Strained economy may mean sexual harassment goes unreported at the workplace

Legal experts have recently warned that South Africa's bleak economic outlook could result in fewer sexual harassment complaints being lodged.

Aadil Patel a specialist in employment law at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, explains that an academic study previously conducted by an economist in 2011 notes that during a time of high unemployment, people are more fearful of leaving jobs and filing complaints of sexual harassment.

Where someone is able to find a job more easily, the economic research indicates they are more willing to take on the system.

Aadil Patel, Director and National Head of Employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

The most vulnerable employees are low paid, unskilled, rural employees.

Aadil Patel, Director and National Head of Employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

Patel says organisations exposed to such research need to take an active role in educating its employees about their rights within the organisation.

Information and knowledge sharing is highly lacking, he says, and government has published a code of good practice on sexual harassment which informs both parties of their rights and obligations.

Patel says these are words on paper and what is needed is the participation from human resources managers and directors to educate and highlight the research which may lead to an increase in reported incidents.

The economy is under immense strain.

Aadil Patel, Director and National Head of Employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

A caller phoned to tell her story.

I had reported a sexual harassment case at work. Five months later my position was made redundant and I ended up losing my job. It really makes it difficult for one to stand up in an entity whereby you're being victimised for doing the right thing.

Nonny, Caller

Patel says if an employee is victimised for lodging a complaint of sexual harassment, they can then further lodge a complaint with The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) or labour court.

Take a listen to the rest of the conversation in the audio below:

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