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    Creating a Culture of Respect in the Workplace

    We all deserve to feel safe and respected at work. Whether interacting with co-workers, employers, or the public, all workers have the right to work free from sexual harassment. Employers benefit from fostering a culture of respect in the workplace that takes a strong stance against harassing behaviour. Harassment can have negative consequences for workplaces including lowered productivity and increased turnover, as well as negative psychological, emotional and even physical impacts on the targets of harassment.
    Sadly, the fact remains that 30% of women and 17% of men in Canada experience sexual harassment at work each year.
     
    So what can employers do to keep their workplaces safe and free from sexual harassment and violence? Below we’ve outlined three actionable steps you can take to protect your employees and create a culture of respect in your workplace.

    1. Create company-wide policies and procedures
    As an employer, you have the responsibility to create policies for addressing workplace harassment and violence including sexual harassment. These policies must then be backed up by robust procedures for responding to and investigating complaints.
     
    If you don’t know where to start on creating such policies and procedures, SHARP Workplaces—a collaboration between the Ending Violence Association of BC and The Community Legal Assistance Society—has a free template you can use as a jumping off point for your organization.
     
    When creating your policy, make it relevant to your organization in terms of size of workforce and the types of interactions workers have with each other and with the public. It’s important to remember that policy must address not only interactions between co-workers, or between staff and managers, but also between staff and customers. How will customers or members of the public be held accountable for treating your employees with respect?
     
    2.   Implement the policies and procedures and providing training
    Your policies and procedures are only going to be as useful as your ability to communicate them to your staff. One survey in Canada found that although 76% of employees stated their employer had a workplace sexual harassment policy, only 43% of them had participated in any training on the policy.
     
    Lack of institutainal support, weak policies on sexual violence, and weak sactions against perpetrators have all been recognized as a high rick factor for sexual harassment in the workplace. Therefore, it’s vital that staff feel supported and seen long before issues of harassment arise. Training on sexual harassment policy and procedures should leave staff feeling confident that complaints will be taken seriously and empowered with the knowledge of not only how to make a complaint, but what the process of investigation will look. Many employees who face sexual harassment don’t report out of fear of retaliation or even concerns about losing their job. Make sure your employees know that it’s safe to come forward and that any type of retaliation for making a complaint will not be tolerated.
     
    Photo Credit: KSACC
     
    3. Revise your policies annually
    Workplaces that thrive know how to change with the times. Your policies regarding sexual harassment are no exception. Employers need to address the ways sexual harassment can affect workers in a digital space outside of work hours and ensure policies keep up with our ever-changing digital lives. As your company grows, so might your needs in terms of policy and procedure to address sexual harassment in your particular workplace.
     
    When possible, get staff involved in the creation and revision of policy so that it’s relevant for them. Gather feedback on what’s working and what could use improvement and make sure that people feel safe and valued when they make contributions to the conversation. If your business is big enough, consider a task force or committee of employees with training on how to prevent, address, and respond to sexual harassment.
     
    Creating a culture of respect in your workplace and taking a strong stance against sexual harassment will help your staff feel safe and valued. Creating, implementing, and continually revising solid policies and procedures to address sexual harassment shows that you are dedicated to the wellbeing of your workers. It’s good for you, good for your employees, and good for business.
     
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    Jenn Johnson – community partnerships
    Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre
     
    If you would like more information about addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, or would like to arrange in-house training for staff or managers, contact the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre at 250-372-0179 or go to our website at www.ksacc.ca. You can also email me directly at jenn@ksac.ca.

    Contributing Author:

    Jenn Johnson 
    Community Partnership, 

    Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre

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