The two female employees on the ladies’ and gentlemen’s clothing floor at Grace Brothers, Miss Brahms and Mrs Slocombe, are frequently the subject of sexist remarks by male members of staff, often dressed up as ‘humorous’ innuendo. Miss Brahms also endures repeated – and apparently unrequited – romantic advances from menswear sales assistant Mr Lucas, as well as the occasional customer.
The first step in tackling any culture of sexual harassment is to make sure all staff know the severity of the situation and what is expected of them in terms of the organisation’s values and behaviours, says Claire McCartney, the CIPD’s policy adviser for diversity and inclusion.
“As well as making sure policies relating to sexual harassment are in place and up to date, and employees know where to access them, HR should create formal reporting channels for staff to flag instances of harassment and bullying,” she says. “It is also important to train line managers in this area so that they are able to have open and sensitive conversations with staff. This will mean employees will be more confident in speaking up if their colleagues are making them uncomfortable, and will create a culture where victims feel supported and listened to.”
In the case of Grace Brothers, McCartney suggests ensuring that all staff are directly made aware of the rules, so there is no room for them to be misconstrued. “A letter or an all-staff briefing in person by a senior manager would be effective,” she says. “If they are all told face to face, there are no excuses for harassment or unwanted comments in future.”