Empowering Organisations: A Guide to Effectively Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

sexual harassment in the workplace

In the wake of the Sexual harassment allegations levied against Mcdonalds: what are the takeaways for HR on the case? Due to the high-profile nature of the claims against the fast-food giant, sexual violence in the workplace is an issue that has gained significant attention in recent months, and rightly so. It is the responsibility of all employers to take “proactive measures” to stop sexual harassment in the workplace and as is the case with McDonalds can be held liable if they fail to take adequate measures to prevent it.

In the UK, sexual harassment is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010 and is classified as a form of gender-based violence that can have a devastating impact on the victim’s physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as their ability to perform their job effectively.

This law defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or job title. It can occur between colleagues, or between a supervisor and an employee.

Reflecting upon the Mcdonald’s situation it highlights the importance of effective procedures for addressing complaints of harassment, whether by other staff or third parties.

HR should encourage their organisations to have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, which can be achieved in several ways. 

Key steps are to:

  • Offer support to anyone involved in a sexual harassment complaint
  • Train everyone who works for the business on recognising sexual harassment
  • Encourage them to report it
  • Make sure that all the company’s policies are consistent with the zero-tolerance approach

Employers need to question if complaints are taken seriously and investigated promptly by competent persons, and whether the response focuses on avoiding liability for the business, or actually redressing wrongs.

Most organisations would benefit from reviewing how their grievance procedure operates in practice to ensure that individuals are appropriately trained to act sensitively, and in line with legal guidance.

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