Imagine this: Fresh out of undergraduate school and into your first job, to say you’re excited about this would be an understatement. First week on the job, everyone’s nice and supportive though you’d have to admit there’s one particular colleague that acted slightly peculiar, a bit too touchy and suggestive but you shrug it off because everything was falling into place in your life.
Until it wasn’t.
As days go by, that particular colleague grows more persistent, demanding and before you know it, everything comes crashing down; they’ve got you cornered and you feel like you have no one to tell, too afraid that if you did, no one would believe you.
This is the reality of many people in the workforce, be it in their own offices or out on assignments. Make no mistake, this does not only occur to ‘fresh meat’ in organizations, as seasoned employees of both genders are fair game as well.
Over the years, some sexual harassment cases have been reported by journalists and junior doctors. The most recent case that made headlines were the report made against selected employees working in a prominent local radio station, in which the victim wrote an email detailing the events that had occurred to her and others within the company, and the two employees have now been laid off.
Say this was happening in your company, what is the stance that you as an employer should take when an employee lodges a sexual harassment complaint? As the employer, you have a legal, ethical, and employee relations obligation to investigate the charges thoroughly. You can’t decide whether to believe the employee but must take him or her at their word.
When sexual harassment happens, a company’s HR department must be trained in dealing with such occurrence should it arises, and these are some of the steps such a maintaining a transparent process of investigating these sort of claims are done in a fair and systematic way. HR staffs play a very important part in ensuring that those who have lodged complaints of possible sexual harassment stay safe and are reassured that their voices were heard while the complaint is being investigated.
While the laws involving sexual harassment in Malaysia is still very much an uncharted territory with no real way of addressing sexual harassment effectively, there are legislations and guidelines such as the Penal Code Act 574 (Employment Act 1955, the Code of Practice On The Prevention And Eradication Of Sexual Harassment In The Workplace), Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177) and Occupational Safety & Health Act 1994 (Act 514) as well administrative laws, like the Code of Conduct of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 and the government Circular Guidelines for Handling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, No.22 (2005).
This puts most employers or those in Human resources in a bind as sexual harassment claims are one of the most challenging issues to deal with, since the investigative and prosecution process is so complicated, for the most part, the ideal solution is actually prevention.
So, how does one go about preventing sexual harassment in the workplace?
While stricter internal policies and building a safer reporting process for complaints has its place, background screening can be an effective preventive measure.
Problematic or potentially dangerous employees are the reason why pre-hire screening is very important because the mistake most employers make is that they a seemingly-perfect candidate’s credentials on paper at face value without looking deeper into the candidate as a person.
The simple reason background screening works so well in prevention is because it allows employers and HR to weed out problematic or potentially dangerous behaviours before it is actually played out in the workplace. Through a complete background screening process, employers and HR can vet candidates based on local and overseas references, public criminal records, to ensure that a candidate is who they say they are. A background screen can be instrumental in identifying sexual predators through verifying public blacklists or publicised cases of abuse.
Background screening can bring to light details like minor or major offences from previous jobs. Doing so can help ensure your organisation is not at risk of hiring a repeat offender and putting the other productive and trustworthy staff at risk.
So, what are you waiting for? Lower the risks in the workplace and keep your staff safe with this preventive solution. Find out more about background screenings at www.verityintel.com to build a safe working environment.