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Steps employers can take to address the new workplace harassment code

Home Business Management Legal Steps employers can take to address the new workplace harassment code

By Nicol Myburgh

THINK a nudge and a wink are fine for the office? You’d be wrong. Labour minister Thulas Nxesi published the Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the Workplace in March this year.

The legislation has changed the law around harassment in the workplace. The code of good practice doesn’t just look at overt harassment, it also recognises nuanced behaviours t
hat up until now have been overlooked or ignored.

The new code is about comprehensively identifying harassment in all its forms. When you think of harassment, you likely think of sexual harassment, bullying, physical and emotional abuse, and so on.

Now it’s important that companies inject an entirely new level of awareness into their office compliance that transcends these violent and overt attacks
Companies and employees need to pay attention to nuanced behaviours that have previously not been included in the scope of harassment.

These more nuanced harassment behaviours include passive aggressive or covert harassment tactics that often cause toxic and hostile workspaces and are equally hard to pin down or ignored.

This includes negative gossip, sarcasm, deliberate embarrassment, marginalisation, negative joking, deliberate exclusion and invisible treatment, among others.
Companies are obliged to put policies and procedures in place that clearly state their position on how they will manage and eliminate abuse and harassment in all forms. The code applies to all employees and employers and is a guide to best practice. However, it also outlines that the perpetrators and victims of harassment can include clients, contractors and suppliers, which means that, alongside a clearly defined policy, companies need to put some form of indemnity in place.

Awareness training

To further protect employees and the company, it’s important to invest in awareness training for all supervisory staff.

Because every interaction with every employee is considered part of this code, you need to ensure that everyone is aware of how their behaviours can be interpreted by others, and how to manage these in line with the law.

Appropriate action

You need to ensure that appropriate action is taken in accordance with the code should someone break the boundaries. It should be noted that a single incident is now considered a valid complaint. This code introduces several layers of complexity to all interactions across the business and employees so you must put processes in place to make this easier for everyone, and to build a culture of awareness and respect.”

Ensure you tick all the boxes

It’s advisable for companies to approach a consulting service that can guide management teams and employees through the harassment regulations and best practice processes for aligning the company culture with them.

This will ensure that every box is ticked and every person made aware of the ramifications of breaking the law and missing the harassment mark.

Nicol Myburgh is Head of CRS Technologies, HCM Business Unit

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