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Best practice for handling harassment at work and how digital reporting tools help
Whitepaper produced in partnership with
Prepare for the incoming Code of Practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work
In January 2020, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published guidance for employers on preventing and dealing with sexual harassment and harassment at work.
Employment tribunals can consider the EHRC’s guidance in harassment claims but, more importantly, it is expected to form the basis of a new statutory Code of Practice which will have greater legal force. A draft Code is now expected in 2021.
What are reasonable steps to prevent harassment?
The guidance makes many recommendations, but we consider the most significant ones are the following:
- Effective policies and procedures. The guidance sets out best practice for what anti-harassment policies should contain, including harassment which takes place outside of the workplace (for example, on social media) or which is committed by clients or other external third parties.
- Central records. The guidance recommends that employers create a centralised record of all harassment complaints in a level of detail that allows trends to be analysed.
- Risk assessments. These are an important new feature of the guidance. It recommends that employers carry out an assessment of the harassment risks in their organisation, potentially by using risk-management frameworks traditionally used in the workplace health and safety context. Workplace risk assessments have taken on a whole new significance during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Proactive detection. It suggests a range of methods for doing this, including carrying out regular staff feedback surveys and giving workers ample opportunities to raise issues. The issue of detection has become harder in companies where employees are working remotely.
- Training. Employers should train all workers in the different types of harassment and victimisation and ensure the training is refreshed at regular intervals.
- Guardians/champions. The guidance says that employers should make sure there are nominated, trained workers who can support a complainant through the process of making a complaint.
- Reporting systems. The guidance says that employers should consider introducing a reporting system that allows individuals to make complaints on either a named or anonymous basis, and which makes clear what the employer may do with the information provided.
- Responding effectively. A good anti-harassment procedure should tell workers how to make a complaint and define multiple channels for reporting, ensuring that workers are not required to report an incident to the perpetrator or someone they may not feel will be objective.
- Reporting outcomes. To be effective in encouraging those with complaints to come forward, the outcome of a formal complaint of harassment should be as transparent as possible.
How technology can turn compliance and culture into a strategic asset
Public revelations of workplace harassment are not unusual and it’s widely accepted that the reality is significantly worse than what is publicised. Almost half of all people who experience harassment at work don’t report it, citing a lack of appropriate, effective, and secure reporting procedures as a key barrier.
Vault Platform can ensure you meet the Code by:
- Enabling employees to securely report incidents of harassment in-name or anonymously through a highly accessible mobile app
- Creating a safe and confidential space for people within your entire business ecosystem to voice concerns internally instead of going to external channels like the press, social media, or regulators
- Introducing an enterprise-grade Resolution Hub for efficient case management, with innovative time-stamping, security, and two-way communication with anonymous reporters previously unavailable in legacy solutions
- Establishing a central case management system to keep records, investigate cases, and get a company-wide bird’s eye view on the reporting and resolution of harassment
This is a summary of the full paper jointly produced by Lewis Silkin and Vault Platform.