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What should the company’s sexual harassment policy include?

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Legal news
calendar 7 March 2021
globus Denmark, Sweden, Norway

In the wake of the #metoo movement, a number of cases regarding sexual harassment at the workplace have come to light and have triggered significant, and in some cases unforeseen, consequences for employees. To prevent sexual harassment at the workplace and to handle cases of sexual harassment correctly, it’s important for companies to develop an internal sexual harassment policy. In this newsletter, we have a look at the points a sexual harassment policy should include.

Considering the growing number of sexual harassment cases at the workplace, companies should develop an internal sexual harassment policy making it clear for both management and employees how the company will prevent and deal with sexual harassment cases. In addition, a sexual harassment policy should clearly state what sanctions employees may face if they engage in behaviour that does not comply with the policy.

What can a sexual harassment policy more specifically contain?

A sexual harassment policy should be clear and precise, ensuring that the employees are fully aware the company’s stance on sexual harassment. This can for example be done by including:

  • A zero tolerance for sexual harassment
  • A reference to the relevant legal rules
  • A definition of what is perceived as sexual harassment
  • An overview of the various options for submitting a complaint
  • A description of possible sanctions for unacceptable behavior – both in relation to sexual harassment as well as false accusations
  • A training plan for managers, shop stewards etc.
  • A reference on access to counseling, including anonymous counseling

When companies develop an internal sexual harassment policy, preparations should also include considerations as to whether an unhealthy culture exists in the company in regards to sexual harassment.

Should this be the case, more drastic measures may be needed, such as requiring open doors at one-on-one meetings to prevent sexual harassment. Companies should also regularly investigate and keep an eye on whether there are problems with sexual harassment in the workplace.

A sexual harassment policy has importance in practice

A sexual harassment policy defines what is acceptable within the company. In addition, it facilitates a balance of expectations among both employees and management. When it’s clear to everyone how sexual harassment cases are handled, it’s more likely that hasty and wrong decisions are avoided.

Further, a sexual harassment policy can help the company meet its obligation to ensure a healthy and safe psychological working environment.

A sexual harassment policy can also have an impact on the outcome of sexual harassment cases. This was the case in a decision from the Danish Eastern High Court, where the company's internal sexual harassment policy was taken into consideration in the assessment of whether the termination of an employee who had sexually harassed another employee was reasonable. In the case, the Danish Eastern High Court emphasized that the company had a sexual harassment policy and it was therefore expected that the company would react to the employee’s behavior.

IUNO’s opinion

With a growing number of cases and the increasing focus on sexual harassment, it’s essential that companies develop a clear and precise sexual harassment policy. The policy should, among other things, describe how employees who have been subject to sexual harassment can seek help and submit complaints, as well as how cases of sexual harassment will be handled.

IUNO recommends that companies develop a clear internal sexual harassment policy. With this policy, companies can distance themselves from sexual harassment and give their employees a clear understanding of the kind of behavior that is expected in the workplace. When in doubt about what should be included when drafting an internal sexual harassment policy, IUNO recommends that companies seek legal advice.

Considering the growing number of sexual harassment cases at the workplace, companies should develop an internal sexual harassment policy making it clear for both management and employees how the company will prevent and deal with sexual harassment cases. In addition, a sexual harassment policy should clearly state what sanctions employees may face if they engage in behaviour that does not comply with the policy.

What can a sexual harassment policy more specifically contain?

A sexual harassment policy should be clear and precise, ensuring that the employees are fully aware the company’s stance on sexual harassment. This can for example be done by including:

  • A zero tolerance for sexual harassment
  • A reference to the relevant legal rules
  • A definition of what is perceived as sexual harassment
  • An overview of the various options for submitting a complaint
  • A description of possible sanctions for unacceptable behavior – both in relation to sexual harassment as well as false accusations
  • A training plan for managers, shop stewards etc.
  • A reference on access to counseling, including anonymous counseling

When companies develop an internal sexual harassment policy, preparations should also include considerations as to whether an unhealthy culture exists in the company in regards to sexual harassment.

Should this be the case, more drastic measures may be needed, such as requiring open doors at one-on-one meetings to prevent sexual harassment. Companies should also regularly investigate and keep an eye on whether there are problems with sexual harassment in the workplace.

A sexual harassment policy has importance in practice

A sexual harassment policy defines what is acceptable within the company. In addition, it facilitates a balance of expectations among both employees and management. When it’s clear to everyone how sexual harassment cases are handled, it’s more likely that hasty and wrong decisions are avoided.

Further, a sexual harassment policy can help the company meet its obligation to ensure a healthy and safe psychological working environment.

A sexual harassment policy can also have an impact on the outcome of sexual harassment cases. This was the case in a decision from the Danish Eastern High Court, where the company's internal sexual harassment policy was taken into consideration in the assessment of whether the termination of an employee who had sexually harassed another employee was reasonable. In the case, the Danish Eastern High Court emphasized that the company had a sexual harassment policy and it was therefore expected that the company would react to the employee’s behavior.

IUNO’s opinion

With a growing number of cases and the increasing focus on sexual harassment, it’s essential that companies develop a clear and precise sexual harassment policy. The policy should, among other things, describe how employees who have been subject to sexual harassment can seek help and submit complaints, as well as how cases of sexual harassment will be handled.

IUNO recommends that companies develop a clear internal sexual harassment policy. With this policy, companies can distance themselves from sexual harassment and give their employees a clear understanding of the kind of behavior that is expected in the workplace. When in doubt about what should be included when drafting an internal sexual harassment policy, IUNO recommends that companies seek legal advice.

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

Partner

Søren

Hessellund Klausen

Partner

Kirsten

Astrup

Associate

Sofie

Aurora Braut Bache

Associate

Franziska

Brüggemann

Associate

Cecillie

Groth Henriksen

Associate

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The team

Akina

Ørum Masaki

Legal assistant

Anders

Etgen Reitz

Partner

Caroline

Wochner

Communication assistant

Cecillie

Groth Henriksen

Associate

Franziska

Brüggemann

Associate

Kirsten

Astrup

Associate

Nora

Tägtgård Coter

Legal assistant

Sofie

Aurora Braut Bache

Associate

Søren

Hessellund Klausen

Partner