HR Management & Compliance

Raising Policy Awareness First Step for Preventing Sexual Harassment

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently published the results of its yearlong research initiative, the SHRM Harassment Free Workplace series. The first part of the series focused on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. Given the number of high-profile sexual harassment incidents in the news in recent months, it’s a fitting time to review attitudes and policies toward incidences of sexual harassment.

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Lack of Awareness of Policies

One of the most surprising findings in the study was the lack of awareness of sexual harassment policies for many workplaces. “Ninety-four percent of surveyed HR professionals told SHRM that their organizations have anti-harassment policies,” according to the press release. “Yet, 22 percent of non-management employees did not know for sure that these policies existed.”
While 22 % is a minority of survey respondents, it’s a significant minority, representing nearly a quarter of all nonmanagement employees. Often, it is the non-management segment of employees that is most likely to experience inappropriate behavior from their superiors, meaning that this group of employees more than most needs to be aware of the policies in place to protect them and to ensure a safe and harassment-free workplace.

Raising Awareness

One of the first things a Human Resources professional can do to help boost the effectiveness of their sexual harassment policy is to conduct a simple survey of the employees in their workplace to see if they are aware of the existing policies. Based on the results of that survey, those professionals may find that they have a lot of educating to do to ensure that sexual harassment policies are well known. 
According to a SHRM press release, the research included two confidential surveys of HR professionals with a total of 1,078 respondents and a survey of 1,223 nonmanager employees. The research was conducted in January 2018 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 and 3 percentage points, respectively.