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Conference finds that employees don't report sexual harassment because they fear they'll lose their jobs

by , 11 September 2014
A recent mini conference on sexual harassment in the workplace found South African women don't report sexual harassment in the workplace because they fear losing their jobs.

Role players who attended the conference include trade unions, workers, labour NGOs, the Women's Legal Centre and the CCMA.

They all noted that the women put up with being hugged, kissed, grabbed and subjected to crude comments and don't speak out because employers, human resources departments and trade unions don't support victims.

Don't become an employer who doesn't support victims of sexual harassment.

Keep reading to find about the other things that came out of the conference and what you can do to support victims of sexual harassment in your workplace.

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The conference also found that male employees keep quiet about sexual harassment for fear of revenge or dismissal

According to the report, while men also feared losing their jobs, their main reason for not reporting sexual harassment was to avoid the stigma of being male victims.

In the report, Norton Rose Fulbright labour lawyer, Karen Ainslie, says if sexual harassment matters aren't resolved in the workplace, they have to be dealt with by the Labour Court and this means full-blown litigation and legal fees for employees who wouldn't necessarily be able to afford attorneys.

She added that since Labour Court litigation also takes a while to be finalised, the employee would, nine out of ten times, still be in the employer's employ. This leads to an uncomfortable relationship between the employee and the employer who was taken to court by the employee.

It's no wonder employees choose to keep quiet.

But this doesn't have to be the case in your workplace.

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Do this to support victims of sexual harassment in your workplace

  • Have a sexual harassment policy that says all members of staff have to refrain from committing acts of sexual harassment.
  • Make it clear that everyone has a role to play in contributing towards creating and maintaining a work environment where sexual harassment is unacceptable.
  • When you find out about instances of sexual harassment, take action immediately and support victims instead of victimising them.
  • Implement a Sexual Harassment Policy that outlines how you will deal with offenders.

Be warned!

According to the Times Live labour lawyers say they expect the number of reported sexual harassment cases to rise because of amendments to the Employment Equity Act. According to the amendments, employees must refer all cases of sexual harassment to the CCMA.

'This makes it much easier for employees to take serious action against employers who allow sexual discrimination or who don't take the necessary steps to deal adequately with an allegation of sexual harassment,' says Ainslie.

So support victims of sexual harassment in your workplace and encourage employees to speak out about harassment.

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