Briefing 3.2 - Why verbal, physical and sexual harassment is so pervasive in global production

4. Addressing the challenges - creating workplaces free from gender-based violence

Gender-based violence in the workplace should be prohibited; policies, programmes, legislation and other measures, as appropriate, should be implemented to prevent it. The workplace is a suitable location for prevention through educating women and men about both the discriminatory nature and the productivity and health impacts of harassment. It should be addressed through social dialogue, including collective bargaining where applicable at the enterprise, sectoral or national level.

(International Labour Organization, 2009)

Tool  1: Tips for employers in preventing sexual harassment:

Identify the problem

  • Establish systems for identifying sexual harassment and violence.
  • Be aware that sexual harassment is often a hidden issue. Don’t assume that because there have been no complaints from workers that the problem does not exist.

Define and publicize

  • Agree a clear definition of sexual harassment and ensure everyone understands what acceptable workplace behaviour is.
  • Ensure men understand what behaviour is sexual harassment, such as making lewd remarks about women or touching them inappropriately.
  • Adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to verbal and physical abuse or sexual harassment in the workplace.

Adopt clear policy and procedures

  • Agree a company sexual harassment policy.
  • Establish fair and confidential complaints procedures.
  • Inform all employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and is a disciplinary matter.
  • Encourage managers to promote prevention initiatives.
  • Ensure the workplace and the places associated with the factory, such as dormitories and company transport, are safe and free from violence, with policies and procedures in place to prevent a culture of harassment.

Negotiate clauses in collective bargaining agreements

  • Work with trade unions to develop clauses in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on sexual harassment and gender equality.
  • Draw on trade union experience of running workshops for women and men - and jointly develop fair policies and procedures.

Train managers, supervisors and workers

  • Raise workplace awareness of sexual harassment – what it is and the forms it takes.
  • Raise awareness of the negative consequences of sexual harassment on employees and the company.
  • Train managers, supervisors and workers on the new policies and procedures.

Support for those who are sexually harassed

  • Change the culture of the workplace so that women feel comfortable and valued.
  • Set up a confidential help-line.
  • Support women workers to make a complaint.
  • Adopt an approach that empowers workers to ensure that they know, and can access, their rights.
  • Promote training for both female and male supervisors.
  • Implement responses to sexual harassment in the workplace that are seen in the broad context of wider gender inequalities, such as women’s low pay and precarious working conditions.

Develop social dialogue

  • Take note of workers’ views and comments.
  • Encourage managers, supervisors and workers to suggest solutions to workplace issues (e.g. location of toilets or work areas that are a focus of sexual harassment or sexism).
  • Find practical solutions to problems.

Better Work suggests that managers can reduce violence and sexual harassment in global production through a number of actions:

  • Aligning the incentives determining pay for workers and supervisors. Workers and their line supervisors should have the same pay structure and production target linked to a wage bonus, to minimize opportunities for supervisors to abuse their power in determining the pay workers receive.
  • Address challenges facing line supervisors. Sexual harassment is less likely to occur where managers acknowledge the stress and low labour-management skills of supervisors. Supervisory skills training can serve to improve workplace relations.
  • Promote greater communication among managers, supervisors and workers. More communication across all levels of the factory can foster greater trust and awareness of workers’ concerns.
  • In addition to these actions, factories should establish clear policies against sexual harassment; train managers, supervisors, and workers on the policies; and ensure implementation and enforcement. These steps have the potential to create conditions in factories that reduce the likelihood of sexual harassment.

Source: Better Work. Research Brief: Garment Factory Characteristics and Workplace Sexual Harassment.