Despite NIC having a policy on bullying and sexual harassment, various anecdotal reports of inappropriate sexual behaviour and practices were received. The problem seemed to be mainly how to recognise what was actually inappropriate behaviour or practice.
Developing sexual harassment prevention and support structures: bullying and sexual harassment policy
To establish sexual harassment and bullying structures and processes including a confidential route for individuals to raise issues in relation to harassment and bullying.
Mostly Human Resources and Legal Service.
Two individuals were appointed where staff can report confidentially sexual harassment in the workplace. One person is female and the other is male. On the intranet page, the Act governing this area is published. Formal notice was provided to employees to inform them of its existence.
Greater recognition that these problems exist and that it is not the right strategy to sweep them under the rug. It is necessary to have or to build a systematic approach to the problem.
People were encouraged to observe and to speak openly but with diplomacy and at the appropriateness of time. If they felt unable to challenge behavior personally, there was a confidential route established so that issues could be dealt with.
The governance bodies, key actors and decision-makers
Type of action
Creation of structures
Kemijski Inštitut, National Institute of Chemistry
Action level of implementation
Staff and students
NIC has a policy which dictates that bullying and violence at work are prohibited. Workplace bullying is any recurrent or systematic, abusive, blatantly negative and abusive behaviour or behaviour directed at individual workers in the workplace or in relation to work. Violence is expressed as disrespect for the boundaries of the space of a person’s psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual or other integrity. However, there was a lack of awareness of what this meant in practice.
NIC policy defines sexual harassment as any kind of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct or behaviour of a sexual nature with the effect or intent to hurt a person’s dignity, especially when it is about creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, shameful or abusive environment.
Publication of the policy (link: https://ki-portal.ki.si/dokumenti/Varnost%20in%20zdravje %20pri%20delu/Pravilnik%20o%20prepre%C4%8Devanju%20nasilja,%20trpin%C4%8Denja%20in%20nadlegovanja%20na%20delovnem%20mestu.pdf) and appointment of authorized assistance persons (1 male and 1 female, 1 from Human resources department and 1 from research sector) (link: https://ki-portal.ki.si/dokumenti/Varnost%20in%20 zdravje%20pri%20delu/Sklep%20o%20imenovanju%20poobla%C5%A1%C4%8Denca%20za%20pomo%C4%8D%20in%20informiranje.pdf
The biggest challenge was the fear of reporting (and the fear of its subsequent consequences). As in other cases (e.g. domestic violence), the victim can be blamed as if they were guilty. There is also the possibility of retaliation against those who speak out because the problem has been highlighted. Usually in these cases, we are not talking about a direct attack or confrontation. It is necessary to make a strategy of monitoring, finding or providing evidence, and reacting differently over time. Deciding when to act formally is a challenge.
As violence/harassment/bullying is a very sensitive topic and victims are often helpless, it is extremely important that the authorized person is perceived as trustworthy – either for a conversation or for jointly agreed actions that follow.
Tips/strategies – Lessons learnt
It is necessary to have legal acts/policies that prohibit certain types of behavior and all employees are familiar with. However, how potential actors react to inappropriate actions is not always clear.
Individuals who find themselves on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior or abusive behavior need to be empowered to report offences and seek appropriate help – with a well-communicated route for doing so.
Measured whether there is an increase in the number of discreet conversations on sensitive topics such as relationships and the (in) appropriateness of behavior in them.
More detailed outcome / Impact
The opportunity of an open but still discreet conversation with an authorized persons in a safe “space” (a neutral zone separate from the working environment) was well received. Being able to seek advice was valued.
Reflection: what we would do differently
Reporting on bullying and sexual harassment depends on trust, which is built slowly. We are talking about the empowerment of individuals, but we must not forget that each individual is different and therefore needs a different approach, to build trust and to take any kind of action.