New code expands workplace harassment to include GBV, racism and bullying

| John Maytham speaks to employment and labour law specialist, Joani van Vuuren, about the more expansive and inclusive harassment code that was recently introduced.

A new harassment code has been introduced in the workplace that replaces the old code to expand the definition of harassment.

The Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination on Harassment in the workplace was introduced on 18 March to include a more expansive definition of workplace harassment such as gender-based violence, harassment, bullying, and racial, ethnic or social origin harassment.

This is an important step forward towards making sure that everyone's right to work in an environment that is free of violence and harassment is not only enforced but is more broadly inclusive of all forms of harassment.

This code, implemented by the Department of Labour in the Employment Equity Act, is binding on all employers, including the informal employment of gardeners and domestic workers and requires employers to implement policies in line with the code, says employment and labour law specialist, Joani van Vuuren.

This code should be communicated to employees and requires employers to train their employees on the policies within the code on a regular basis to adapt and evolve with the new forms of harassment the workplace might not have had to deal with before.

The code identifies the need to address harassment outside of the workplace as well as the definition of the workplace has expanded to places that require workers to work remotely or outside of a traditional office environment, is inclusive of everyone regardless of gender, race, social, class or sexual orientation, and goes beyond the normal employer/employee relationship.

Van Vuuren describes the 30-page document as exhaustive and gives employers guidelines on how to approach harassment, effectively transforming it from a mere tick-box exercise to detailed guideline able to adapt to the ever-changing work environment.

Employers who do not comply with the given policies or who do not implement them risk being liable for damages.

Find out more above.

It accounts for new ways of working as it identifies the need to address harassment outside of the workplace... It acknowledges that victims of harassment include women, men, persons who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as other vulnerable persons who have poor access to labour rights.

Joani van Vuuren, labour and employment law specialist

Given the prevalence of harassment in the workplace, employers must ensure that they take active steps to prevent and eliminate harassment in the workplace in accordance with the code or they may become liable for damages or even be held vicariously liable in terms of the Employment Equity Act.

Joani van Vuuren, labour and employment law specialist

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : New code expands workplace harassment to include GBV, racism and bullying

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