Briefing 7.1 - Creating inclusive and dignified workplaces, including safe spaces for reporting and effective mechanisms for seeking redress

2.  Human resources policies and procedures

Suppliers need to have human resources policies and procedures if they are to create a positive working environment for their employees, retain and value workers and prevent sexual harassment.

Human resource policies and procedures are important to ensure that:

  • Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to create a working environment free of sexual harassment – for the dignity and protection of workers as well as for productivity.
  • National laws on gender-based violence and sexual harassment at work are implemented.
  • Managers, supervisors and workers are trained, informed and understand the types of behaviour that constitute sexual harassment and have clear responsibilities about how to prevent it.
  • There is understanding of why certain workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, including casual workers, migrant workers and young workers.
  • Workers understand their rights and how to complain and find support, if necessary.
  • Workplaces have confidential complaints systems, designed to deal with sensitive issues of sexual harassment.
  • Freedom of association, the right for workers to be represented by trade unions and bargain collectively are embedded in company policies.
  • Workplace policies cover transportation and accommodation provided by the employer.

While large companies usually have human resources policies and procedures in place, often led by a human resources manager, many suppliers producing goods in global supply chains are small factories and farms where the owner may be the manager. In some cases the supplier factory or farm has been sub-contracted by a larger company to complete an order.

Suppliers can gain a better understanding of their labour force through a simple gender audit. This could be a valuable foundation for preventing and eliminating sexual harassment.  A gender audit is a management and planning tool to evaluate how the organization integrates a gender perspective into its work. The aim is to identify what needs to be done, for example, to make progress in implementing legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Some sample questions to include in a gender audit on sexual harassment can be found below.


Existing measure

What measures are already in place for protection from sexual harassment and violence at work?


How is sexual harassment defined?


What preventive measures are in place?


What is the complaints procedure and is there a complaints officer?


What protection and support is given to victims?


What sanctions exist for perpetrators?


What supportive initiatives such as training programmes exist to raise awareness about sexual harassment?


A starting point is to examine where women and men work and their pay and conditions:

  • Gender composition of the workforce: the different jobs held by women and men (e.g. managers, supervisors, different categories of production workers).
  • Skills and training: the skill levels (and training) required for each job, by gender, including skills training offered to workers, supervisors and managers to upgrade their skills.
  • Contracts of employment: what is covered in contracts of employment and who (by grade and gender) holds a permanent or temporary contract.
  • Sub-contracting: what policies or codes of conduct exist for sub-contracting, how are they maintained and monitored? Gender of workers who are employed on a sub-contract.

Potential ways to work in partnership with local trade unions and women’s organizations to identify and detect sexual harassment in the workplace.