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How Should HR Handle Workplace Harassment?

How Should HR Handle Workplace Harassment?

Ensuring workplace safety should be a top priority for HR professionals. In the unfortunate event that this is violated, what are the responsibilities of HR?

h_ei_my_a_how-hr-practitioners-roles-have-evolved-in-the-new-economy Workplace safety goes beyond physical health and implementing safety measures. It encompasses a healthy office atmosphere. It also ensures that staff members come to work everyday knowing that they are secure, accepted, and included. This level of comfort and safety also reflects a company’s reputation. Happy employees mean a good brand reputation. 

Likewise, people experiencing workplace harassment—being in an environment that makes them feel violated—results in poor employee engagement. Unhappy employees means higher work stress, poor work performance, and a negative company image. There are various factors contributing to workplace issues, such as workplace bullying, gender discrimination in the workplace, and poor company culture.

Workplace harassment comes in various forms:

1. Workplace bullying Workplace bullying involves one person or group intimidating another, mostly to initiate a response in favour of the bully. This could mean harassing an employee to make them feel invaluable, using foul language or an unprofessional tone, threatening colleagues or subordinates, and engaging in physical assault.

2. Racial discrimination or gender-based discrimination While people continue to race awareness against discrimination, this still happens in some workplaces. Some people are treated unequally because of their gender, sexual preferences, or race. For instance, some employees will not get opportunities to lead projects because they were discriminated against. In some cases, people will express how they dislike certain groups of people: Avoiding talking to them, not going inside the same elevators as them, or even speaking against them.

3. Sexual harassment Sexual harassment in the workplace should never be tolerated. Sadly, it still happens in some offices. This happens when an employee makes unwelcome sexual advances to another colleague. It includes making inappropriate sexual comments, touching with malicious intent, and other unsuitable physical gestures.

Employees need to remember that harassment in any form is not acceptable and that they should never engage in it. It is illegal and can lead to lawsuits.

HR’s role in preventing workplace harassment

HR professionals are responsible for ensuring all employees work in a safe environmente. They need to be vigilant about these workplace issues, putting preventive measures in place and adequate sanctions in case it happens.

To establish workplace safety, HR professionals must ensure the following:

1. Foster a culture of respect First and foremost, a company should have a strong code of business ethics in place. From onboarding, HR should make it clear that respecting individuals is a core value everyone should have. While it may be morally obvious for most people, HR should add weight to its value by reinstating it.

2. Conduct training sessions on workplace harassment HR professionals must invest in training programs on:

1. Personal development or ethics — This includes training programs on ethical behaviour, respecting individuals, and professionalism. 

2. Compliance — Reminders on company policies regarding workplace harassment, how to report harassment, and the legal aspect of filing harassment cases. 

3. Establish a zero-tolerance policy against harassment Make it explicitly clear to employees that you have a zero-tolerance policy against harassment. The written policies against harassment should clearly state the grounds for harassment, how victims can make a report, and what the sanctions are for those who are proven guilty.

4. Establish an open discussion policy All employees should feel that the company will listen to them without bias in the unfortunate event that they need to report workplace harassment. From the start, provide avenues for reporting workplace harassment, so that they can contact HR professionals to file their complaint. This can also mitigate further hostility on the side of the victim.

HR’s responsibility in case of workplace harassment

In the unfortunate event that workplace harassment was not prevented and an employee needs to file a complaint, HR professionals must:

1. Listen to the employees involved It is HR’s role to mediate between the complainant and the accused. Get both sides of the incident. Provide comfort to the employee who was harassed, and give the accused a chance to explain themselves.

2. Document the incident All details of the harassment incident should be written on paper. This documentation is needed when hearing the case and in deciding the proper sanction for the accused.

3. Gather additional evidence In addition to the written statements of the complainant and the accused, HR should collect evidence or testimonies from colleagues and potential witnesses. These unbiased statements can help in ensuring a fair trial.

4. Spearhead proper legal action when needed Harassment should not be taken lightly. Especially in the case of sexual harassment in the workplace, some cases require proper legal handling. After collecting sufficient evidence and data, initiate legal action.

Workplace harassment is a serious employee concern. Preventing it as well as mitigating it in case it happens is a big responsibility for HR professionals. From onboarding, make it clear that fostering a culture of respect is crucial to maintaining a healthy work environment.

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About SEEK Asia SEEK Asia, a combination of two leading brands Jobstreet and JobsDB, is the leading job portal and Asia's preferred destination for candidates and hirers. SEEK Asia’s presence span across 7 countries namely Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam. SEEK Asia is part of the Australian Securities Exchange-listed SEEK Limited Company, the world's largest job portal by market capitalisation. SEEK Asia attracts over 400 million visits a year.

About SEEK Limited SEEK is a diverse group of companies, comprising a strong portfolio of online employment, educational, commercial and volunteer businesses. SEEK has a global presence (including Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South-East Asia, Brazil and Mexico), with exposure to over 2.9 billion people and approximately 27 per cent of global GDP. SEEK makes a positive contribution to people’s lives on a global scale. SEEK is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, where it is a top 100 company and has been listed in the Top 20 Most Innovative Companies by Forbes.

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