Employers must have policies in place on sexual harassment by December 15, a requirement under the nine-month-old law to prevent the workplace scourge, the labour minister said Friday.
It is important for employers to have sexual harassment policies in place, not just because it is a legal requirement, but because of the benefits to them and their employees, Minister Colin Jordan said.
Jordan was speaking at the Caribbean Training and Research Group (CARI-TARG) conducted a workshop on the Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Act of 2017, at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa.
One of the last signature pieces of legislation under the previous administration, the law, which is gender-neutral, came into force on June 15, six months after royal proclamation in December last year.
The law states that within six months of its commencement, employers were to have completed their written Sexual Harassment Policies and presented their employees with copies.
“The law was made for a specific reason; it was passed to ensure that there is a decent environment for people to work in and that people can work without feeling harassed and having unwanted or unsolicited advances, and that there is recourse.
“So there is both the deterrent and also the punitive aspect to the legislation . . . people have the right to work anywhere without being harassed,” the labour minister told the workshop.
The legislation provides a “safe space” for workers to be productive without having sexual harassment hanging around them, said the minister.
Under the new act, the Chief Labour Officer and Labour Officers are empowered to go into workplaces and inspect to find out if the policy is in place.
Under Section 4 (5) of the Act, business owners who fail to comply with the December deadline are guilty of an offence and are liable on summary conviction to a fine of $5,000, or imprisonment of 12 months, or both.
Jordan praised CARI-TARG for designing an “insightful” series of workshops.
During her presentation on the Sexual Harassment Act, lawyer Ella Hoyos, gave the legal definition of sexual harassment and examined the nature of the issues, from the perspective of health and safety, a mental or physical stressor, or a crime.
“With the introduction of the act persons are now required to become more circumspect in their interactions with others,” she noted.
The workshop was the third in a three-part certified workshop programme being held in Barbados, according to Chairman of CARI-TARG, Dr. Paul Quantock.
The workshop follows a similar series held in June 2017, which examined Preventing a Toxic Workplace; Trust Leadership and Mediation in the Workplace.