CHARITIES | 5 top tips in the #MeToo era

The #MeToo movement has shown that people who have suffered from sexual harassment are becoming more and more confident in speaking out about their experiences at work. 

Slowly, the culture of silence is being eroded.

Recent high profile cases have shown we still have a long way to go to ensure this type of behaviour does not occur in workplaces.

From a HR and Employment Law perspective, there are many things charities can do to crack down on sexual harassment.

Here are five top tips:

It is vital to ensure you have all the policies and procedures in place, including bullying and harassment, social media, grievance and disciplinary procedures.

You should make it clear that employees are encouraged to raise issues with management and are entitled to do so without any fears of reprisals.

Your charity’s trustees and senior management team play an important role in promoting equal opportunities and ensuring that your policies are applied fairly and consistently across your charity.

Make sure that all layers of management are exhibiting the appropriate standards and following them. After all, if your senior management team is engaging in inappropriate behaviour or turning a blind eye to what is going on, you will not be able to defend successfully claims brought by employees. 

Provide training to managers and trustees so they can recognise and identify issues and deal with challenging situations if they do arise. Regular training will assist you in responding to Employment Tribunal claims if you are seeking to assert that you have taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment occurring.

Responsibility does not just lie at senior management’s feet. All staff and volunteers should understand the rules in place. They should be as committed as their managers to ensuring the workplace does not tolerate any form of bullying, harassment and discrimination. Consider providing training to employees to ensure they understand their duty. Provide refresher training to make sure that they don’t forget the lessons learnt.

 If someone raises a concern about bullying and harassment, make sure you deal with it in line with your grievance or bullying and harassment complaint procedure. Grievances can be very complex to deal with, so seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

"Claims of harassment can seriously damage your charity’s reputation and could lead to a substantial fall in charitable contributions."
Jane Hallas
Jane Hallas
Head of Charity

3 things all charities should be aware of:   

  • A one-off incident could amount to harassment;
  • Sexual conduct that may have been welcomed on previous occasions can become unwanted conduct; and
  • Harassment can occur not just in the workplace. It can also occur at summer or Christmas parties, work conferences or other work events.

Jane Hallas, Head of Ellis Whittam’s Charities Team, comments “Charities, perhaps more than other types of organisations, are usually seen as working to a higher good. Claims of harassment can seriously damage your charity’s reputation and could lead to a substantial fall in charitable contributions. It makes sense to review existing policies, practices and procedures and implement any changes required.”

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