As the workplace becomes more and more diverse, there are several pros as well as some cons that arise. The unconscious biases start manifesting themselves in a bigger way when different people come together in teams. One of the ways in which such a bias shows up is sexual harassment because of preconceived gender notions. Companies have identified this as a big concern area but most of them focus on the policy and compliance aspects to handle this. While those form the foundation and can be the starting point, here are some other areas that need as much attention in order to handle such complaints.
- Practices – What are the actual on-the-ground practices that exist in your organization which firstly, allow sexual harassment to take place and secondly, prevent reporting of the same? This is usually linked to work culture because that is what actual actions impact. To handle complaints effectively, you need to create practices or encourage actions that foster a culture of openness, trust and accountability. Employees who undergo harassment should be able to report it without hesitation. And those who are being complained against should be made accountable, through corrective organizational actions.
- Programs – Having well-planned and frequent initiatives as well as programs is important. Such initiatives should focus on how employees should be open to communication, the kind of channels that are available for them to speak up and the role of managers in handling such complaints. Sensitization programs across the company are a must so that everyone realizes the value that the organization attaches to be a safe and equitable employer.
- Processes – A lot of times while a policy is in place and so is the Internal Complaints Committee, the relevant processes are either too cumbersome or not clear. Regular information about the process to follow when submitting a sexual harassment complaint, as well as details of what are the post-complaint steps should be shared in awareness sessions. Employees should be aware of how their complaints will be taken forward and the types of disciplinary actions assigned to the offences.
- People – The training of the people who are the first respondents such as the Managers as well as HR representatives is crucial. In alignment with that, having a knowledge and sensitive Internal Complaints Committee makes the complaint handling and resolution process much more effective.
These are some major aspects that all organizations must proactively work on so that they can manage any kind of sexual harassment complaints that arise.
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