By Raeesa Ebrahim Atkinson – Specialist Attorney: Dispute Resolution

Every job-seeker faces an unfortunate reality when stepping into an interview room and potentially entering a working environment with a culture of harassment. It is the fear of individuals who have been victims of harassment before, and it is the fear of those who have heard the horror stories of victim experiences.  

On 18 March 2022, the Department of Employment and Labour released the Code of Good Practice On the Prevention And Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace (“The Code”). 

What does this mean for employees and employers alike?  

Objectives Of The Code
The Code aims to provide guidelines upon which internal and external human resource policies regarding harassment are meant to be based. With the main objective highlighted under Clause 1 of the Code, it further aims to provide a step-by-step process for eliminating harassment in the workplace.  

Applicability Of The Code
Evident from Clause 2 of the Code; it applies to more than the employer-employee relationship. The Department of Employment and Labour has set a broad standard, with the Code applying to employers, employees, job-seekers, applicants, customers, clients and supervisors amongst others. Furthermore, the Code is to apply to any situation in which an employee is working or which applies to his/her work.  

In addition, the Code has provide a definition for the term “harassment”, indicating in Clause 4 thereof that: 

Harassment is generally understood to be – 

…unwanted conduct, which impairs dignity;  

…which creates a hostile or intimidating work environment for one or more employees or is calculated to or has the effect of: inducing submission by actual or threatened adverse consequences; and  

…is related to one or more grounds in respect of which discrimination is prohibited in terms of section 6( I) of the EEA. 

Harassment includes violence, physical abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, gender-based abuse and racial abuse. It includes the use of physical force or power, whether threatened or actual, against another person or against a group or community.”   

Potential Call To Action
The Code replaces the Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace and seeks to address of all forms of harassment. The resultant changes read in line with the above may, therefore, require that employers attend to the following: 

* Policy review and re-alignment,
Compliance assessment in respect of old policies and gap assessment on new requirements, and
* Training facilitation.

The Code provides welcome guidance on identifying, addressing and eliminating harassment in the workplace and places emphasis on pro-activity. In saying that employers and business owners alike, should seek the necessary expert assistance to ensure that policy standards are being met.  

Contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw Inc for your legal needs by visiting our website