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The Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace:

The Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace:

This is based on Employment Equity Act No. 555 of 1997 Section 6(1)newly amended on 03/ 03/ 2022

harassment in the workplace
Harassment in the workplace

The South African constitution protects against human dignity, equality and fair labour practices. This just shows the country’s commitment to eliminate, prevent and manage all forms of harassment including gender-based violence in order to create a workplace that is free of harassment. South African now regards all forms of harassment as unfair labour practice include sexual, gender-based violence and harassment, ethnic or racial and social origin harassment. These can be categorised as sexual, emotional, physical and psychological abuse and must be eliminated from the workplace.

The objective of the newly amended Code of Good Practice’s objective is to guide employers and employees how to successfully eliminate all forms harassment in the workplaces. Employers are guided to develop policies, procedure and practices that ensure workplaces that are free from harassment. Employees are then expected to respect one another’s dignity, integrity, privacy and right to equality in the workplace.

Application

This Code applies to Employers, employees, mangers, supervisors, volunteers, persons in training like (Interns, Apprentice and persons on learnerships), job applicants, clients and customers, suppliers, contractors and any other personnel dealing with the business.

Whether or not a person’s conduct constitutes to is dependent on firstly if the complainant directly or indirectly communicated to the alleged perpetrator that their conduct is not welcomed. If there was no communication, an investigation is still imminent to find out if the harasser knew or should have known that their conduct is not acceptable in the workplace, this is where polices, guidelines and procedures on this matter come in handy.

What Constitutes Harassments

Whether or not behaviour constitutes to harassment should be objectively assessed from the perspective of the complainant. The main focus of the inquiry on whether there was harassment is on the impact of the conduct on the complainant. However, there may be instances where the perceptions of the harassed party are not consistent with the view of a “reasonable person”. In such instances, the alleged perpetrator will then have to prove how the complainant’s views are not consistent with and reflective of societal values per the country’s constitution.

Harassment is usually in consistent patterns of conduct, sometimes it can occur once but for it to be considered harassment it should be of a serious nature and whether the single conduct will be considered serious harassment must be determined in light of the event that is the subject of the complaint.

Sexual harassment has in the past been the focal point when discussions about harassment were held and remains the most dealt with and the most serious on in most companies. Other forms of harassment should now be taken and dealt with in the same regard as per the amendment to ensure fairness, equality and equity in the workplaces.

Guidelines on elimination, prevention and management of harassment (PROCEDURAL)

  • Employers should take steps to assess the risk of harassment occurring in the workplace, this should include finding out the types of harassment employees could be exposed to in the workplace.
  • A zero tolerance to harassment attitude must be maintained all the time. Where employers and trade unions are obliged to refrain from committing harassment and also play a role in maintaining a workplace in which harassment is unacceptable.
  • Policies and guidelines that protect and guide all stakeholders should be drafted and amended to ensure knowledge and to promote good conduct in the workplaces.
  • Reporting channels should be open and complaints must be taken serious, and there should be no place for complaints being “thrown under the carpet” to protect certain people as avoidance could mean serious penalties according to the Employment Equity Act.
  • Employers to should seek advice from experts (Like SISOL Labour Projects) on how to embark on this journey of free workplace harassment and the vital aspects to consider.
  • Employees and/ or Complainant should be guided on the formal and informal procedures that should be followed and confidence should be given that the harassment issues reported will be fairly dealt with.
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