Take charge of harassment in your business.
Turning a blind eye to sexual harassment in your business is no different than enabling it. Having a plan and resources in place not only means you’ll be prepared should an incident occur, but puts a stake in the ground to show employees and customers what you stand for.
Create a harassment-free workplace
- Create a code of conduct or respectful workplace policy
- Establish a workplace harassment policy
- Ensure all employees know the policy by making it part of the employee orientation process (e.g. post in a common staff area, make accessible on the company intranet, include in Human Resources and OH &S manuals)
- Provide training to all employees on harassment policies and processes
- Take every complaint seriously and respond promptly
- Set up a confidential complaint process for people who have experienced sexual harassment
- Inform all parties of the results of any complaint
For further information and resources, please see the Employer Toolkit.
Establish a sexual harassment policy
Employers are legally responsible for creating a safe, healthy and respectful workplace free from sexual harassment and related retaliation. And creating a policy for your business is one of the most important steps to achieving this.
Having a strong policy against sexual harassment also says a lot about your organization and what you stand for – to customers and employees alike. It not only makes you a more desirable business to work with or for, but can also have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Employer best practices to prevent sexual harassment
Don’t wait for an incident to occur. Taking the time to ensure there are clear anti-harassment policies in place can help stop harassment before it happens. It’s the foundation an employer needs to demonstrate the type of culture they want to promote.
Invest in prevention
Invest in training and awareness for staff on established policies, as well as conflict management skills. Supervisors and managers also play a key role in maintaining a harassment free workplace, so training specific to their role in managing interpersonal and team conflict is crucial.
Create a culture of respect
Workplace culture plays a huge role in determining attitudes and behaviours at work. Actively building a positive culture encourages healthy interactions. It provides employees with the skills to identify appropriate workplace behaviours and the confidence and trust to have difficult conversations when needed.
Support early resolution
Prevention is critical. Empower employees to be open and honest about issues when they arise and, whenever possible, provide the support and tools for them to address incidents directly before they can escalate into a formal harassment complaint.
Training topics for employees
All employees should receive training/education on:
- what harassment is and isn’t
- what policies the employer has (e.g. respectful workplace, anti-harassment)
- what the process is for filing a complaint
- what the employee’s role is in creating a harassment free workplace
- conflict management skills, such as how to have a difficult conversation
All supervisors/managers should receive training/education on:
- everything listed for all employees
- the role of a supervisor in creating a harassment free workplace
- conflict management skills, such as managing team and interpersonal conflict
How to deal with a harassment complaint
There are many benefits to resolving complaints internally. For example, internal resolution:
- helps preserve working relationships
- is relatively fast and inexpensive
- ensures greater confidentiality and privacy
- has many business advantages
Your actions are important
As an employer, your efforts to resolve a complaint could later become evidence at an arbitration or hearing. A flawed investigation or inadequate response could itself become the subject of a complaint. It is therefore important to proceed carefully and to document all actions taken and all information gathered.
Consider external help
Depending on the nature of the complaint, who the complainant and respondent are in the organization, and the investigation skills of internal staff, it may be valuable to engage external assistance. A third-party investigator can help avoid perceptions of bias during the investigation.
Share all available resources
Make employees aware of the remedies available to them. This may include a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, the Labour Standards Branch or the Occupational Health & Safety Division; a claim to the Workers’ Compensation Board; or a grievance under a collective agreement.
Recognize the human impact
Sexual harassment can have a powerful impact on an individual. Many employers have an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) that can give the employee access to individual counselling.
Restore the damage
Even once a complaint has been concluded, there may be lingering damage to relationships within the work unit. It’s important to consider the measures required to restore relationships and help people get back to a healthy work environment. See Restoring the Workplace after a Harassment Complaint for more information.