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Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence Policies

Last edited: July 28, 2020

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Policies on harassment and violence must be gender-responsive and embedded in the reality of the world of work. This requires thinking beyond the immediate workplace to ‘spaces’ related to the workplace, such as, offsite work and social engagements, travel to and from the workplace, and exchanges that take place via technology (e.g. computers and mobile phones). It also requires understanding and including other forms of violence (e.g. domestic violence/intimate partner violence/family violence) that may be affecting employees which impact the workplace.  Policies must acknowledge the gender-based nature of the violence committed against women, allowing prevention and responses to tackle the power dynamics and imbalances that allow it to occur.  Policies must also reflect the society and staff composition, recognizing that women, especially those who face multiple forms of discrimination based on their identities (e.g. LBTI women, immigrant women, women from ethnic and racial minorities, etc.) will experience and be affected by violence and harassment differently. Special considerations and practices need to be put in place also for the growing numbers of personnel hired as contractors or freelancers and who may not be considered staff or employees, as these individuals would be at increased risk of experiencing sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment policies should broadly include:

  • a policy statement expressing zero tolerance for harassment and abuse
  • clear and comprehensive definitions based on unwelcomed behaviours that cover, verbal, non-verbal and physical interaction;
  • examples of prohibited behaviour
  • prevention measures, including accountability of leaders and engagement/training on gender, discrimination, harassment and violence;
  • a detailed articulation of the reporting (e.g. confidentiality, protection against retaliation) and complaints procedures available (e.g. formal and informal);
  • external legal and judicial mechanisms that are available in the country;
  • the sanctions and disciplinary measures that can be levied against perpetrators;
  • the support that will be provided to survivors by the organization and through referrals;
  • an explanation of how the policy will be implemented, monitored and revised; and
  • links to other related policies (e.g. retaliation, family leave, etc.) and supporting materials.

Domestic violence policies (often within collective agreements) should broadly include:

  • clear and comprehensive definitions;
  • an explanation of the national prevalence and consequences (especially as they impact the workplace and co-workers);
  • the detailed plan or steps that will be taken to raise-awareness within the organization on various aspects of the issue and the policy; specific training of managers, security and health focal points related to safety planning and referrals;
  • identification of key resource staff and their roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis the policy;
  • the types of provision, support and safety that the organization will provide affected staff members; an explanation of how the policy will be implemented, monitored and revised;
  • and links to other related policies (e.g. family leave) and supporting materials.

The New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA) on Family Violence at Work

PSA is New Zealand's largest union for workers in central government, state-owned enterprises, local councils, health boards and community groups. It runs an active campaign on family violence at work recognizing the grave consequences that domestic violence has in the workplace. It provides advice for victims, perpetrators, colleagues/co-workers, delegates and organizers and employers. PSA has also developed a sample Family Violence Clause for employers (excerpts below):

Family violence may impact on an employee’s attendance or performance at work…. The employer will support staff experiencing family violence. This support includes: up to 10 days of paid leave in any calendar year to be used for medical appointments, legal proceedings and other activities related to family violence.  This leave is in addition to existing leave entitlements and may be taken as consecutive or single days or as a fraction of a day and can be taken without prior approval; support safety planning and avoidance of harassing contact, the employer will approve any reasonable request from an employee for changes to their span or pattern of working hours, location of work or duties, a change to their work telephone number or email address, and any other appropriate measure including those available under existing provision for flexible work arrangements.  An Employee who supports a person experiencing family violence may take domestic leave to accompany them to court, to hospital, or to mind the children.  All personal information concerning family violence will be kept confidential and will not be kept on the employee’s personnel file without their agreement.  Proof of family violence may be requested and can be in the agreed form of a document from the police, a health professional or a family violence support service.

For more information, see: 


For illustrative guides and policies on violence and harassment, see:

Model Policy on Sexual Harassment (United Nations). Available in English.

Towards an end to sexual harassment: The urgency and nature of change in the era of #MeToo. Available in English.

Domestic Violence Policies for UNI Affiliated Unions. Available in English.