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Tips to deal with unwelcome Valentines in the workplace

With Valentines Day just around the corner, employers are being warned to make sure their sexual harassment policy is up to scratch to avoid issues that can arise when attraction between employees isn’t reciprocal. Here’s what you need to know…

A sexual harassment policy is vital for the individuals involved in a problem, according to DLA Piper, and also for employers who could be held liable for any harassment that occurs in a workplace.

Irrespective of a business’ nature, a minimum expectation exists that a policy defining sexual harassment will be in place. This should include a complaints procedure, which is communicated to all employees and supported with regular training. It’s also expected employers will remind employees in the lead up to social events of the policies in place and the procedures to follow in situations of suspected sexual harassment.

Under current legislation, an employer will be held liable for the actions of an employee unless they can establish all reasonable steps were taken to prevent an employee from engaging in sexual harassment.

To ensure all reasonable steps have been taken, employers should:

  1. Develop a policy clearly defining the behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment;
  2. Implement a complaints procedure that’s simple, effective and does not intimidate;
  3. Ensure the policies and procedures are communicated to staff and supported with regular training;
  4. Enforce a strong culture of ‘lead by example’ when it comes to the management of complaints and the treatment of complainants; and
  5. Remain alert to possible incidences of sexual harassment and act quickly, even if this occurs outside of work hours or away from the workplace.