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Employment and Labour on eliminating violence and harassment in the workplace

Elimination and prevention of violence and harassment in South African workplaces

The Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) recognises the right of every person to a world free from violence and harassment. The Commission adds its voice in condemning all forms of violence that prevail in our communities across the country over the past weeks.

We note that each member of our society has an important responsibility to promote a safe society free of violence and harassment. The CEE promotes a zero-tolerance approach and urges everyone to facilitate the elimination and prevention of such behaviour and practices. The CEE condemns acts of violence and harassment in homes, communities, workplaces and society as whole, said Tabea Kabinde, the CEE chairperson.

The apparent scourge of violence and harassment does not only manifest in communities, but in the world of work � an alarming emerging phenomenon worldwide, which requires immediate intervention.

The CEE recognises the fact that violence and harassment in the world of work constitutes a human rights violation or abuse, and that violence and harassment are a threat to equal opportunities, are unacceptable and incompatible with dignified, decent work.

The Commission submits that the effects of violence and harassment affect a person's psychological, emotional, physical, dignity, family and social environment. Notably, violence and harassment are incompatible with the promotion of sustainable enterprises and impact negatively on the organisation of work, workplace relations, worker engagements, enterprise reputation, and on productivity.

Employers have a duty to ensure a safe working environment free of discrimination for all employees. The costs associated with discrimination and workplace violence include reduced efficiency and productivity, the deterioration of product quality, and affecting the brand reputation of a company. The CEE believes that all employers should institute proactive action and ensure all employees are aware of its policies and procedures in understanding and managing harassment in the work of work.

The CEE strongly recommends that governments, employers and workers, including worker and employer organisations be equally and legally obligated to take steps to eliminate any form of discrimination. They must implement measures such as strategies, policies, practices, procedures and programmes to prevent violence and harassment from taking place in the workplace and society as whole.

The current labour laws which directly and indirectly address harassment include; the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Employment Equity Act supplemented by Codes of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the workplace (2005) and the Harassment provision in the Code of Good Practice on the Integration of EE into Human Resources policies and practices (2005).these laws and codes are very clear on legal obligations on employers and employees in creating safe working environments free from violence and harassment.

In that light, the CEE commends the International Labour Organization (ILO) for having adopted a new ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 supplemented by a Recommendation at the June 2019 International Labour Conference. Noteworthy is that the CEE will be advising the Minister of Employment and Labour to recommend to NEDLAC and Parliament the ratification of this ILO Convention as a matter of urgency.

As part of the preparations for readiness, the CEE is currently reviewing the current EE policy instruments with the aim of developing a comprehensive Code of Good Practice on the elimination of violence and harassment in the World of Work, in order to ensure full alignment with the ILO Convention. It is envisaged that this new Code will be published for implementation by June 2020.

Source: Government of South Africa

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