Accountability and ethical behaviour in the workplace: the role of boards in addressing sexual harassment

Explore the importance of accountability and ethical behaviour in addressing workplace sexual harassment and the critical role of boards in promoting a safe and inclusive work environment.
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Workplace sexual harassment continues to be a pressing issue that demands attention and action from organisations. Establishing a culture of respect, support, and accountability is vital for preventing and addressing such incidents. This article explores the importance of accountability and ethical behaviour in tackling workplace sexual harassment and the crucial role boards play in promoting ethical conduct.

Accountability and Ethical Behaviour in Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment

Holding everyone in the workplace to the same standard of accountability is essential for creating a safe and supportive environment. Both staff and leaders alike must be held responsible for their actions, particularly when it comes to inappropriate behaviour.

A lack of accountability for leaders can create a perception that the workplace tolerates sexual harassment, leaving victims feeling unsupported and vulnerable. To prevent this, organisations must establish clear standards of behaviour and implement robust policies that outline the consequences of misconduct.

Best Practices for Implementing Policies, Reporting Channels, and Training Programs

  • Develop comprehensive policies: Establish guidelines that clearly define what constitutes sexual harassment, outline reporting procedures, and detail the consequences for offenders. Regularly review and update these policies to ensure they remain relevant and effective.
  • Provide secure reporting channels: Create confidential and accessible reporting systems for employees to voice their concerns. This could include anonymous hotlines, designated contacts within the organisation, or external reporting options.
  • Offer trauma-informed training programs: Educate employees about appropriate behaviour, bystander intervention, and the organisation's commitment to addressing harassment. Ensure that training materials are sensitive to the experiences of victims and provide support resources.
  • Monitor progress and gather feedback: Continuously assess the effectiveness of policies and training programs. Solicit feedback from employees and make necessary adjustments to improve the workplace culture.

The Role of Boards in Promoting Ethical Behaviour

Boards have a critical role in ensuring that ethical values are embedded in the company culture and operations. By actively promoting ethical behaviour, boards contribute to a more transparent, accountable, and sustainable organisation that is better positioned to manage risks and maintain stakeholder trust.

To fulfil this role, boards should:

  • Set clear expectations: Establish and communicate ethical standards to which all members of the organisation are held accountable.
  • Oversee the implementation of policies and procedures: Ensure that the organisation has effective policies and procedures in place to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment.
  • Monitor organisational performance: Regularly review the company’s progress in promoting ethical behaviour and addressing harassment issues. Require periodic reports on policy adherence, training effectiveness, and incident management.
  • Access accurate and confidential data: Ensure the board has access to properly de-identified data that helps them understand the ethical risks and challenges facing the organisation. This data should protect the confidentiality of reporters and respect individuals’ privacy.

Accountability and ethical behaviour play crucial roles in addressing workplace sexual harassment, and boards have a vital responsibility in promoting ethical conduct. By implementing best practices and fostering a culture of respect and support, organisations can work towards creating a safer, more inclusive work environment for all employees.

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