A workplace is supposed to provide a healthy and safe environment for every employee. However, sadly, most organizations have seen at least one case of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
This topic is discussed in sessions, meetings, and seminars, but proper ways of addressing this issue are still missing in many workplaces. Small organizations suffer the most because handling sexual harassment is the highest priority, but lack of specialized HR professionals makes this task difficult.
Approximately 80% small businesses and 20% medium businesses including startups don’t have an HR department according to CII (Confederation of Indian Industries). Even if these companies realize the importance of human resources, they simply ask one of the existing employees to take over this task. This employee thinks, “Oh, this is easy, find people, talk to them, hire them, and occasionally fire them.” But, are these the only responsibilities of HR? surely not!
As your organization grows, let’s say to 50 people, different laws start to kick in. When you welcome more employees, more laws, regulations, as well as norms/culture, needs to be maintained, more employee concerns need solutions, and this list also contains taking care of sexual misconduct.
People are also under the impression that small organizations don’t have severe or many cases of sexual harassment when the situation is just opposite. In a small company with only a few people, employees interact with everyone else. They are in contact with more people as compared to large organizations, and even a single case of sexual harassment can cause great damage.
Let’s see how small business owners can handle sexual misconduct:
Educate your employees
It is your responsibility to provide a safe environment for all your employees and educate them about their basic rights. The problem is many people don’t know what they can or cannot do in case of sexual misconduct. Some fear that they’ll lose their jobs if they report such behavior. Help your employees, and let them know what is right and wrong according to your company policy as well as according to the law.
Encourage your employees to talk to their boss
One of the major barriers that stand in between is lack of communication. Not every employee feels as comfortable talking to the boss as they are with HRs. HR managers have that training to communicate swiftly, which most of the other people don’t have. So, if you don’t have an HR, encourage your employees to reach out to their bosses regarding any issue that they face. It forms a healthy work environment where everyone can freely communicate without fear.
If the immediate supervisor ceases to understand, reach out to seniors
Form a hierarchy, wherein your employees can talk to the boss, and if he is the problem, they can talk to the boss’s boss. This way problem is reported no matter what. This is really important for small organizations because every issue is handled by the boss or supervisor. But, what if the supervisor himself is biased? And it is not necessarily about sexual misconduct, it is about not getting equal privileges, odd shifts, and low pay. At such times, talking to seniors is crucial for the system.
Equal treatment for every employee
Small enterprises consist a lot of relatives, friends, and other known people, hence, a casual working environment is formed. While this seems fun and interesting at first, eventually everyone hopes for a formal workplace-like environment in the office.
Take prompt actions when someone reports misconduct
Just hearing your employees’ problems and complaints about sexual misconduct is not enough, doing something about it is essential. Investigate, ask right people to look into the matter, and if everything turns out to be true, start by giving a warning. Then proceed to harsher steps if the behaviour continues. Handling sexual harassment is an obligation for every small business because it takes only one incident to disrupt the harmony and disrupt any branding you spend so many efforts to create.