Last week St John Ambulance ended up in the media for all the wrong reasons. Allegations surfaced of male paramedics sending sexually explicit images of themselves and suggestive text messages to female colleagues.
About three weeks ago The Sunday Times interviewed me in relation to the display of sexual images in the workplace and what the courts have to say about it (hint: it’s unlawful!).
Yesterday I had a call from a client who was dealing with a situation in which one colleague had sent another colleague an inappropriate sexual text message.
I would love to say that these types of behaviours disappeared in the 90’s when the courts made it clear that they were unlawful but clearly they are alive and causing trouble to those in the workplace who receive them and to the employer who has to deal with them.
If you are an employer or work in Human Resources then here are a few things you can do to minimise these types of behaviours occurring and minimise liability-
1. Check your policies and procedure documents– do you have a Workplace Behaviour document that is up to date, accurate and includes information about sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying? Do you have a Complaint Management document that clearly outlines the process your organisation will use when a complaint arises. If you don’t then contact us for easy to use templates.
2. Provide regular training to all staff about what are appropriate/inappropriate workplace behaviours so that if they act unlawfully they can’t say, “you never told me!” (which is a valid argument in an unfair dismissal claim)
3. Provide training to your managers and supervisors so that they are skilled up to identify and act on unlawful behaviour- remember they are the eyes and ears of your organisation.
4. If you are made aware of potentially unlawful behaviour then address it as soon as possible and ensure that your policies are applied consistently across the organisation-inconsistent application of policies can lead to confusion in the workplace and again successful unfair dismissal claims.
Contact EEO Specialists for a complimentary risk assessment meeting to establish the level of risk your organisation is carrying and strategies to mimimise this risk.