Why Ignoring The Reality Of Sexual Harassment And Gender Inequality Could Be Your Undoing In 2018

16 Jan
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog   |  No Comments

I was on BBC radio again the other day, discussing the fallout from Carrie Gracie’s resignation over gender pay discrimination. (If you want to listen to the clip, just click HERE)

Quite rightly, the issue of gender inequality has reared its head a lot in the last few months, and I think it’s one that looks set to define 2018 for a lot of businesses and their HR professionals.

But it won’t be alone, because sexual harassment will be right up there with it.

With the #metoo initiative, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and Kevin Spacey, it feels like every week there’s another prominent public figure outed for their sexually harassing behaviour.

It’s awful, and terrible, and not what this world should be like.

And for the purposes of this article, it’s also not what the workplace should be like.

But sadly, for lots of businesses, it’s a problem that needs dealing with, and as I was reminded over the holiday break, there’s a right way and wrong way to deal with it.

The Problem

As everyone was winding down for the festive season, I got a call from a client: they’d had a nightmare at their ‘Christmas Party’.

One of the male employees (Male A), put his arm around a female colleague for a photo and touched her inappropriately in the process.

Another male employee (Male B) was the female’s boyfriend and witnessed the event.

Chaos ensued, with Male A punching Male B in the face.

What Is The Correct Course Of Action?

As the boss, what would you do when faced with the situation?

Was this just ‘alcohol-fuelled chivalry’ that could be laughed off?

Or is it assault?

Does the female have the right to be defended, and does Male B have the right to defend? (And if so, to what extent?)

The problem in our case was that the business simply didn’t want to deal with it, and to be honest you can understand why.

The trouble is, as a business owner, you’ve got no choice – you’ve got to be the one able to make decisions and have uncomfortable conversations.

But this MD didn’t want to do that – instead, he hoped it could all be dealt with informally, and consequently, he nearly ended up with a sexual harassment claim against the business.

And that’s what I want to make clear: sexual harassment accusations are not ‘light-hearted’ things.

They’re serious. They can cause significant problems for you and your ability to keep trading.

Knowing what you can and can’t do when it comes to sexual harassment, and understanding what the law requires are VITALLY important.

And that’s where a code of conduct and an employee handbook come in.

If you’re ready to get serious about protecting your business from these sorts of threats, then get in touch – you can email me personally at donna@dohr.co.uk and I’ll do all I can to help.

Oh, and out of interest, what would you have done with Male A, Male B and our female employee? And what do you think is the ‘right’ thing to do? Comment below and let me know…

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