The #MeToo movement was propelled by the revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s abuses and so what does his convictions for rape and sexual assault on 24 February mean for the workplace?
The #MeToo movement has shattered cultural norms and altered what is considered acceptable behaviour and the guilty verdict will reinforce that. Women, and men, are more likely to consider that if they experience sexual assault or sexual harassment in the workplace, that they should report it, and when they do so they will be taken seriously. In the fourth national workplace sexual harassment survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in two women and one in four men reported experiencing sexual harassment. So how can workplaces cultivate a culture free of sexual harassment and other unacceptable behaviour?
Cultivating respectful workplace cultures and taking steps to thwart inappropriate behaviour is vital to ensure that cultural change is permanent. In cultivating a culture free of sexual harassment and other unacceptable behaviour it is important to make clear what is acceptable behaviour and what is expected of staff as well as what behaviour will not be tolerated.
What employers can do to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace:
Review policies to ensure that policies regarding what is appropriate behaviour and what is not, including what is sexual harassment, are clear and informed.
It is not enough to have policies, staff need to be educated and to understand what sexual harassment is, and what acceptable behaviour is required and how it will be demonstrated in their workplace. Good quality training in what constitutes sexual harassment needs to be more than a recitation of what the law says. Training needs to enable staff to really understand the concepts, with an emphasis on role-playing and scenario analysis to help provide a deep understanding of what sexual harassment is. Staff should be trained in how to be an Upstander, providing staff with skills to hold others accountable to help develop and foster a respectful workplace culture. All staff, including senior leaders and boards should be included in training.
Training is not enough to make a difference it must be accompanied by a visible change in culture and to help do this it is necessary to ensure that misconduct allegations are investigated thoroughly and impartially, and if this is conducted by independent external investigators this will provide all parties to an investigation with the assurance that the investigation is procedurally fair – unbiased and fair.
Whilst it is expected, in the #MeToo era post the conviction in the Weinstein case, that there will be an increase in reporting of sexual harassment, it is not enough for employers to assume that if no formal complaints are made there are no issues in their workplace. A workplace culture review will enable staff to confidentially discuss any concerns that will enable an employer to take any steps needed to improve the culture in the workplace.
Organisations can (and must) do something to change this reality to ensure all people are safe from harassment and other unacceptable behaviours at work – and many of our clients that we work with are committed to doing just this.
There are six key steps to this process:
- Ensure that you enforce the standard at all levels consistently.
- Skill managers up to set boundaries and call out issues with confidence.
- Listen to complainants with empathy and triage carefully
- Investigate impartially.
- Rebuild work relationships after issues have arisen.
About Melanie Roberts
Melanie Roberts is an experienced workplace investigator and mediator, with a comprehensive understanding of the complex nature of workplace disputes. Based in Worklogic’s Sydney office, Melanie has extensive experience conducting workplace investigations within the NSW public sector and private enterprise, undertaking a wide range of investigations including allegations of assault, sexual assault, workplace bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, racial and sexual discrimination. She has conducted numerous workplace reviews and is a trained conflict management coach.
Worklogic works with employers to resolve workplace complaints and create a positive culture at work. Please contact Melanie for an obligation-free, confidential discussion on how to manage workplace conflict.
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