By Silke Rathbone, Principal Partner, LabourExcel
What’s your strategic plan on gender-based violence in the workplace?
“South Africa holds the tragic distinction of being one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman. We have the highest rates of intimate partner violence, and recently released data from Statistics SA show that rape and sexual violence have become hyperendemic. This is a scourge that affects us all: young and old, black or white, rich and poor, queer or cis, rural or urban. It pervades every sphere of our society.” — The National Strategic Plan On Gender-Based Violence And Femicide
While you, as the employer, cannot take much control over what happens in your employees’ home life and outside of the workplace, you can instil a culture of zero-tolerance when it comes to gender-based violence and femicide. For too long many have been silent. For too long have many sat back, thrown up their hands and declared that there was nothing they could do. However, we have a different stance on this. By speaking about it freely, by ensuring all people you work with and come into contact with are educated on the subject, you can make a really big difference.
How can an employer help?
The Employment Equity Act of 1988 (Act 55 of 1998) lays down very nicely what good practise should be in preventing and eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work.
To keep this simple and to the point, we have bulleted the most salient points you can implement into either your workplace culture or, even better yet, your company policy.
The Notice 1367 of 1998 of the National economic development and labour council – Labour Relations Act, 1995 – Notice of good practice on handling sexual harassment cases also assists here with good governance on the subject.
- All employers should look to creating a working environment where, above all else, respect is top of mind. This alone will help those who are possibly part of abusive home life or bullying of a particular manner.
- Having an open-door culture and clear acceptance will allow those affected to know they are not ignored or unheard.
- It goes without saying that all management, employees, clients and suppliers should refrain from any acts of sexual harassment – and with that, make it clear what sexual harassment is:
o Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. The undesirable nature of sexual harassment distinguishes it from behaviour that is welcome and mutual.
o Sexual attention becomes sexual harassment if –
- (a) the behaviour is persisted in, although a single incident of harassment can constitute sexual harassment; and/or
- (b) the recipient has made it clear that the behaviour is considered offensive; and/or
- (c) the perpetrator should have known that the behaviour is regarded as unacceptable. (excerpt from Notice 1367 of 1998 – Labour Relations Act, 1995)
- A complete list of the range of possible sexual harassment forms can be found in detail from the same document.
- Where sexual harassment occurs or concern is voiced, the correct protocol should be followed in accordance with the code, whereby appropriate action is taken
- First and foremost, a sexual harassment policy should be put in place, and elements should be defined, such as:
o Explaining the procedure to be followed by employees who feel they are victims of sexual harassment;
o All allegations of sexual harassment will be dealt with seriously, expeditiously, sensitively and confidentially
o And, that it is clear that all employees will be protected against victimisation, retaliation for lodging grievances and from false accusations ((from Labour Relations Act, 1995)
o All information will be confidential, and that only appropriate and necessary people will be involved by consent
With the 16 days of Activism for no violence against women and children kicking off again this year from 25th of November to 10th of December, we know that the government is heavily behind supporting this initiate. But, as an upstanding citizen and business owner, you, too, can make your mark and support.
LabourExcel specialises in offering a variety of Labour Law and HR Solutions. Silke Rathbone, one of the Principal Partners, has crafted and honed her skillset and assists corporates and individuals along the Labour journey to ensure they understand what is required of them at all levels.
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