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Picture: 123RF/OLIVIER LE MOAL
Picture: 123RF/OLIVIER LE MOAL

In the latest edition of Business Law Focus, host Evan Pickworth interviews Johan Botes, partner and head of the employment & compensation practice at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg, on the new Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace.

They discuss the key features of the new code and also talk about why the it could be a timely slap in the face for bullies and sexual miscreants at work.

Join the discussion: 

In March, employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi released subordinate legislation, the Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace to replace the Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace, as amended. The new code expands substantially on the different types of violence that an employee may experience in the workplace and what steps employers are required to take to deal with these forms of violence.

So what are the four forms of violence and harassment in the workplace listed by the Code of Good Practice?

Sexual violence and harassment:

This includes any conduct that the person knows (or should know) is not welcome, offends the complainant or makes the complainant feel uncomfortable, and interferes with work. The code lists various forms of conduct that would amount to sexual violence and harassment, including unwanted sexual attention and quid pro quo sexual harassment. 

The code also compels employers to consider further factors in a matter involving sexual violence and harassment. These factors include whether the conduct was unwelcome; the nature and extent of the conduct; and the effect of the conduct. 

Racial, ethnic or social origin violence and harassment:

In terms of the code, racial violence and harassment are types of conduct that demean, humiliate or create a hostile or intimidating work environment for a complainant. This may include conduct that intends to induce submission based on actual or threatened adverse consequences for the complainant; and relates to a person's membership of a group. Abusive language and racist jokes, racially offensive material, racist name calling, negative stereotyping, offensive behaviour creating hostility, exclusion from workplace interaction and activities, and marginalisation and threatening behaviour fall under this form of violence and harassment.

Workplace bullying:

Workplace bullying is unwanted persistent conduct (or a single incident), which is serious and demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile or intimidating work environment. This conduct includes a wide range of insulting, demeaning or intimidating behaviours that lower the self-esteem or self-confidence of an employee. Some examples of workplace bullying include harassing; offending, professionally or socially excluding someone, or negatively affecting their work tasks.

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