Are you doing enough to protect your staff from workplace harassment? The CIPD believes too many employers are not doing enough and it’s a view they make clear in their latest guidance which has just been published – ‘Sexual harassment in the workplace’ – practical support around key areas to tackle sexual harassment and bullying at work.
They refer specifically to the 2016 TUC research which shows more than half of women overall, and nearly two-thirds of women aged 18-24 years old, have experienced sexual harassment at work, and that picture has not improved in the pandemic. They say the discrimination legislation, the Equality Act, is helpful in setting standards and providing a route for individuals to bring a claim for harassment but is not enough to stamp out discriminatory attitudes and behaviour towards women.
The CIPD’s viewpoint is spelt out on the front page. They say whilst their research shows the majority of employers have a positive approach to gender equality there are still many organisations that are not fostering inclusive workplaces. They reference the cost that mistake – the risk of losing valuable female talent and an inability to attract it. Also, the damage to the employer’s public image and, potentially, damage to its customers as well. They say successive CIPD surveys have shown how much employers value talent and the importance of diversity and inclusion, which makes the continued prevalence of sexual harassment at work all the more alarming.
One of the key messages to HR in this guidance is ‘prevention is better than cure’. They want to see equality policies effectively communicated and training given to all staff, both employees and managers. Doubtless you have policies, and you probably have a training programme, but has it been reviewed recently? That is a question you need to ask in light of the recent and well publicised decision of Allay v Gehlen. Remember, that’s where the employer’s 'reasonable steps' defence to a harassment claim was completely undermined by a training programme described by the judge as ‘stale’ and ‘ineffective’ – it was just 2 years old. That case was widely reported back in February - People Management asked the question: ‘Are you doing enough to prevent discriminatory behaviour?’ highlighting the importance of ensuring workplace training is effective and that it’s regularly reviewed.
So, let’s consider training – how do you train both employees and managers on sexual harassment in the workplace so they can recognise it and know exactly how to respond to it? Given the pandemic and all that brings, a good way of training vast numbers quickly is to do it online through e-learning and so that that end we have devised a pair of modules which we can tell you about briefly.
Both modules are similar in length, at around 45 minutes to complete. They are both interactive, with a number of exercises built into them designed to test understanding, and opportunities to make notes and then test knowledge through a series of questions which will then give you a score at the end. That side of things is very flexible, so you set the pass/fail mark and if the individual doesn’t hit the pass mark then they only have to retake the questions that they get wrong. The other reason why that record is important is in the event you ended up in an employment tribunal defending a claim of sex discrimination you would be able to point to those records as part of your reasonable steps defence, and we have seen that happen.
Every module comes with a licence for an unlimited number of users which means hundreds of people can all be trained for a one-off purchase cost, with the option to repeat the training as many times as you like without any further cost. Each of the modules costs £3,750 and they are designed to run on your organisation’s Learning Management System – we work with your IT people to help set that up and test it thoroughly before you buy. Included for that cost is a degree of tailoring – adding your organisation's logo throughout along with any documents you'd like to add such as your Harassment and Equal Opportunities Policy.
Again, if you would like to have a closer look at any of the modules you can, we are offering a free demonstration so please do get in touch if this might be something you want to consider for your staff. For further details you can contact the Employment Law Plus Team – details are on the screen.
- Link to CIPD guidance on sexual harassment