Workplace harassment prevention and awareness

In the contemporary discourse surrounding mental health and wellness, it is equally imperative to shine a light on the issue of workplace harassment.

Frequently, we encounter instances where a colleague or a senior member of the organisation is involved in a series of comments or actions towards a worker. These actions are offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, or demeaning to an individual or a group of workers in a known or reasonably expected unwelcome workplace. This encompasses workplace sexual harassment as well. Additionally, it extends to behaviour that intimidates, isolates, or discriminates against a worker or group of workers in a way that is unwelcome within the workplace.

Bullying or harassment has the potential to make individuals feel intimidated or offended, contributing to the creation of a hostile work environment. Examples of such behaviour encompass spreading malicious rumours, administering unfair treatment, picking on, or consistently undermining someone. Harassment can manifest itself through various mediums, including phone interactions or face-to-face encounters.

According to a 2022 report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), approximately one in fifteen employees, representing 6.3% or 205 million individuals, have encountered sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. The report further highlights that instances of recurrent sexual harassment are notably higher among women, accounting for 56.5% of reported cases in the work environment, as stated by the United Nations Labour Agency.

In the contemporary business landscape, for a company to achieve rapid growth and ascend at an exponential rate, it is crucial to recognise the significance of addressing employee health needs. This initiative begins with providing a secure and supportive environment, fostering a sense of connection and active engagement among employees. 

Over time, experiencing harassment can become deeply traumatic, potentially resulting in conditions such as depression, anxiety, or symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Employers are obligated to establish comprehensive procedures for addressing reports or incidents of bullying and harassment. These procedures should ensure a prompt and thorough response to reports and aim to effectively address the incident while working towards preventing or minimising future occurrences.

The development and implementation of procedures for handling workplace bullying and harassment should cover the following aspects:

  • Investigation Guidelines:

Specification of how and when investigations will be conducted

Inclusion of relevant details to be considered in the investigation

  • Roles and Responsibilities:

Clear delineation of the roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers, as well as other involved parties such as investigators, witnesses, or union representatives

  • Follow-up Measures:

Outlining the steps for post-investigation actions, including descriptions of corrective measures, time frames for implementation, and strategies for addressing any adverse effects or symptoms

  • Record-keeping Requirements:

Establishing guidelines for maintaining records related to reported incidents and the ensuing investigations

It’s imperative for employers to not only establish these procedures but also ensure their consistent adherence. Workers are expected to cooperate with investigators by providing details about any acts of bullying or harassment they have experienced or witnessed, contributing to a thorough and effective resolution process.

In conclusion, workplace harassment is a pervasive issue that demands urgent attention and comprehensive action. The prevalence of incidents, as highlighted by reports from the International Labour Organisation, underscores the significance of addressing this challenge. The disproportionate impact on women, as indicated by the higher percentage of recurrent episodes, emphasises the need for targeted interventions.

To combat workplace harassment effectively, organisations must not only acknowledge its existence but also implement robust procedures for reporting, investigation, and resolution. Creating a safe and inclusive work environment is paramount, and it requires a commitment from employers, employees, and relevant stakeholders. By fostering a culture that prioritises respect, dignity, and equality, we can strive to eliminate workplace harassment and contribute to a healthier, more productive professional landscape.