The Department of Employment and Labour’s Deputy Director of Employment Equality Policy and Enforcement, Niresh Singh, called on employees and unions to take an active role in implementing policies aimed at tackling workplace harassment.

Singh was speaking at the 22nd annual Roadshow of the Department of Employment and Labor (EE) in association with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in Pretoria.

“We have employment equality reports for designated employers as well, where they indicate whether they have such a policy. We also encourage activism in the workplace and therefore encourage employees to participate,” said Singh.

“In terms of the Employment Equality Act and even the Labor Relations Act, employers have a duty to consult with employees on a variety of issues. The department encourages workplace activism where employees, including unions, become active members to ensure that these policies and procedures are in place and must be implemented,” Singh said.

Singh said the department’s inspection and enforcement service allows the department to address many labor issues, including workplace harassment issues.

“In terms of section 60, an employer can undertake a duty to implement a workplace harassment policy. Let us all take this responsibility, including the Department, to get the job done.”

CCMA Pretoria Commissioner Vuyokazi May, who was giving a presentation on CCMA case law on all forms of harassment, said victims of workplace harassment should confront the alleged perpetrator.

“You are required to make it clear to the offender that the behavior is undesirable. But the law understands that it is not easy for a person in a junior position to tell a boss or CEO that what you are doing to me is not desirable. So yes, you’re expected to tell them, but in cases where you can’t, we’ll look at the person’s criminal record and see if they’re sane and should have known that their behavior unwanted,” May said.

“In terms of the Employment Equality Act, before you come to the CCMA you must take reasonable steps to resolve the problem with the employer. Smart steps don’t mean exhausting internal procedures. You must notify your employer.

“Unlike the case of constructive dismissal. But in these cases you cannot be expected to exhaust internal procedures, as you must take reasonable steps to notify your employer. The only thing an employer can do is protect you if you give them notice,” Commissioner May said.

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