As the scandal created by the revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein continues to grow, perhaps most shocking of all is that no one, either inside Hollywood or out, is surprised a) that this has happened and b) that nothing has been done to stop it. As the #MeToo campaign makes very clear, women from all walks of life – and sometimes men too – are experiencing sexual harassment as much now as they were decades ago.
There will be lots of questions asked (and hopefully some serious soul-searching too amongst people who could have done something to stop this sooner) about why sexual predators have been allowed to get away with such awful behaviour for so long. As Emma Thompson said in reaction to the Weinstein claims, this is only the tip of the iceberg – more and more stories of sexual harassment – and other forms of power abuse and discrimination – will emerge over the coming months. And this will be in all areas of life, not just Hollywood. All businesses need to be taking stock and taking real action not just to protect themselves from bad press and litigation, but because it is the right thing to do. All employers need to ensure that no employee under their watch becomes a victim of sexual harassment or any other kind of abuse or discrimination.
So what should you, as an employer, be thinking about and acting on right now?
1..Wise up. Make sure you are really clear on just what sexual harassment is, and then make sure that everyone in your organisation is very clear too. The Citizens Advice Bureau has good, clear advice on this: CAB: Types of Harassment & Discrimination
The important thing to understand is that sexual harassment isn’t just predatory behaviour on a Harvey Weinstein scale. It could be a silly photo, a small gesture or a seemingly flippant comment of a sexual nature that could be construed as undermining someone’s dignity or causing them hurt or offence. Don’t forget that a joke or a nickname with discriminatory undertones (whether they be sexist, racist, ageist, etc) can be funny to one person and hurtful to another. Just don’t go there.
2..Take a frank look at your business. Review your old HR cases, seek confidential feedback from your employees and be honest about what you personally have witnessed in terms of how your colleagues and workers (and possibly yourself) behave towards each other. Is it really acceptable? Take advice from an HR professional if you need to, and do something about it now.
3.. Make sure your policies are meaningful. Even if you think there are no problems in your business, make sure you have up to date and – most importantly – meaningful HR policies and procedures in place to prevent, educate and deal effectively with sexual harassment and all other forms of discrimination. Make sure all of your managers are well trained in spotting and dealing with discrimination effectively and with understanding. If they don’t have the capability to do this then, quite frankly, they shouldn’t be a manager.
Most businesses have a handbook, usually full of ‘legal speak’, covering all necessary discrimination legislation, but many businesses either ignore these policies or handle them badly when an issue does arise. In the worst cases, employees are actively discouraged from raising a concern or a grievance because of the negative impact it could have on their position or career. Make sure you have a supportive environment where every employee has a number of people they can to speak to whom they can trust to handle their complaint compassionately and properly.
4.. If you want a real cultural shift, make fundamental changes. It’s within your power. Review and communicate your policies and procedures, prioritise manager and employee education and training – and then go even deeper. If you say you believe in diversity – and we all know by now that it really is a powerful tool for business success – then make your business more diverse. The talk (and the truth) from Hollywood has been that the only way they can really change the sexist culture of film-making is to ensure that there are more women in positions of power. This is the same for business too. Make sure that your workplace is open, attractive, fair and supportive to women. Appreciate diverse ways of thinking and encourage different backgrounds and outlooks. Enable everyone within your workforce to have a voice and make sure you, as the employer, work with individuals to challenge and change the status quo to ensure that power is not abused in any way.
5.. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Be clear – this isn’t just a Hollywood issue and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The silver lining of this dark cloud is that high profile celebrities standing up and sharing their experiences, supported by the very active #MeToo campaign, will encourage many, many more victims of harassment and abuse, from all walks of life, to come forward. This really could touch your business in a big way so act now.
For help with any of these or other HR matters, please do contact us at Arbre: http://arbre.je/contact-us/