Understanding New Legislation on Workplace Harassment

Press Release: TESD
29 July 2022

When new legislation is implemented, it is crucial for businesses and employees to understand how it will impact each of them right now and influence future practices. At the beginning of this month, John Botha, CEO of Global Business Solutions, led the webinar hosted by the Temporary Employment Services Division (TESD) to unpack the latest placing of harassment in the Employment Equity Amendment Act. The TESD initiated the webinar to drive awareness on the full scope of harassment in the work place, and encourage a proactive approach to supporting the modern labour force. The webinar highlighted the need for employers to take a proactive approach with harassment, be aware of the extended definitions and types of harassment, consider how it applies to race, gender, disability and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer and others (LGBTQ+) as well as revising the all related company policies.

Businesses should rightfully be spending significant time and energy to ensure compliance with new legislation. It is a priority not only from a legal perspective, but also from a civil one. Botha stressed that individuals can be held criminally liable if they are not alert about avoiding behaviours in the workplace that fall under harassment. This means watching not only what you say and do, but also what you post and share on social platforms.

It comes as no surprise that sexual remarks and inappropriate advances fall under harassment. However, many are unaware that constant criticism, abusive language, humiliation, and ostracising actions towards an individual also constitutes as harassment and has serious consequences, according to the latest legislation. Employers should regard all forms of harassment as unfair discrimination and constituting a barrier to equity and equality in their company. “There is no hierarchy between physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse,” emphasises Botha.

In the modern workspace, it is no longer business as usual. Employers must utilise emotional intelligence to support a younger and more diverse labour force. Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, are currently the largest living generation. The millennial employee will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and has different needs compared to previous generations. To keep with the times, business owners need to create a culture that makes their workers feel part of a team, accepted, heard and respected. Ensuring this psychological safety is essential as part of management skills right now and going forward.

This knowledge needs to be implemented into clear action. The onus is on employers to have a solid harassment procedure and fully inform employees of them. It should be unacceptable in any workplace for temporary or permanent employees to be uncertain on how, and to whom, to report workplace sexual harassment to. The procedure should begin with any conduct immediately being brought to the employer’s attention. Next, the complaint is confidentially investigated by consulting relevant parties. Expert advice and counselling should be given, and definite steps should be taken to eliminate any form of harassment. Lastly, complainants are formally or informally informed (depending on the gravity of the incident) and the perpetrator is approached. A serious matter is lodged either internally or external recourse is followed with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Labour Court and Equality Court (PEPUDA).

The Temporary Employment Services Division (TESD) continues to ensure compliance and credibility of its members in all areas of legislation for over 28 years. Their latest webinar shows that whether you are a major or minor employer, making sure you have clear channels to report misconduct and have a no-tolerance policy towards harassment is crucial to promote not only a successful business but contributes to bettering our communities.