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Keep it zipped, it’s only harassment!

In recent years, workplace discrimination has become a hot topic, thanks to several high-profile instances of big organisations hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons after falling foul of equality laws.

Here, award-winning consultant Richard Shakespeare, of Workplace Diversity Solutions, takes a closer look at the issue and reflects on the progress made and the work still to be done.

I start most mornings by sitting down in my office, reading through the various emails and news alerts I receive, and then starting work.

Normally, the majority of the early morning bulletins pass me by in the blink of an eye.

However, a recent article caught my eye.

I read with interest the piece about the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases and the fear that they protect employers rather than victims of such harassment.

In a recent report, the Equality and Human Rights Commission stated that urgent action must be taken to tackle ‘corrosive cultures’.

Suggestions from the commission included a legal obligation being placed employers to prevent harassment and victimisation.

Now, to me, it stands to reason that if you try to silence people around topics like sexual harassment, victimisation, or indeed any form of discrimination, you are going to come up against one or two issues.

Attempting to silence people will lead to a lack of reporting and the potential creation of a culture whereby people feel such behaviour will be accepted.

We even run the risk of people thinking it is funny or ‘just a joke’.

Recently, we have seen plenty of press coverage on the issue including, the almighty fall from grace of a well-known Hollywood influencer.

However, we do not seem to see much being done about an issue which has in some places become the norm.

Upon reflection, if we are going to have success in removing this kind of behaviour within the workplace then rather than a legal obligation or a legal argument, we need to focus more on the moral argument.

No individual should be afraid to come to work because of unwanted behaviour or the risk of being victimised.

Sometimes, changing things is easier said than done.

I accept that, but we need to look at changing cultures and attitudes within a workplace and fostering an environment where people feel respected, valued, and safe, rather than turning to legislation for answers.

Success in this area starts, for me, by looking at what you can do as a business to ensure your working environment is truly inclusive, safe, and, where people understand what is expected of them.

I wonder where this argument and indeed, the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, will take us?

One thing I can be fairly certain of is that some employers still do not take the issue of sexual harassment seriously, others try to dissuade victims from speaking out and then there are those employers who do all they can to create the right kind of culture within their businesses.

To find out more about Workplace Diversity Solutions and the services it provides, visit its Love Business News profile page.


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