By Monica Brown

Hi there Everyone

I am glad to be back with you here where we discuss and talk about the Unspoken Truths that we hardly or maybe even never talk about.

Today we will unpack #part3  of the article *Addressing Gender-Based Violence in the South African Workplaces*.

Without further delays let us get into discussing the laws and regulations that governs #gbv in the workplaces of South Africa.We will also look at what policies and procedures companies in South Africa should have in place which covers issues like reporting mechanisms, support systems and disciplinary measures.

Historically, there has been a culture of labelling women as vindictive when they speak out against gender-based violence. Recent developments in case law and legislation on sexual harassment serve as an indicator that the time for that culture, may well be up.

The South African legislative framework on violence and harassment in the workplace is seen as falling short.

In South Africa several laws and regulations are in place to address and combat gender-based violence in the workplace.Here are some key legislations and frameworks:

  1. Employment Equity Act (EEA) OF 1998: The EEA equality and prohibits unfair discrimination in the workplace, including gender-based discrimination and harassment. It requires employers to eliminate unfair discrimination , implement affirmative action measures and create a safe working environment free from harassment.

Employment Equity Act [No. 55 of 1998]

2. Protection from Harassment act (PHA) of 2011: The PHA provides protection against various forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, in both private and public spaces. It allows individuals to obtain protection orders against perpetrators of harassment.

Protection from Harassment Act 17 from 2011

3. Domestic Violence Act (DVA) of 1998: While not specific to the workplace, the DVA aims to protect victims of domestic violence, which can have an impact on their working lives. The act recognises various forms of abuse, including physical, sexual , emotional and economic abuse and it provides mechanisms for protection and support for victims.

Domestic Violence Act [No. 116 of 1998]

4. Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) of 1993: The OHSA places a duty on employers to provide a safe and healthy working environment for employees. This includes addressing factors that contribute to gender-based violence, such as implementing measures to prevent violence, conducting risk assessments and providing appropriate training and support.

Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993

5. Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases: The Code provides guidelines on addressing and managing sexual harassment cases in the workplace. It outlines procedures for reporting, investigating and resolving complaints, as well as the responsibilities of employers, employees and relevant stakeholders.

General Notice, Notice 1357 of 2005

6. Commission for Gender Equality (CGE): The CGE is an independent body established under the Constitution of South Africa. It works to promote and protect gender equality , including addressing gender-based violence in various spheres, including the workplace. The CGE conducts investigations, provides education and training and advocates for policy and legislative reforms.

CGE Home

In summary it is important to note that these laws and regulations provide a framework for addressing gender-based violence in the workplace.Employers have a responsibility to comply with these laws, establish policies and procedures and create a culture that promotes gender equality and prevents violence. Additionally, victims of gender-based violence have the right to seek redress and protection through the legal mechanisms available to them.

What policies and procedures should companies have in place to prevent and address gender-based violence in the workplace?

Companies should have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to prevent and address gender-based violence in the workplace.Here are some key elements that such policies and procedures should encompass.

  1. Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Policy: Clearly state the company’s commitment to providing a workplace free from discrimination, including gender-based discrimination and violence. This policy should emphasise equal opportunity for all employees and explicitly prohibit any form of harassment or violence based on gender.
  2. Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy: Develop a specific policy that addresses sexual harassment in the workplace. Define sexual harassment , provide examples of prohibited behaviours and outline the reporting and investigation procedures. The policy should assure confidentiality, non-retaliation and appropriate disciplinary measures for offenders.
  3. Reporting Mechanisms: Establish clear and accessible channels for employees to report incidents of gender-based violence or harassment. Provide multiple reporting options, such as confidential hotlines, dedicated email addresses or designated personnel. Ensure employees are aware of these reporting mechanisms and understand the process for making a complaint.
  4. Investigation and Response Procedures:Outline the procedures for investigating complaints of gender-based violence or harassment.Ensure a fair and unbiased process that respects the rights of both the complainant and the accused. Detail the steps involved, from initial reporting to resolution, including timelines and communication protocols.
  5. Support and Confidentiality: Emphasise the support available to employees who experience gender-based violence. Offer access to counselling services, employee assistance programs or external resources. Ensure that the company maintains confidentiality to the extend possible during the investigation process and respects the privacy of all parties involved.
  6. Training and Awareness Programs: Conduct regular training sessions on gender-based violence, sexual harassment prevention and bystander intervention. Educate employees about their rights and responsibilities, promote a respectful workplace culture and provide guidance on recognising and responding to incidents of gender-based violence.
  7. Disciplinary Actions: Clearly communicate the consequences of engaging in gender-based violence or harassment. Establish a range of disciplinary actions for offenders, which may include warnings, suspensions, termination or legal actions, depending on the severity of the offence.
  8. Collaboration with External Organisations: Foster partnerships with external organisations such as local authorities, NGO’s, helplines to enhance support services for employees experiencing gender-based violence.Provide information and resources to connect employees with appropriate external support when needed.
  9. Regular Policy Review and Updates: Periodically review and update the policies and procedures to ensure they align with changing laws, best practices and employee feedback. Seek input from employees and relevant stakeholders to continuously improve the company’s approach to preventing and addressing gender-based violence.

In summary it is crucial for companies to actively promote these policies and procedures , raise awareness amongst employees and encourage a culture of respect and gender equality.

Regularly communicate and reinforce these policies through employee handbooks, training sessions and internal communications to ensure all employees understand their rights and responsibilities regarding gender-based violence in the workplace.

Employers’ role in eradicating Gender-Based Violence: Legally required or simply virtuous?

Final Thoughts:

Aligning with gender-based violence laws and policies in the workplace is not just a legal obligation but also a moral and ethical responsibility for companies.

In conclusion , aligning with gender-based violence laws and policies is not only the right thing to do, but it also benefits companies in multiple ways.

It creates a safer and healthier work environment , protects employee rights, mitigates legal risks, improves workplace culture, attracts diverse talent, showcases corporate social responsibility and contributes to broader societal change.

Monica Brown, Changemaker, Activist And Social Entrepreneur, CRW NEWS Freelance Columnist

Article Reproduced with Permission from Monica Brown

To view the original article by Monica Brown on LinkedIn visit here

We hope you enjoyed the article, there will be more regular weekly articles from Monica Brown coming soon.