Sexual Harassment

10. June 2022

Sexual harassment in the workplace

Under the collective term ‘abusive acts’, one finds, among other things, sexual harassment, also called sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is characterized by any kind of unwanted attention of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment, like harassment og bullying, is a particularly destructive form of abusive behaviour.

Objectively, there is no set boundary between acceptable treatment between people in the workplace and sexual harassment. The perception is often different – both from person to person and from workplace to workplace. Sexual harassment is therefore defined as a sexual act that the person being subjected to the act does not want.

Sexual harassment has a major impact on the well-being of your employees in the workplace and the general mental work environment. Therefore, it is important that your employees have peace of mind in being able to report bullying and other abusive behaviour anonymously if they experience it. But when is it sexual harassment? What is sexism and what do you do about it in the workplace? What obligations do you have as an employer, for example in relation to the requirement for whistleblower schemes in companies? You get the answer here.

When is it sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment covers any kind of unwanted attention of a sexual nature.

Examples of sexual harassment:

  • Unwanted touches
  • Unwanted verbal urges for something sexual
  • Vulgar jokes and comments
  • To be shown pornographic material

Consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment and other abusive behaviour can lead to a number of health problems. This can (of course) happen to the victim (s), but also to witnesses to the behaviour

Examples of consequences are:

  • Physical reactions: Headache, nausea and gastrointestinal problems. Pain in the back, shoulders and neck. Shortness of breath, tremor and fainting
  • Mental reactions: Anxiety, insecurity, nervousness, despair and lack of self-confidence. Memory and concentration problems, anger and aggression
  • Behavioural reactions: Passive, restless, sleepless, isolation, sick leave, reduced ability to work and eventually termination

What is sexism?

The concept of sexism is defined by prejudice or discrimination based on gender – both in men and women. It is perceived as a structural problem as sexist thinking, language and practice exist as part of our culture as a whole.

Sexism can occur in all areas of our society: in the workplace, in the classroom, in the media, in relationships, in language, etc. Sexism is based on stereotypical notions of gender and helps to limit people of all genders and sexual orientations socially and culturally.

In recent years, there has been extra focus on sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace – and with good reason. Since 2017, parts of the debate have run under the name #MeToo or just MeToo.

What is MeToo?

MeToo can be defined as a popular, global and activist movement that shares personal testimonies of sexual harassment, abuse and abuse under the hashtag #MeToo.

MeToo has a special focus on workplaces and on harassment and violations, where power and power relations play a role. For example, when the offender is the boss and the offender is an employee or intern.

What can you, as an employer, do to prevent sexual harassment?

As an employer, you need to be aware that sexism can occur both internally and externally in the company. Ie. between employees and management, but also from people outside the company that the employees are in contact with through their work. It can be, for example, citizens, customers or partners, all depending on the work.

Depending on whether sexism takes place internally or externally, there is a difference in how you as a workplace must prevent and deal with the problem.

Whistleblower directive: For safe reporting of sexual harassment in the workplace

A healthy and well-functioning workplace is free from sexual harassment and other violations – that’s obvious. However, it can be a difficult task to completely guard against. Therefore, it is important that every company has a system that allows offended employees to be heard without having to fear retaliation.

At the end of 2023, the legal requirement is that all European companies with more than 50 employees must have a whistleblower system complying with the whistleblower directive. It is made to allow whistleblowers to report anonymously to their workplace.

It can be about offences, serious errors, neglect as well as sexual harassment or other abusive behaviour in the workplace. The latter also includes, for example, harassment and bullying.

WhistleSystem: A secure and user-friendly whistleblower system for your business

It can easily become a headache for private companies with 50+ employees to comply with the new legal requirements. If you want to avoid breaking the head with the many legal details for implementing and handling alerts that come with the directive, the solution is WhistleSystem.

WhistleSystem is a whistleblower system, or software that is safe and user-friendly, and that complies with all rules and legal requirements in the field. The system requires a minimal amount of work on your part: The implementation of the software is quick and simple, the user-friendliness is top-notch and manuals are included, which you can insert in your personnel manual.

Once the WhistleSystem is implemented, all you have to do is deal with any reviews you receive through the system. And at the same time, you make sure to comply with the law on a whistleblower scheme in the company.

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