How to write sexual harassment policy in 2020

How to draft a good company sexual harassment policy and what is the best practices for enforcing it? Learn it right here.

November 25, 2020

How to write sexual harassment policy in 2020

Your business needs a sexual harassment policy. Creating an effective policy can be a challenge, especially at a time of remote work. Let us look at how to draft a good company sexual harassment policy and the best practices for enforcing it.

Before we get started with the process of creating a workplace harassment policy, it is worth highlighting its importance. It would be a mistake to think these kinds of policies are only for major organisations or needed if someone brings up the topic. A 2019 study found that six in ten women in Europe have endured workplace harassment. 

Sexual harassment in the workplace can happen in organisations of all sizes. You want to educate your employees about sexual harassment because it can be a sensitive and complex topic.

In fact, many smaller companies can have a harder time dealing with these cases. Your company might not have huge HR resources to sort out the problem. Without preparation, your organisation could face a time-consuming and costly mess. Not only that, your employees will feel valued, heard and protected too. 

It is much easier to tackle the issue head-on and write sexual harassment policies that work for you and your employees.

Company sexual harassment policy – 5 things to include

You should not copy and paste another company’s sexual harassment policy and think you have done OK. It is good to look for inspiration and guidance but ultimately, you need to write a policy that works for your organisation.

What does this look like in practice?

Your sexual harassment policy needs to have:

1. A clear purpose

Elaborate on your company’s goals and commitments in regards to the policy. Outline the reasons you have created the document and your approach to enforcing it. Mention your desire to create a safe and healthy work environment for all. 

2. A defined scope

Be clear about the scope of the policy. Include all the employees and make it clear the rules apply at all levels. Your organisation also has to consider the scope regarding other parties involved with the company. This includes investors, contractors or other third-parties. You need to set out their compliance in the document. You should also be clear about instances where an employee is a victim or an accused and how you deal with those.

3. A clear definition of what sexual harassment is

Workplace harassment policy should set a clear definition of sexual harassment and assault. You do not want employees to live without a clear idea of what sexual harassment means. You want to include a formal definition but also include examples of bad behaviour. For example, it is worth setting out examples of inappropriate language.

The topic is tricky and complex. Your policy should always talk about subjectivity. Employees should realise how actions they consider ‘normal’ could feel uncomfortable and inappropriate to others.  

4. An established procedure for filing complaints

A good sexual harassment handbook shows how your organisation deals with harassment. You need to set a clear procedure for filing a complaint and explain what happens after. The most important steps include:

  • How to file a complaint?
  • Where to file it?
  • Who is in charge of dealing with the complaint?
  • How can a victim escalate the issue?

It is also crucial to outline and include a section for the stages after a complaint. The section should outline things like:

  • What steps are taken right after the complaint?
  • How are the complaints examined?
  • What protection is available to the accused during the investigation? How is the victim supported during the procedure?
  • Who decides on the outcome and what happens after a conclusion is reached? For example, what are the channels for lodging a complaint about the outcome? 

5. A set of disciplinary actions

Include a set of disciplinary actions for violations to your sexual harassment policy. Set a clear path to things like warnings regarding inappropriate behaviour. What actions can lead to the immediate determination of a contract? What are the rules regarding warnings? For example, how many times do you warn people before tougher disciplinary measures?

Show your commitment to enforcing the rules. Make sure you also apply them consistently at all levels of the company. 

How to consider remote work in your workplace harassment policy?

Sexual harassment policies need to reflect on the workplace. You want to take the time to write your company’s policies. The metoo-movement showed the importance of tackling this issue. The sad reality is that harassment happens and can happen anywhere.

Ensure your policy considers another major workplace change: the move to remote work. As more companies are offering the option (and not just out of choice due to the coronavirus!) to work remotely, you need to make sure to include mentions of digital harassment. Sexual harassment is never just about the physical act. It can include things like inappropriate jokes, sending of sexually suggestive photos and other forms of online harassment. It is crucial to include these in your official policy. And remember, just because your team works remotely, it does not negate the need for a proper sexual harassment policy. 

Sharing your sexual harassment handbook

Having a company sexual harassment policy is the beginning. You need to incorporate it to all of your practices to guarantee it has an impact.

Share your handbook with new employees in their welcoming pack. Make sure each employee has it and have it available online. Have the handbook on platforms like Contractbook so that different parties always have access to your policy. For example, you should include the document to your contract negotiations. Remember, the policy should be shared even with third-parties and non-employees that you work with! You also want to take a moment to remind people about the policy in all-staff meetings and review sessions.

By keeping it at the forefront of your company’s everyday dealings, you ensure employees know you take the issue seriously. It creates a safer work environment and shows you value your employees’ wellbeing.

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