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Sexual harassment at work: Key for firms to have trained HR staff, proper systems to manage cases

In reading the Association of Women for Action and Research’s findings on workplace sexual harassment (“1 in 2 women quit jobs after facing sexual harassment in the workplace, 1 in 4 changed career paths: Aware study"; Dec 8), I am not surprised at the numbers or the impact on victims’ employment situations. 

Sexual harassment at work: Key for firms to have trained HR staff, proper systems to manage cases

A TODAY reader says it is important to have human resources staff members who can respond sensitively and promptly to reports of workplace sexual harassment.

Corey Gerard Oliveiro

In reading the Association of Women for Action and Research’s findings on workplace sexual harassment (“1 in 2 women quit jobs after facing sexual harassment in the workplace, 1 in 4 changed career paths: Aware study"; Dec 8), I am not surprised at the numbers or the impact on victims’ employment situations. 

While it is important to legislate greater protection for victims of such situations, as it forms the most impactful and far-reaching basis of change, knowing how to respond to victims and manage these cases is crucial when the deterrence of the law fails and such an incident of workplace sexual harassment happens.

In my work as a human resources consultant, I often come across companies and their HR staff members who are barely equipped to handle regular HR matters, let alone something as delicate, sensitive and complex as sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The lack of competent HR and associated systems increases the distress faced by victims through elicited feelings, intentional or unintentional, of shame and powerlessness.

It is therefore important to have HR staff members who can respond sensitively and promptly, and carry out the necessary investigations correctly. 

The key aspects of this process are to attend to victims and their well-being immediately, explain the next steps while reassuring them of support, and to collect the facts of the case thoroughly and objectively without judgement of or disregard for anything victims may communicate.

In having someone in the company who is well-versed in handling these cases, victims can be better protected, and any further damage that may be inflicted through the management process can be prevented. 

While this person should primarily be from HR, anybody with the right skills and knowledge can and should be an ally to someone experiencing workplace sexual harassment.

Furthermore, with new legislative protections, it is helpful, maybe even necessary, to have someone who can set up and carry out the correct processes, and ensure that management is compliant. 

It can be incredibly difficult for in-house HR staff members to undertake such tasks, with barriers such as existing workloads, a lack of expertise or even a conflict of interest with management.

In such instances, companies could engage an HR consultant with the right skills in sensitive grievance handling to set up the correct processes, investigate reports objectively and sensitively, support the parties involved, and train the relevant staff members on how they can offer support.

ABOUT THE WRITER:

Mr Corey Gerard Oliveiro is an HR professional and recently set up a consultancy. 

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

sexual harassment workplace human resources HR Aware

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