Making workspaces safe places

Making workspaces safe places

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The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

Help for Nova Scotia employers addressing sexual harassment

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has introduced new online resources to help employers address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Through its Safe Spaces Make Great Workplaces campaign, it is providing a short, free, online course for employers and their employees, along with a template for a sexual harassment policy, which can be adapted by organizations.

The Commission has recently seen a significant rise in the number of calls concerning sexual harassment, including from employers asking for advice and training. “We think it's important that Nova Scotia employers have the tools to address sexual harassment head-on and prevent it,” says Christine Hanson, CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Forty-three per cent of women in Canada say they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace — victims often experience harassment repeatedly. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment and organizations and institutions in Nova Scotia have a legal duty to take steps to prevent and address it.

Harassment can take place where there is a power imbalance between employees, but it is not limited to taking place amongst co-workers. It can also occur with individuals not directly employed by an organization, such as contractors, consultants and even customers. It can occur anywhere that an employee represents their organization, including sales calls, client dinners and trade shows. The costs can be high in terms of the physical and emotional impacts on victims.

Organizations that do not take steps to prevent harassment can face major costs in decreased productivity, low morale, absenteeism and potential legal expenses. Not dealing with matters properly could also negatively impact an organization’s reputation and customer loyalty.

“Addressing and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace starts with employers having a clear sexual harassment policy, educating staff and enforcing the policy,” says Hanson. “Organizations must have a plan to deal with sexual harassment promptly and efficiently.”

The resources have already received the support of the business community, including the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. A public launch of the Safe Spaces Make Great Workplaces Campaign took place on March 8, International Women’s Day in Halifax.

To access the online resources, visit www.safespacesns.ca. Businesses may also feel free to contact the Commission at 1-877-269-7699 for advice and guidance.

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