rejected, ignored or reprised.
Guidelines to a sexual harassment policy in the office
Employers, management as well as employees are required to abstain from committing any conduct of sexual harassment.
The employers, managers and all employees are responsible to create and maintain a working environment free of sexual harassment. It is essential to make sure that their conduct does not cause offense, and when unacceptable behaviour is observed or occurs they should discourage unacceptable behaviour.
Employers or management should attempt to ensure that people such as customers, clients, customers, job applicants or any other people who have dealings with the business are not subject to sexual harassment by the employer or employees.
The employer and its management is required to take appropriate action in the case of sexual harassment occurring in their workplace when such behaviour is brought to their attention.
Sexual Harassment Policy Statements
The first step in dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace is through the employer issuing a proper policy statement and ensuring it has in place a procedure to deal with sexual harassment complaints:
- All employees, customers and anyone who has dealings with the business are expected to be treated with the necessary dignity and respect.
- Any type of sexual harassment will not be permitted or excused.
- Any person who has been subject to sexual harassment has the right to raise a grievance and appropriate action should be taken by the employer.
- Management should be placed under a positive duty to implement such policy and take disciplinary action in the case of an employee not complying to the policy.
- The sexual harassment policy should indicate what actions an employee should take if s/he been subject to harassment.
- Lastly, but most importantly, the sexual harassment policy should be communicated effectively to all employees.
Feel free to browse our Employment Documents for a Sexual Harassment Policy and other employment procedures and policy statements.
Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.