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How to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace

Published: Thursday 17th June 2021

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a common issue facing employees all over India. It is important that your employees feel safe and heard at work regarding issues such as this. Preventing workplace harassment is something that all employers should work towards as this affects your employees and affects your company’s image. 

The words workplace harassment written on a notebook.

The costs of sexual harassment in the workplace

The first cost is to the victim. There are many ways in which this type of behavior will affect them in work and their personal lives. Sexual harassment will cause the employee’s motivation towards work to take a dip, it could also lead to lower work output especially if they don’t feel comfortable working with the person who is responsible. In extreme circumstances, it could lead to job loss.

The second cost is to the employer. Not only does this type of behavior affect the victim but it will affect your whole team. It could affect your company’s work culture meaning that productivity levels could drop which in turn can affect your company’s sales. It can also affect your company’s image with your employees, clients, and the general public. Sexual harassment punishments can be severe. This is why it is important to prevent this before it happens. 

Legal and constitutional provisions

There are multiple legal and constitutional provisions in place to help with sexual harassment in the workplace. The main guideline used is the ‘Vishakha Guidelines, which the Supreme Court introduced to help with prevention. The provisions in place are: 

  • Constitutional provisions – Article 14, Article 15, and Article 21. 
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC) – Sections 292, 293, 294, 354, 509. Also, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act makes any behaviors such as sexual harassment a crime.
  • Vishaka Guidelines – This was brought in after a response to a petition. 
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act – This was brought in to ensure legal action could be taken against such crimes. 

A woman holding her hand up to signal stop sexual harassment in the workplace.

Ways to help stop sexual harassment 

The most important step of preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is to acknowledge that you, as an employer have a legal right to maintain a safe work environment for your employees. You will also need to understand how behavior such as this can affect your team’s mental health and wellbeing. 

The best practice that you can put in place is to create a sexual harassment policy. This will show your employees that you are actively tackling this behavior and also warns them of the consequences if they partake in such behavior. It would also be advised that you communicate your policy to your staff so that they are fully aware of the procedures that are now in place. You can also hand out hard copies and also save them on computers within shared areas so that everyone can refer back to them.

Another way you can help stop sexual harassment is to attend workshops and training sessions. You can do this to improve your knowledge on the subject and to help you put effective procedures in place. Finally, you can speak to your employees regularly and ask if they feel safe, and ask if they have any suggestions that they would like to put forward which could improve the workplace environment for them and all other employees. 

Other forms of harassment 

Harassment can come in another form such as bullying. Another thing that employers need to look out for is bullying and harassment in the workplace. Workplace bullying can come at another cost to the business. Similar to the impact of workplace harassment, it can affect employee motivation and productivity. The same as creating a policy for sexual harassment in the workplace, you can also create a policy for bullying in the workplace to effectively tackle this.  

Any form of harassment is a serious matter, that is why you should always listen to your employees when they come to you about an experience they have had. You must take the time to sit with them and discuss the events and take them through the process of filing a complaint if they wish to.

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