HR180 top tips for how to handle harassment at work

August 10, 2016

It’s official: our blog from last week sums it up – everyday sexism IS rife in the business world (read it here).  This is revealed in a report commissioned by The Trades Union Congress (TUC) which says that half of women in UK have been sexually harassed at work.

As providers of outsourced HR and HR consulting (based in Leeds and with clients in the UK and internationally) we of course handle issues of inequality regularly and put policies in place for our clients to avoid, as much as is possible, the continuing harassment which happens in the workplace – which to be quite frank should have been left firmly back in the mid C.20th Seattle Municipal Archives Seattle Municipal Archives Office in 1954

The TUC website reveals that of those surveyed:

  • nearly one in three (32%) of women have been subject to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature while at work
  • more than one in four (28%) of women have been the subject of comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes at work
  • nearly a quarter (23%) of women have experienced unwanted touching – like a hand on the knee or lower back at work
  • a fifth (20%) of women have experienced unwanted verbal sexual advances at work
  • around one in eight (12%) women have experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them at work.

The report out today is a joint investigation by The TUC and the Everyday Sexism Project – take a look here for more on the YouGov report.

It is a fact: it is more likely that when the problem is NOT addressed, the harassment will worsen and become more difficult to remedy as time goes on.

So how can you and your employees handle the age-old problem of sexism, inequality, harassment and hate in YOUR workplace? The HR experts at HR180 Ltd have come up with these top tips:

HR Manager, Laura Rigby, suggests:

  1. Simple – have equal opportunity training and a policy in place. Training shouldn’t just be a one off or tick box exercise. Make it interactive and hard-hitting.
  2. Staff council – have a ‘champion’ for equality.
  3. When handling recruitment, selection, promotion etc take positive action. If two candidates have the same qualities and one is male, one is female, employ the female. Try to have equal male/female ratios across all levels of the business.
  4. Salary benchmarking by role and skill – ensure there’s no gender pay gap.

And HR180 Ltd HR Manager, Becky Mee, adds:

  1. Encourage people to speak up – if you don’t like it say so!  “When you… I feel… because…”
  2. Neutral dress code if applicable in your workplace.
  3. Lead by example – if you see something happening, challenge it directly yourself.  The person concerned may not realise that what they have said is wrong or could cause offence.
  4. Be clear – there is a difference between a compliment and harassment.

These suggestions for business owners and managers come from Claire Morley-Jones, MD and founder of HR180:

  1. Promptly investigate and deal with all complaints of harassment so that people feel confident that in coming forward they will be believed and it will be dealt with.
  2. Talk about it informally during team meetings so that people know what constitutes harassment and that its often not perceived as a joke.
  3. Know your workplace and the people in it – HR180 is a very huggy, touchy feely workplace but we’d be alert to anyone who wasn’t comfortable with that.
  4. Policies and training are all well and good but they need to be followed up in the culture and identity of the workplace – if the MD respects everyone and the contribution they make, managers are likely to do so as well and so it cascades down the organisation.
  5. Hold people to account – at any time someone uses the words “only joking” or “its only banter” get them to explain what they mean and why it’s a joke – 9 times out of 10 it isn’t a joke but a way for the individual to more freely elaborate on their true feelings.

The findings, described by the TUC as the biggest study of its kind for a generation, are published in a report on Wednesday, Still Just a Bit of Banter?

A government spokesman is quoted as saying, “No one should experience harassment or abuse of any kind in the workplace – the law on this is very clear and employers must take swift action to tackle this issue.

“Section 40 has not been scrapped and any employee who experiences harassment is protected by the Equality Act – regardless of who the perpetrator is.”

Ellie Garnett, HR Manager at HR180 Ltd, sums it all up, “Advise the person doing the harassment, that you find it offensive and that actually what they are doing is breaking the law and it is classed as a hate crime.”

The HR180 Heroes at HR180 Ltd are a team of experts ready to take your call – we can help your organisation to handle harassment before it becomes a problem or fly in when there is a need for action. Telephone 0845 458 5881 or 0113 287 8150.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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