Among the specific measures that ratifying countries should require employers to put in place is “adopting and implementing, in consultation with workers’ and their representatives, a workplace policy on violence and harassment” (Art. 9). This represents a key strategy in promoting a violence and harassment-free working environment and culture. Based on existing practices – and on elements provided for in Paragraph 7 of Recommendation No. 206 – these policies could, for instance, include, the employer’s commitment and responsibility to maintaining a safe environment (Para. 7(a) and (c)); definitions of violence and harassment; and relevant examples of prohibited behaviours, conduct and practices based on the specific context, sector and occupation.
It is advisable for such policies to establish violence and harassment prevention programmes with, if appropriate, measurable objectives (Recommendation No. 206, Para. 7(b)). It is also advisable to inform employees about their rights and responsibilities, which include the disciplinary actions that may derive from violations of such prohibitions (Recommendation No. 206, Para. 7(c)).
These policies should include encouraging employees to report behaviours and communications that could lead to violence and harassment, by providing information on complaint and investigation procedures and the employer’s commitment to deal with any incidents in a timely and effective manner (Recommendation No. 206, Para. 7(d)–(e)). In this regard, it would be important that employers commit to protecting individuals’ right to privacy and confidentiality while balancing the right of workers to be made aware of all hazards, as well as their right not to be victimized or retaliated against (Recommendation No. 206, Para. 7(f)–(g)). These policies should be communicated to employees regularly (in accessible formats, as appropriate) and consistently enforced.
Box 19. Legal provisions requiring workplace policies on violence and harassment
In recent years, many countries have adopted provisions requiring employers to adopt workplace policies on violence and harassment, either as a stand-alone policy specifically dedicated to the issue of violence and harassment, or as part of their obligations stemming from their duty to provide a safe workplace under OSH regulations or from their duty to ensure a workplace free from discrimination.
Canada: Starting from January 1, 2021, employers working in a federally regulated industry or workplace, should develop a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy with the policy committee, the workplace committee or health and safety representative, depending on the size of the employer. A policy should normally:
include the employer’s commitment to prevent and protect employees against harassment and violence;
describe the roles of workplace parties in relation to harassment and violence in the workplace;
describe the risk factors that contribute to workplace harassment and violence;
list training that the employer will provide about workplace harassment and violence;
include the resolution process employees should follow if they witness or experience workplace harassment or violence;
include the reason for which a review and update of the workplace assessment must be conducted;
include the emergency procedures that must be implemented when:
- an incident poses an immediate danger to the health and safety of an employee;
- when there is a threat of such an occurrence;
describe how the employer will protect the privacy of the persons involved in:
- an occurrence;
- the resolution process for an occurrence;
describe any recourse that may be available to persons involved in an occurrence;
describe the support measures that are available to employees; and
name the person designated to receive complaints related to the employer’s non- compliance with the Code or Regulations (Canada, n.d.).
France: Article L1321-2 of the Labour Code as amended in 2016, introduces employers’ obligation to have internal regulations stating, among others, “the provisions relating to moral and sexual harassment and sexist behaviour provided for by this code”.
Kenya: The Employment Act requires that an employer with 20 or more employees must, after consulting with the employees or their representatives, if any, issue a policy statement on sexual harassment.
Panama: According to the 2018 Anti-Discrimination Law, every employer, public and private institution, and educational establishment are now responsible for developing internal policies to prevent, avoid, discourage and penalize discriminatory acts such as sexual or other harassment, bullying in the workplace, racism and sexism.
Peru: In July 2019, Peru introduced a new law requiring employers to adopt anti– harassment policies and investigation procedures, provide anti-harassment training, carry out annual sexual harassment risk assessments and set up a Sexual Harassment Committee or Delegate, depending on the size of the employer (Supreme Decree N° 014-2019-MIMP).
Philippines: Under section 17 the 2018 Safe Spaces Act, employers or other persons of authority, influence or moral ascendancy in a workplace shall have the duty to prevent, deter or punish the performance of acts of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace. To this end, the employer or person of authority, influence or moral ascendancy shall:
Disseminate or post in a conspicuous place a copy of the Act to all persons in the workplace;
Provide measures to prevent gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the conduct of anti-sexual harassment seminars;
Create an independent internal mechanism or a committee on decorum and investigation to investigate and address complaints of gender-based sexual harassment which shall (among others):
- Designate a woman as its head and not less than half of its members should be women;
- Protect the complainant from retaliation; and
- Guarantee confidentiality to the greatest extent possible;
Provide and disseminate, in consultation with all persons in the workplace, a code of conduct or workplace policy.
South Sudan: Article 7(3)–(4) of the 2017 Labour Act provides that:
- An employer who employs twenty or more employees shall, after consulting with the employees’ representatives, issue a policy statement on sexual harassment.
- The policy statement shall contain, at a minimum:
- the definition of sexual harassment … and
- a statement:
- that every employee is entitled to work that is free of sexual harassment;
- that the employer shall take steps to ensure that no employee is subjected to sexual harassment;
- that the employer shall take such disciplinary measures as the employer deems appropriate against any p erson under the employer’s direction who subjects any employee to sexual harassment.
In addition, the policy statement must include provisions related to confidentiality and prohibition of retaliation. 27
Ukraine: Order No. 56 of 2020 issued by the Ministry of Social Policy approved Guidelines for the inclusion in collective agreements of provisions aimed at ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men in employment. The Guidelines recommend that collective agreements include provisions on countering sexism, various forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of aggressive behaviour in the workplace. 28
5.2.1. The duty of workers and their representatives to collaborate
Convention No. 190 recalls the role that workers and other persons concerned should play, by referring to their “responsibilities” in relation to the workplace policy on violence and harassment (Art. 9(a)–(d)). Paragraph 7 of Recommendation No. 206 recommends that ratifying countries “should, as appropriate, specify in laws and regulations that workers and their representatives should take part in the design, implementation and monitoring of the workplace policy referred to in Article 9(a) of the Convention”. It further recommends that such policy should “specify the rights and responsibilities of the workers and employer” (Para. 7(c)). Both employers and workers have responsibilities towards preventing and refraining from violence and harassment in the world of work. Workers and other persons concerned have a general duty to take care of their own safety and health, and that of others who may be affected by their actions at work. Moreover, workers and their representatives play a critical role in cooperating with employers in the development of a workplace policy on violence and harassment, given their knowledge and familiarity with facility operations, process activities and potential threats, as well as a critical role in the effective adherence to and implementation of the policy’s provisions (ILO 2020d).
Box 20. Provisions related to workers’ responsibilities
Some countries are introducing specific provisions requiring workers to refrain from violence and harassment at work.
Djibouti: Following amendments in 2018, articles 4 bis and ter of the Labour Code provide that any employee who has engaged in mobbing or sexual harassment is liable to disciplinary action.
Ecuador: Article 46(j) of the Labour Code, as amended in 2017, provides that the worker is prohibited from committing acts of workplace harassment towards a colleague, towards the employer, towards a hierarchical superior or towards a subordinate person in the company.
Grenada: The 2019 National OSH Policy states, among others, the following responsibilities for workers: “Cooperate with the employer in their compliance with the OSH Act, regulations or policies. Take reasonable care and not recklessly endanger health and safety of themselves or others. … Report health and safety issues, including psychosocial factors and work-related stress, accidents, incidents or near misses to the elected HSR [health and safety representative]” (Grenada 2019, 14).
Mexico: According to section 47 of the Federal Labour Code, the employer may terminate the employment relationship where a worker has committed an act of violence, has insulted or mistreated co-workers, the employer or his/her family, the management personnel or clients and suppliers.
Philippines: Section 18 of the 2018 Safe Spaces Act provides:
Employees and co-workers shall have the duty to:
- Refrain from committing acts of gender-based sexual harassment;
- Discourage the conduct of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace;
- Provide emotional or social support to fellow employees, co-workers, colleagues or peers who are victims of gender-based sexual harassment; and
- Report acts of gender-based sexual harassment witnessed in the workplace.
Russian Federation: Paragraph 6 of item 7.2 of the Internal labour regulations, Appendix 6 to the Collective Agreement of RUDN University for the years 2019– 2022, defines the term “gross violation of labour duties” as sexual or other form of harassment of a student, colleague, as well as expressing a serious threats to them; insulting and humiliation of student’s dignity including cases of using methods of physical or psychological abuse of a student. This provision provides the employer’s right to hold an employee disciplinarily liable and even to dismiss an abuser for repeated gross violation if (s)he is considered a “pedagogical worker” (RUDN University 2019).
27 Article 5 of the Labour Law, 2017, provides a definition of “sexual harassment”, which may include the following acts: a) Sexual or insensitive jokes, lewd suggestions, whistling, foul language, slurs, innuendos, leering and obscene gestures; b) Belittling comments on a person’s anatomy or persistent demands for dates; c) Asking for sexual favours, asking about personal/sex life, explicit sexual suggestions in return for “rewards”; d) Unwanted physical contact of any sort, including touching, brushing and kissing; e) Display of pornographic and sexually suggestive pictures and/ or sexual objects; f) Offensive written, telephonic or electronic communications; g) Indecent exposure or dressing; Sexual assault and rape; i) Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature also constitute sexual harassment.
28 The provisions may include a complaint procedure, respect for the principle of confidentiality and protection against retaliation, disciplinary rules, a training strategy, and raising employee awareness of these issues.