'Onus on employers' to fight harassment

Employers were yesterday urged to take the lead in fighting workplace harassment and advocate zero tolerance towards such behaviour among their staff.

The Manpower Ministry (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) are banding together to encourage bosses to take harassment seriously.

They issued a statement advising them to implement procedures such as a hotline for victims to report harassment safely and better training for human resource personnel to deal with such cases.

It also suggested preventive measures such as better lighting and more CCTV coverage in the workplace, as well as encouraging employees to not go to deserted parts of their offices alone.

The advice was developed by the three partners in the wake of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) which was passed in Parliament in March last year.

It illustrated how harassment at the workplace could take different forms, such as bullying, sexual harassment or even stalking.

It said that harassment has economic as well as emotional costs, as it causes the affected employees anxiety, which could affect their morale and productivity. The company's reputation could also be at stake.

It also advised how companies can investigate harassment complaints and, if necessary, help employees make reports to the police or State Courts.

The three partners will promote the advice through their various channels. A SNEF spokesman said: "We have sent the advisory to all our members, comprising more than 3,000 organisations with a combined workforce of 750,000."

He added that SNEF has also developed a course for employers on "Prevention and Addressing Workplace Bullying and Harassment", and will work with other chambers and associations to promote it.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) welcomed the move. Executive director Corinna Lim said: "We expect it to greatly improve awareness of the need for anti-harassment measures among employers and employees.

"All companies have a legal duty to provide a safe place of work for their employees. Companies who know that harassment is happening and turn a blind eye to it may now arguably have failed to fulfil their duty of care."

In the past two years, Aware's Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) has received more than 60 complaints per year about workplace sexual harassment. Ms Lim said, however, that these figures are "the tip of the iceberg" as many cases go unreported.



This article was first published on Dec 24, 2015.
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