When selecting suppliers it is important that they have thorough policies that keep their employees safe. But policy alone is not enough. There are more steps that need to be taken to ensure that everyone within the company not only is aware of the policy, but also that measures are implemented to ensure that the policy is coming to life. To make sure that the actions are actually effective and support the goals and targets, it is essential that progress is measured and evaluated and that adjustments are made when necessary. Properly analysing your supplier’s policies and implementing practices is essential when you evaluate the commitment to gender equality of your supplier as part of the selection process.

For example: sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can come in many forms, often times being sexually inappropriate comments, touching, emails or suggestions that make someone feel objectified and uncomfortable. Whilst anyone can be a victim of this, statistically women are at a higher risk. And men are more likely to be perpetrators of this behavior. Having a policy forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace is imperative. But it does not necessarily mean that there is no sexual harassment. What good and thorough policy implementation can do is not only prevent sexual harassment, but allow victims the ability to comfortably and easily file a complaint, and for perpetrators to be held accountable. 

So, besides a company policy, what other steps can be taken?

Communication of the policy to all staff members. In order for a policy to be effective, it needs to be known to all the staff. This could happen during orientation, company wide communication like emails, posters in communal staff areas or meetings. 

Training for all staff members about appropriate workplace contact with one another. This training should clearly communicate what the policy is. It should clearly outline how to appropriately behave, and how to file complaints when you feel like someone has violated the policy.

A grievance mechanism is crucial. People need to be able to safely lodge a complaint against someone, anonymously and confidentially. Everyone needs to know how to access it. 

Discreet and appropriate investigations into the allegations are necessary. With more advice on this here. Using a neutral third party investigator, gathering evidence, documentation and confidentiality being key aspects of an investigation.  

If someone is considered guilty of sexual harassment, a punishment will be in order. Often through demotion, losing their job, suspension, and in extreme cases it will become a police matter.

With effective policy and additional steps being taken it is important to measure and report the usage of this policy. Collecting data on how often people are being reported, who is filing the reports and who is being accused. This data will help see how the company can improve their policies, create more safety in the workplace and produce gender disaggregated data sets.