By Lee-Yandra Paulsen
Gender-based violence (GBV) remains a pervasive issue in South Africa, impacting various facets of life, including the workplace. Unfortunately, millions of female workers endure hostile environments and unwelcome sexual conduct.
Regional Manager and Healthcare Consultant at NMG Benefits, Michelle de Lange addressed this concern on VOC Breakfast, on Wednesday, stressing the need for businesses to establish robust Human Resources (HR) policies and processes to tackle sexual harassment.
De Lange highlighted the importance of addressing sexual harassment openly: “It happens in the workplace; I don’t think that we can shy away from that. The reality is that all businesses must have sound HR policies in place that address these issues and have processes in place to handle it.”
She advocated for the establishment of anonymous hotlines to empower women to report harassment confidentially. De Lange emphasized the significance of employee assistance programs, which offer a confidential channel for employees to manage various life challenges that HR may not be equipped to handle adequately.
Regarding the legal aspect, de Lange stressed the necessity for specific policies and processes to address harassment appropriately. “The legality of the issue is very HR-specific. You want to make sure that there are specific policies in place to ensure that you are addressing the issue appropriately. There has to be a specific process in place to protect the person that is bringing the harassment to light.”
Moreover, she underscored the broader utility of employee assistance programs in addressing not only gender-based violence in the workplace but also various forms of violence against women and challenges faced outside the workplace.
De Lange highlighted the critical role that businesses play in creating a safe and supportive environment, urging proactive measures to combat gender-based violence and ensure the well-being of all employees.