According to research conducted by International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2015, 80% of workers reported seeing or hearing threats at their workplace. They are facing harassment and one of the most reported forms of harassment include verbal abuse, physical violence, and being forced to work in case of any illness.
Though this research explains situation of both male and female workers but it is women who suffer most and majority of them don’t feel safe at work.
Many of them have been forced to resign from their employment as a result of workplace harassment.
Workplace harassment can take many forms, including sexual misconduct, psychological harassment, gender discrimination, undesired or insulting statements about female co-workers, unpleasant and unacceptable behaviour by colleagues or employers, and so on.
Let’s discuss in detail that what does safety means to working women and how to ensure women’s safety in the workplace.
What is women’s safety in the workplace?
Women are at risk of harassment and violence at their workplaces.
Women experience higher degree of insecurity which restrict their potential to professional growth and hamper their day-to-day productivity.
Women’ safety in the workplace is a holistic concept that involves policies and practices that reduce the risk of harassment and violence against women at their workplaces.
Importance of women’s safety in the Workplace
Workplace safety for women has grown in importance in recent years, thanks to those courageous women who raised their voices against physical or mental harassment at work.
The safety of women at work is important because:
- It enables women workers to complete their tasks more efficiently.
- It makes women more comfortable because harassment is distressing and leading to despair and quitting their job.
- It improves overall health and wellness of women workers.
- It ensures building a professional work culture.
- It brings a good reputation to workplace and organization.
How to ensure women’s safety in the Workplace
Some actions that can be taken to ensure women’s safety in the workplace are to:
1. Adopt Zero-Tolerance approach
The first step towards ensuring women’s safety in the workplace is to adopt a zero-tolerance approach against any kind of harassment and violence against women.
It is absolutely necessary to have stringent policies for women safety and these policies are strictly enforced.
The policies and guidelines developed for women safety in the workplace must encompass all aspects of harassment related to women.
2. Communicate Zero-Tolerance policy
It’s also important to communicate zero-tolerance policy to each of worker at workplace.
Everyone must be fully aware that what are the consequences of violation of such policy. For this purpose, every new employee should be explained about such policy at the time of his/her joining.
In addition to this, posters and signboard should be placed at common places to remind workers every day about zero-tolerance policy.
3. Raise employees’ awareness
Unfortunately, many businesses and people, in general, are still unaware of women’s safety in the workplace.
It is critical to educate staff about women’s safety and health. People have low understanding about harassment and what actions fall under harassment. They should be given awareness about not only organizational policy but also national laws against harassment.
It must be a regular feature of organization to arrange special sessions, open group discussions, or activities that aim at raising awareness of women’s workplace safety.
4. Take proactive actions by HR
It is the Human Resource department that is primarily responsible for informing employees about a safe work environment. And, HR must act as an intermediary to bring any complaints or women’s issues to the attention of higher management.
HR must provide strong instructions on sexual harassment to new workers in the workplace.
It is also HR’s responsibility to enforce zero-tolerance policy so HR should play an proactive role to ensure women’s safety in the workplace.
5. Encourage women to speak up
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency responsible for processing the sexual harassment complaints, 75% cases of harassment cases go unreported.
Why? Because women are reluctant to speak up because of fear, shame and they are also conditioned not do so because of cultural norms.
Women should be encouraged to get out of this discomfort, express themselves and speak up against harassment at their workplace.
Management and business leaders should provide with equal opportunities to men and women. Having equal opportunities leads to improving confidence of women at work.
6. Provide a platform for voicing concerns
Every woman should be given a platform to voice her concerns.
One of the good practices is to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to address sexual harassment issues in organizations and establish rules to protect women at work.
At many places ICC takes responsibility for conducting a thorough investigation into the matter. The investigation should be completed within 90 days. A report must be issued within ten days of completion.
Social media is becoming a trustworthy venue for women to express themselves and share their experiences. However, not every woman has access to social media, and also the company does not have a dispute settlement committee.
7. Promote women at managerial positions
Many research studies shows that organizations experience more incidents of harassment and violence where more male are at authoritative positions. There women lack power and they prefer to remain silent if anything happened to them.
The only way to challenge male-dominant management is to hire more skilled and qualified women and promote them at authoritative positions.
It is also revealed in many studies that organisations where women workers are at managerial positions there is less likelihood of harassment with other women and situation of their safety is far better than organisations where male managers are at the helm of affairs.
Women safety at workplace is not a new problem. It has been there for decades. It is important to benefit from talent of women if they are given opportunity to work in where they feel safe and secure. Every management must adopt zero-tolerance policy towards harassment of women workers and take steps to build a culture where women can work efficiently without fear of harassment and violence.