Navigating Workplace Risks:
A Comprehensive Approach to Sexual Harassment Prevention
For many businesses risk management is a standard and fundamental feature of assessing the operations of the business and planning to meet future eventualities. Despite the widespread occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace across various industries as well as the fact that it can be financially and reputationally damaging, a robust approach to risk management has yet to be applied in many organisations. This is because the burden of raising and pursuing grievances in this area was left to the individual victims, and most cases of sexual harassment were not pursued.
Under the new dispensation and the implementation of the positive duty it is now a requirement for businesses and other organisations to embark on a program of risk assessment specifically directed at sexual harassment.
As the AHRC guidelines point out, in most businesses and organisations there is a risk that unlawful workplace behaviour may occur and may pose a risk to the physical and psychological well-being of workers.
The type of risk management which will be adopted by a particular organisation will vary depending on the size and nature of the organisation and it will be important to understand that there is no “one size fits all” solution.
At the outset, organisations should consider whether known drivers and risk factors for unlawful behaviour, and particularly sexual harassment exist in their workplaces.
- Identifying large power imbalances in the structure of the workforce
- Recognizing if there is a distinct culture of masculinity
- Assessing if there are often gatherings outside of the normal workplace
- Evaluating events involving the consumption of large amounts of alcohol
Subsequent stages of assessment involve understanding:
- The demographic most likely to be affected
- Groups or levels of employees prone to being potential perpetrators
- The times and locations where harassment is most likely to occur
to equip leaders and organisations with the tools they need to meet the positive duty:
Thorough Risk Assessment
Tailor your risk management approach to the unique size and nature of your organisation. Identify potential risk factors and drivers, such as power imbalances, cultural aspects, social gatherings, and events involving alcohol.
Continuous Monitoring and Adjustment
By following these practical recommendations, your organisation can cultivate a more respectful and inclusive work environment while effectively addressing issues related to sexual harassment.