Workplace harassment is a pervasive issue that affects countless individuals in various industries across the globe.
The government of the Republic of Uganda recently ratified Convention 190 (C-190) on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work at the International Labour Organization (ILO) headquarters in Geneva. C- 190 is the first international treaty that establishes the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment. It addresses discrimination and the vulnerabilities faced by workers in both the private and public sectors of the economy, including the formal and informal sector. Although informal workers may not have an employer, the Convention recognises that public authorities have a role to play in introducing measures and resources to prevent violence and harassment experienced by informal worker.
The Parliament of Uganda in May 2023 passed the Amended Employment Bill, incorporating provisions of this convention. The landmark ratification signifies Uganda’s steadfast commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive work environment for all, free from violence and harassment.
As an HR practitioner, it is crucial to develop and implement effective policies to address and prevent harassment in the workplace.
This article seeks to provide HR practitioners and organizations at large with a comprehensive roadmap to create robust harassment policies that foster a safe and inclusive work environment.
Understanding Workplace Harassment:
Workplace harassment encompasses any unwelcome conduct based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, age, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. It includes verbal, non-verbal, and physical behaviours that create a hostile or intimidating work environment, negatively impacting an individual’s well-being and professional growth.
The Importance of Effective Policies:
A clearly articulated harassment policy is essential for maintaining a respectful workplace culture, boosting employee morale, and mitigating legal risks.
Through establishment of clear guidelines and consequences, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to fostering a safe environment and ensuring the well-being of their employees.
A quick guide to establishing effective work place harassment policies is shared here.
Conducting a Policy Review:
Begin by conducting a comprehensive review of your current policies to identify any gaps or areas for improvement. Assess the effectiveness of your existing policy in addressing various forms of harassment and consider feedback from employees and HR representatives. Ensure that your policy covers all protected characteristics and is compliant with country legislation and international labour standards. Collaborate with the legal department if needed to ensure accuracy and adherence to regulations.
Clearly Define Prohibited Behaviors:
Precisely define the behaviours that constitute harassment within your policy. Include examples of both overt and subtle forms of harassment to guide employees’ understanding. This will ensure a consistent interpretation of what is considered unacceptable conduct. Address various forms of harassment, including verbal, non-verbal, physical, and online harassment, to account for the evolving nature of workplace interactions.
Establish Reporting Procedures:
Develop a clear and confidential reporting process that encourages employees to come forward with concerns. Provide multiple reporting channels, such as direct supervisors, HR representatives, or anonymous hotlines, to accommodate individual preferences. Assure employees that their reports will be taken seriously, investigated promptly, and kept confidential to the extent possible. Consider involving a neutral third-party investigator when necessary to ensure objectivity and fairness in the investigation process.
Investigation and Resolution:
Outline the steps to be followed when an incident is reported. Emphasize the importance of conducting fair and thorough investigations to determine the veracity of the claims. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of HR, supervisors, and management in the investigation process. Establish appropriate disciplinary measures for substantiated cases of harassment, emphasizing that no retaliation will be tolerated. Communicate the outcomes of the investigation to the affected parties, ensuring confidentiality is maintained to protect the privacy of all individuals involved.
Communication and Training:
Regularly communicate the harassment policy to all employees, ensuring its accessibility and visibility. Develop clear guidelines on reporting and provide employees with the necessary resources and support. Conduct comprehensive training programs to educate employees about acceptable workplace behavior, recognizing and reporting harassment, and fostering an inclusive work culture. Incorporate interactive exercises and case studies to enhance understanding and engagement. Consider specialized training for supervisors and managers to equip them with the skills to address and prevent workplace harassment effectively. As part of new hire onboarding, training on the harassment policies should be incorporated.
Periodically review and update your policy to reflect changing legal requirements and emerging best practices. Collect feedback from employees and HR representatives to identify areas for improvement. Encourage a culture of continuous improvement and accountability in addressing workplace harassment. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your policy through surveys, focus groups, or anonymous feedback mechanisms to gauge employee perceptions and identify any potential gaps or challenges. Based on insights or feedback obtained from evaluation of the policy, it can be refined.
Harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that affects people of all ages, races, and genders. It can affect the mental health and overall wellbeing of the employee so organizations must do everything possible to stop it from happening.
Harassment training effectively prevents this horrible crime from occurring in your workplace. It raises awareness on what harassment looks like, how it can easily be identified and how to stop it from happening again with buy-in from top leadership.