The Equality Authority has prepared a new code of practice on harassment at work – the Employment Equality Act 1998 (Code of Practice)(Harassment) Order 2012 (Statutory Instrument 208 of 2012).
Although the Code does not impose any legal obligations in itself, the provisions of the Code are admissible in evidence and may be taken into account in any criminal or other proceedings before a court and also before the Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission, the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Equality Tribunal and the Rights Commissioner.
The aim of the Code is to give practical guidance to employer’s, employers organisations, trade unions and employees on:
- What is meant by sexual harassment and harassment in the workplace
- how it may be prevented
- what steps to take if it does occur to ensure that adequate procedures are readily available to deal with the problem and prevent its recurrence.
Part 4 of the Code sets out the various steps in preparing the policy and states that “Employers should adopt, implement and monitor a comprehensive, effective and accessible policy on sexual harassment and harassment”.
The Policy should have core elements and implementation steps include a clear communication policy (includes to those non employees e.g. leaflets summarising the policy being prominently displayed where members of the public, clients and customers attend such as receptions and waiting rooms).
The Policy should also include commitments to training staff, a clear complaints procedure and a committment to review the policy on a regular basis.