Harassment – an employer’s perspective

“With all this harassment in the news, what should I be doing to protect my staff?” asked one of my client’s yesterday.

Understanding what is meant by harassment in the workplace is a good start.  Legally harassment is defined as “ unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating the other person’s dignity; or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person”.

Essentially what is key is the effect it has on the individual.

Our role as employers is to provide a positive work environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and one in which people perform to their best.  So practically here are a few top tips for employers:

Make sure you have clear policies and procedures for dealing with harassment, setting it out in handbooks, contracts and communicating this from induction onwards.

Create and maintain the culture in which no inappropriate behaviour is tolerated.

Ensure your line managers and leaders are role modelling ‘this is how we do things around here’, bringing your policy and culture to life in your organisations.

Train all staff in how to spot inappropriate conduct and how to handle it. Have clear lines for reporting concerns, and if possible offer the opportunity to raise concerns outside of this

It is not about the end of humour in the workplace but appropriate humour.  We are at work for a good part of our lives so we must have fun and enjoy ourselves, but always respect others dignity.

The effect of inappropriate behaviour on a business can be substantial, not just through the effects on the individual but the knock on effect on others’ motivation, productivity and staff turnover can be devastating and let’s face it, we are in a time of almost full employment so as employers we need to ensure we attract and retain great people. Young people will not put up with some of the behaviours of the past and they are right, so we must create a workplace in which everyone is happy and can thrive.  Culture is a key attraction and retention tool, it is important not to forget that.

Putting these key measures in place will certainly help keep employers on the right side of the law but more importantly provide a rewarding, respectful and enjoyable work environment for everyone.


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