Tips for employers to address sexual harassment

Tips for employers to address sexual harassment

Thursday, June 7, 2018 by Elysse Cloma

At a time where women are speaking out about their experiences of workplace sexual harassment, employers have the opportunity to take responsibility when it comes to reducing, preventing and responding to it.

Half of Canadian women experience sexual harassment, and nine out of ten women report taking measures to avoid it in the workplace. Given the large scale at which workplace sexual harassment affects women, what can employers do to address it?

Sexual Harassment Policy and Awareness

Organizations should have a policy that defines sexual harassment and sets expectations for respectful behaviour. That way, if unwelcome behaviour takes place, the organization can rely on a process to manage incidents, minimize their impacts and support the people involved.

In order for a policy to be effective, it needs to be communicated to, understood and observed by all employees.

The YWCA Bullying and Harassment Policy defines sexual harassment as a wide range of inappropriate behaviours, including:

  • unwanted sexual attention, sexual solicitation, or other sexually-oriented remarks or behaviour, which has the effect of interfering with an individual’s work or which creates an environment unconducive to work; and,

  • may be repeated or persistent actions, or it may be a single, serious incident

 Want to make sure your company or organization has a sexual harassment policy that protects its employees? We created an easy policy checklist for your organization.

Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture

While many organizations and companies have sexual harassment policies in place, a hostile workplace culture can enable it. That's why so many women are reluctant to report abusive behaviours—they fear the harassment will escalate, that they won’t be believed and that no action will be taken. 

At the YWCA, managers are expected to provide a non-discriminatory and non-violent workplace atmosphere, while employees are expected to understand, observe, examine, confront and do what they can to resolve sexual harassment. Our operating principles state that values such as openness and honesty, trust and fairness, diversity, creativity and work-life balance are encouraged to support employee wellness.

Promoting a healthy workplace culture means setting the right mechanisms in place so staff feel supported and that their well-being is a priority. It's where policy and values meet to protect employees from sexual harassment. 

Read our blog series on sexual harassment in the workplace: 

  1. Is your office safe?

  2. Tips to reduce sexual harassment