Workplace sexual harassment – should all staff receive training?

Last updated: May 8th, 2023

First published: May 8th 2023
Last updated: May 8th 2023

In 2022, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission published a Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work.

The Code of Practice does not impose legally binding obligations on employers but it may be referred to in evidence in proceedings before a court, the Workplace Relations Commission or the Labour Court.

Employers should take note of the content of the Code of Practice therefore as failure to adhere to the IHREC guidance could result in an adverse finding if an employee makes a harassment-related claim.

IHREC Guidance on Training

The Code of Practice sets out a clear guidance on who should receive training on preventing harassment and when it should happen.

Who should receive training?

The Code of Practice recommends that employers put an anti-harassment policy in place that includes a commitment to training the following employees:

  • managers
  • supervisors and
  • all staff

on the organisation’s strategies to prevent harassment.

It’s especially important that appropriate training is provided to members of staff who have responsibility for implementing the anti-harassment policy as well as the processing of complaints.

When should training be provided?

The Code of Practice recommends that training should be provided for all staff at induction and also through ongoing awareness-raising initiatives.

What should be included in anti-harassment training?

An anti-harassment training session should aim to identify the factors which contribute to a working environment free of harassment and to familiarise participants with their responsibilities and problems they are likely to encounter.

The importance of training for line managers

A key part of a strong anti-harassment policy is providing staff with a way to report unwanted behaviour.

Employees will typically report any unwanted behaviour to their line manager in the first instance. It’s vital therefore that line managers know how to respond if one of their team members raises a grievance or makes an allegation of sexual harassment.

Employees need to feel that any allegations of sexual harassment will be handled appropriately. If line managers are not adequately trained to handle these difficult conversations, there is a risk that a toxic workplace culture will develop where employees who are the victims of sexual harassment feel that they have nowhere to go for support.

Fundamentals of creating a harassment free workplace

The most effective way to prevent workplace harassment is to foster a positive workplace culture that minimises the likelihood of employees being the victims of sexual harassment or any type of unwanted behaviour.

To create this culture, you can take the following steps:

  • ensure all staff are clear that there is a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment in your workplace
  • invest time (and money on third-party expertise if necessary) in developing a robust anti-harassment policy that is tailored to the type of workplace your organisation operates
  • ensure that there are fair procedures in place to deal with allegations of sexual harassment, and that there is always a clear response to complaints
  • train line managers around how to encourage positive behaviours and values as well as how to manage a complaint.

Book your training session today

Employers with no HR support and employers who have never had to deal with a sexual harassment claim are the most vulnerable to suffering the negative outcomes of a poorly managed harassment claim.

The adverse consequences for employers include a direct impact on operations and productivity as the staff affected may take sick leave or resign their positions.

To safeguard your organisation against the disruption of failing to manage harassment-related risks, call us today on 01 886 0350 or leave your details here and we’ll call you back.

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