Worker’s Day, celebrated on 1 May in South Africa, commemorates the historical struggles of workers for fair employment and working standards. More importantly it represents the struggle to establish a culture of human and worker rights and to ensure that these are upheld in local and international law.
Safe Space, an initiative of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, has chosen this day to heighten awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace; something that is commonplace yet often overlooked despite the negative impact that sexual harassment has on the health and morale of workers, and their work performance and productivity.
Sexual harassment is defined by South Africa’s Labour Relations Act as any unwanted attention of a sexual nature that takes place in the workplace, and includes physical, verbal and non-verbal actions. Sexual harassment violates a person’s inherent constitutional right to dignity, and the right to have that dignity respected and protected. It is also forbidden by the Employment Equity, Labour Relations and Promotion of Equality Acts, and the Code of Good Practice.
A United Nations Report revealed that between 40 and 50% of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment in their workplace. In a survey conducted by Safe Space, 51% of respondents said that they had experienced sexual harassment at work or at work functions on more than one occasion and 50% of those did not report it to anyone. The main reason given was that they were afraid that it would affect their position at work negatively.
Most people are reluctant to report being harassed at work because they fear consequences such as demotion or loss of future opportunity, are afraid that it will not be handled in a confidential manner, or fear having to see the perpetrator every day after reporting the incident. Furthermore, many managers are reluctant to acknowledge sexual harassment in the workplace for fear of being held liable and many incidents are either dismissed or handled internally. In many cases mangers are not equipped to deal with sexual harassment complaints.
The costs of violence against women are extremely high. They include the direct costs of services to treat and support abused women and to bring perpetrators to justice. The indirect costs include lost employment and productivity, and the costs in human pain and suffering.
Employers in South Africa need to take cognisance of the business risks pertaining to sexual harassment in their businesses and especially the financial risks attached to the unsuccessful managing of harassment. One way for businesses to prevent and correctly manage sexual harassment is to enlist the expertise of Safe Space Training & Consultation.
Safe Space provides training and consultation around the following:
- Revising or constructing sexual harassment policy
- Assisting to create a process for resolving sexual harassment matters
- Educating employees about sexual harassment and the steps to follow through workshops
- Providing training to those who are at the forefront of sexual violence disclosures
- Wellness days
- Exhibitions and conferences
Take action today. Contact Safe Space for a quotation for a service fully customised to your needs.