3. Sexual harassment policies
Dealing with sexual harassment and violence is more complex and sensitive than most workplace issues. Sexual harassment and violence needs to be handled with the upmost sensitivity and in strict confidentiality. Complaints that become public may have life-changing consequences for the complainant – in some countries this could damage victims’ marriage prospects and cause lasting reputational damage for the victim’s family.
Developing and fully implementing a sexual harassment policy can help prevent sexual harassment and violence. Lead companies may have existing sexual harassment policies and these can be referred to as a basis when contracting services to suppliers. For example, suppliers’ contracts might require that a sexual harassment policy has been drawn up in consultation with workers and their unions, and that workers have been trained and provided with accessible information about the procedures.
Tool 3: Tips for employers and workers’ representatives on drawing up a sexual harassment policy
- Consult with workers, the labour management committee, local trade unions and local women’s organizations prior to drawing up a policy.
- Set up a task team to develop an action plan for a workplace sexual harassment committee, including training for members of the committee.
- If an existing labour management committee exists, establish a task team on sexual harassment.
Establish a sexual harassment committee
- Clarify membership, function and role of a workplace sexual harassment committee.
- Committees should include a trade union representative, where there is a trade union.
- Advice and support for committees can be sought from a local business association, trade union or women’s organization. (See Section 4 below for further information on setting up a sexual harassment committee).
- Provide regular training for all members of the sexual harassment committees and specialist training to the members who investigate complaints.
Drafting a sexual harassment policy
- Refer to model sexual harassment policies and procedures and consider what is appropriate for the particular workplace. (See link to sample sexual harassment policies below).
- Draft a clear statement that the company does not tolerate violence, abuse or sexual harassment - and that it could be a disciplinary matter.
- Provide a clear definition of sexual harassment and other forms of violence in the workplace.
- Ensure the policy covers all employment situations related to the world of work, including transportation and accommodation provided by the employer, social events organized by the employer, training events and work-related phone calls, emails and social media.
- Set out the procedures and disciplinary measures for dealing with sexual harassment complaints, emphasizing the importance of confidentiality and impartiality.
- Make sure all employees are covered, including casual and part-time employees.
Make sure the policy is accessible and available to everyone
- Provide all employees with clear information about what constitutes unacceptable workplace behaviour and the potential consequences for perpetrators of abusive behaviour or sexual harassment.
- Ensure that everyone in the workplace knows about the policy. It should be distributed in the languages that workers read and provided in an accessible format with pictures. The policy should be displayed with help-line numbers in a prominent place and set out on cards/flyers that can be read away from the workplace.
- Workers, including contractors and sub-contracted workers, should be asked to sign a copy of the policy and confirm that they have seen and understood the contents.
Government agencies and employers have a key role to play in raising awareness about the implementation of legislation to prevent and address sexual harassment. For example, in Pakistan, the 2010 Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act places a responsibility on employers to create a safe working environment for women workers, including a workplace policy and complaints system.
Four sample sexual harassment policies can be found in Information Sheet 6 (link below). They illustrate examples of model clauses and procedures that can be included in workplace policies on sexual harassment. The sample policies follow a similar format: a) in defining sexual harassment, b) in setting out the company’s commitment to end sexual harassment, and c) listing the responsibilities of employers and workers in implementing the policy. The four sample policies are:
- Viet Nam Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (Ministry of Labour, the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour)
- Sample sexual harassment policy and procedure (International Trade Union Confederation)
- Sample sexual harassment policy (Klosters Brothers, South Africa -Ethical Trading Initiative / WIETA)
- Sample sexual harassment policy: ILO Pacific Region