Minister of Labour and Social Security Colin Jordan has called on employers to use a newly launched policy document to tackle gender-based violence in the workplace.
He said it was crucial for employers to buy into the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Workplace Policy Implementation Spotlight Project, as statistics showed that more than one in five people in employment have experienced violence and harassment at work.
Speaking at the project’s launch at Ocean 2 Beach Club and Spa on Wednesday, Jordan said the policy encompasses International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and global best practices and offers a proposed minimum standard for addressing gender-based violence at work.
The policy is a joint initiative between the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation and the Caribbean Confederation of Labour, and is supported by the United Nations Population Fund and the ILO.
“Government adds its voice to encouraging employers to use the document as a guide to develop a strong workplace policy on GBV, taking into context national laws and regulations and the nature of organisations,” Jordan said.
“I understand that the development of the policy was the first phase of this initiative and that input was provided to a wide cross-section of companies and trade unions across the region. The second phase, I am informed, will focus on the implementation of the policy by participating companies across the region.”
Two local companies are among eight that President of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation Wayne Chen said are participating. The other six are from Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago.
Jordan stressed that employers have a moral and ethical responsibility to create a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees.
He said that having a GBV policy demonstrates commitment and builds a positive image of the company’s willingness to address challenging issues.
“The implementation and promotion of a GBV policy sends a strong signal of commitment from leaders and managers that there is zero tolerance for violence, harassment and discrimination. The joint policy outlines the responsibility of the employer to put systems and procedures to implement and enforce the policy,” the Labour Minister said.
Chen pointed out that the ILO had revealed in its 2021 Report on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, that victims of workplace violence were too often afraid to come forward due to shame, guilt and a lack of trust.
He emphasised that employees will not be at their most productive, nor will an organisation reach its maximum potential if workers are not comfortable or they feel threatened.
“This is an important message that we have to send to employers across the region – that the maximum potential of their business will only be realised when everyone within the workplace feels comfortable and safe. We ask you to consider honestly [if] you are doing enough.
“Do your female workers, do your women and girls, feel free to come forward if they feel harassed, if they feel threatened? Do they trust management to be sensitive and diligent in addressing their concerns? Are there policies in place to protect them?” Chen questioned.
He challenged employers across the Caribbean to commit fully to the implementation of the project.
Chen urged them to implement accountability systems and training and education programmes to ensure that a victim-centred approach is implemented, and to “close permanently the revolving doors now open in your organisations that might be empowering perpetrators”.
“The activities immediately following today’s launch would include access to online training. Secondly, we will support the implementation of policies to combat gender-based violence in the workplace at the company level,” he said.
“Finally, we will encourage everyone to use creative policy implementation activities such as GBV awareness days and self-defence training. And there is the creation of a database of all policies developed as a resource for future signatory agencies.”