Hayward puts harassment focus on employers
Workplace policies are more successful than legislation when it comes to stopping sexual harassment, a union leader has said.
Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said employers must commit to zero tolerance of sexual harassment at work.
It came after home affairs minister Walton Brown announced a forum on sexual harassment and sensitivity towards sexual orientation at work, saying tough new rules were needed to crack down on harassment.
Mr Hayward, who is also a Progressive Labour Party senator, said: “Legislation is good.
“However, I believe that workplace polices are far more effective in supporting victims and changing negative organisational cultures which support and encourage the negative behaviours.
“Employers must commit to a zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace.”
Mr Hayward said the BPSU recognised that bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, remained a “major concern in many workplaces throughout the island”.
He said that many incidents went unreported and the negative behaviour became organisational cultural norms, with sexual harassment the least reported form of harassment.
Mr Hayward said the union had dealt with a small number of cases but that he could not say how common the problem was because of a lack of data. He added: “However, I am clear that it does exist throughout the island.”
Mr Hayward said there were also “very little” reports of people being harassed based on sexual orientation.
But he said this could be because people were not willing to make complaints because the “process can be very uncomfortable for victims”.
Mr Hayward hoped the talks would lead to more awareness of the issues, support for victims and the promotion of workplaces free from sexual harassment and discrimination.
A series of talks on the topics will be held this week, with government officials, trade union leaders, business leaders and human rights groups invited to take part.
The events will finish with a public forum tomorrow at CedarBridge Academy.
Minna Salami, a Nigerian-Finnish writer, blogger, speaker and founder of the feminist blog, MsAfropolitan, was invited as the guest speaker.
Ms Salami, who has been researching, writing and speaking about sexual politics and related topics for a decade, said the law should reflect “no tolerance to sexual harassment and discrimination against women and LGBT people in the workplace”.
She added: “It should require that employers take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment and workplace discrimination.”
Ms Salami said her knowledge of the situation on Bermuda was “limited in a historical context”.
She added that “sexual harassment against women and LGBT people in the workplace are problems that have not been solved anywhere in the world, there is a long way to go”.
She added: “The starting point in eliminating discrimination and harassment is fostering a deeper understanding of the issues.
“And so enabling these conversations in public discourse are an important step in the right direction.”
John Wight, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said there had been much focus globally on the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.
He added: “We would be naive to think that this does not occur here in Bermuda.
“It is every employer’s duty to ensure that employees work in a safe and trusting environment.
“Any behaviour in the workforce that causes employees to feel pressure to tolerate sexual harassment is morally and legally wrong.
“Well-respected organisations foster strong and respectful values, and tolerance for anything less ultimately threatens the core culture of a company.”
• The public meeting will be held tomorrow at the Kalmar Richards conference room at 5.30pm
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