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Employers urged to take sterner action against workplace harassment

The Department of Employment and Labour has called on employers to take sterner action to stem the tide of harassment in the workplace. “Harassment must not be cheap, culprits must be held accountable and disciplined,” Employment and Labour Deputy Director for Employment Equity (EE) Registry, Lucia Rayner said. Rayner said employers need to have a […]

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The Department of Employment and Labour has called on employers to take sterner action to stem the tide of harassment in the workplace.

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“Harassment must not be cheap, culprits must be held accountable and disciplined,” Employment and Labour Deputy Director for Employment Equity (EE) Registry, Lucia Rayner said.

Rayner said employers need to have a harassment policy in place to specify the range of disciplinary sanctions that must be proportionate to the seriousness of the harassment in question.

She said sanctions must include, but not limited to, warnings to perpetrator, dismissal, transfer of perpetrator and encouraging the complainant to lay criminal charge or institute civil proceedings against the alleged perpetrator.

Rayner was speaking during the joint Department of Employment and Labour, and the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) 2022 Employment Equity workshop, held at Mbombela on Thursday.

The workshop is part of a national series of roadshows, currently underway throughout the country, under the theme “Real transformation makes business sense”.

The objective of the roadshows is to create awareness on compliance with the Employment Equity (EE) Act, share the most current information on what happens in the workplaces on equity and related matters, share information on EE disputes and help prepare employers to submit fully and accurate EE reports online to the department.

Rayner was speaking to dissect the Code of Good Practice on the prevention and elimination of harassment in the workplace that was published on 18 March 2022.

According to the Code, the EE Act states that harassment of an employee is a form of unfair discrimination and is prohibited on any one, or a combination of grounds of unfair discrimination listed in the legislation.

The Code of Good Practice is intended to address the prevention, elimination and management of all forms of harassment that pervade the workplace.

The Code defines harassment to include the use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person or against a group or community, which either results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in social injustice, economic harm, injury, death, physical and psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation.

The CCMA has jurisdiction to conciliate all workplace-related harassment disputes.

Over 1000 disputes handed to CCMA

CCMA Regional Senior Commissioner, Letsema Mokoena said in 2019/2020 the CCMA dealt with a total of 1 834 disputes, in 2020/21 the cases dropped to 1 157 and in 2021/2022 there were 1 260 disputes.

Mokoena said the dip in the number of disputes in the 2020/21 may, in the main be the result of COVID-19 pandemic and the work from home phenomenon.

Mokoena said with the introduction of the Code of Good Practice on the prevention and elimination of harassment in the workplace and people going back to workplaces, the number of disputes is expected to pick up.

Mokoena noted that there was a low number of sexual harassment referrals or low number of unresolved workplace incidents or low level of sexual harassment in the workplace.

He said some people end up in psychiatric wards because they are afraid to report.

“Some of the reasons that make complainants to remain silent include the fear to lose jobs, making the harasser angry, not being believed, being seen as trouble makers, being blamed or accused of ‘asking for it’, and getting the harasser into trouble,” Mokoena said.

The workshops, which started on 17 August 2022 in Kimberley, Northern Cape, will end on 15 September 2022 in the Vaal in Gauteng Province.

More information on EE is obtainable from the department website www.labour.gov.za, including updates on the schedule for venues.

EE annual reporting

Meanwhile, the department announced that the EE annual manual and online reporting season opens on 01 September 2022.

The manual reporting deadline is 01 October 2022, while the online reporting submission closing date is 15 January 2023.

(With Inputs from South African Government Press Release)

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