How To Reduce The Risk Of Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

You can help to deter sexual harassment issues in the workplace by putting clear rules and a whistleblowing procedure in place.

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Health Assured team

07 November 2018

Since the #metoo movement went viral in October 2017, the world has become significantly more aware of the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. The shock that this is somehow still such a common problem, even in this day and age, has put eliminating it firmly on the agenda for many organisations.


The simultaneous vocalisation of the experience of women in 85 countries with 1.7 million tweets in the space of 24 hours tells us there are far too many workplaces without the necessary policies and procedures in place to both prevent the harassment of staff members and bring it to the attention of senior members of staff.


Sexual and other types of harassment can be curbed with clear anti-workplace harassment rules and whistleblowing procedures in place. The key to curbing sexual harassment in the workplace is clear and deliberate routes of communication for employees to vocalise their experience without being put at risk in any way.


What is whistleblowing?

The term whistleblowing dates back to the 19th century and was based on the act of blowing whistles by law enforcers to alert fellow police officers or the public of danger; as well as by sports referees to indicate foul play.


The term was created so that whistleblowing could be regarded in a positive light, rather than using ‘snitching’ or any other terms with negative connotations that might stop workers from speaking up.


These days, the term is used to describe the action of any person who brings to light an unethical or illegal activity in the workplace through the disclosure of information, either internally or through a third party.


Because we’re only ever made aware of high-profile whistleblowing cases, it sounds odd when we call an internal reporting of wrongdoing ‘whistleblowing’, but it’s no different to the instances you can hear about in the news.


How to set up a whistleblowing procedure

  1. Put in place clear policies that describe and define expected conduct in the workplace with no room for misunderstanding.
  2. Provide easy communication channels for whistleblowing by any employees. This can be done internally but using an external whistleblowing support helpline can help employees to feel more anonymous.
  3. Act seriously on all whistleblowing events to avoid delegitimising the process and undermining employees.


How does whistleblowing curb sexual harassment?

Whistleblowing promotes individual responsibility and organisational accountability in the workplace. Giving employees a direct channel of communication to blow the whistle on illegal or uncomfortable scenarios can improve their feeling of safety and security in work and give them the agency to change their workplace for the better.

Whistleblowing is also so important because, as an employer, it gives you the chance to be made aware of problematic employees before things go too far.

There are of course other factors that could stop victims of sexual harassment from reporting their abuser, and abusers will always find new ways to silence their victims. But by giving victims the option, at the very least, to report the sexual harassment safely and confidentially, a deterrent for habitual or predatory individuals from acting out in the workplace is created.

Find out more about how Health Assured’s whistleblowing support helpline can make your business a safer and more open environment by getting in touch with us today.

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