Are you the king or queen of office pranks, or the office clown, or perhaps the office gossip that’s always poking their nose in everyone’s business?
Well whatever antics you may be known for in the workplace, you may need to stop them before you find yourself not only jobless but also in a lawsuit.
The Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace (new Code) became effective on 18 March 2022, replacing entirely the Amended Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace (old Code).
The code applies to all employers and employees. It includes applicants for employment and volunteers who assist in any manner with conducting business of the employer. For determining whether a person is an employee for purposes of the Code, the presumption of employment in section 200A of the LRA is applicable.
An employer is regarded as a person who employs another person to work for them, regardless of whether they operate in the formal or informal sector, and whether they operate a commercial undertaking.
Many different individuals could become victims or perpetrators of harassment, including but not limited owners, managers, and supervisors, job seekers, interns and apprentices, clients, suppliers, contractors; and any other person having dealings with a business.
The code further highlights that an employer is under an obligation in terms of section 60 of the Employment Equity Act to take proactive and remedial steps to prevent all forms of harassment in the workplace. This includes but is not limited to:
Assess the risk of harassment that employees are exposed too while performing their duties.
Implement awareness and training initiatives to educate employees about harassment
Include the issue of harassment in orientation, education, and training programs in an accessible format
Adopt a harassment policy which should be communicated effectively to all employees
Develop clear procedures to deal with harassment
Make counselling, treatment, care, and support programs available to victims of harassment
Take appropriate action in accordance with the code where instances of harassment occur in the world of work .
“Given the prevalence of all forms of harassment in the workplace, employers must ensure that they take active steps to prevent and eliminate harassment in the workplace lest they become liable for damages in terms of vicarious liability. This risk of such liability is greatly increased under the new Code particularly for those employers who neglect to update their policies and practices in this regard.
Employers need to cultivate a workplace culture that focuses on educating all employees on the seriousness of harassment in the workplace and training persons in the human resources department on how to appropriately deal with complainants in cases of harassment striving toward a safe and respectful work environment, free of discrimination for all employees.”
Tiffany Reed: SDF & HR Consultant - Compliance Hub