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CMS Expert Guide on sexual harassment in the workplace

Welcome to our CMS Expert Guide on sexual harassment in the workplace. How different countries responded to the #MeToo movement and how the law regulates workplace harassment on a global scale were key drivers in carrying out this report.

2020 has seen an unprecedented period of workplace change compounded by significant personal uncertainty. As workplaces around the world adjust to new ways of working employers have an opportunity to promote a positive workplace culture and reduce harassment complaints. Offering a range of insights on how to tackle workplace sexual harassment, employers will learn new approaches from across the globe. Clients operating across borders will also gain an understanding of the nuances of the law in different jurisdictions and practical steps around compliance.

Our report identifies that there has been a marked variation in how different countries have responded to the #MeToo movement. Significant variations also exist in relation to an employer’s legal obligations around workplace harassment. We were also interested in understanding unique approaches to tackling workplace harassment. We have selected a few highlights below to demonstrate the range of interventions.

  • Some countries take the approach of imposing a preventative duty on employers, with a few tackling harassment as part of their wider health and safety duties, by identifying and reducing risks. Both Belgium and the Netherlands take this approach, with employers in the Netherlands required to map all occupational health risks, including harassment in a risk inventory and evaluation plan.
  • In Chile and Peru employers are obliged to notify their labour market authority about internal sexual harassment complaints. In Croatia an employer with 20 or more employees is required to appoint a dignity officer, responsible for handling all types of complaints from employees regarding violations of their dignity. Switzerland also require a trustworthy and impartial person to be appointed who can support victims of harassment, and in France companies with 250 or more employees must appoint a sexual harassment officer.
  • The remedies available to employees also vary, for example in Germany, the employee who is affected by sexual harassment has the right to refuse to work without loss of pay if the employer takes unsuitable measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • There is no standard definition of sexual harassment although similarities do exist. Workplace harassment is known as mobbing in Montenegro. The term sexual harassment is not defined in Russian law, and protections there exist only in relation to sex discrimination, and workplace claims are rare. Similarly, in China there are few laws and regulations concerning sexual harassment.
  • In the UK we have seen the legal landscape changing in response to #MeToo and a cultural shift in opinion. “Technical guidance” was published early in 2020 to help employers tackle workplace harassment. The aim in the UK is to shift the burden in reducing workplace harassment from individuals to employers.

Access the FULL Expert Guide here, which also includes overviews based on various JURISDICTIONS: CMS Expert Guide on sexual harassment in the workplace

Authors:

  • Gillian MacLellan, Partner, CMS
  • Caroline Froger-Michon, Partner, Global Co-Head of the CMS Employment & Pensions Group

Compliments of C’M’S Law. Tax. – a member of the EACCNY.