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What is Harassment in the Workplace.

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

What is Harassment in the Workplace?

Workplace harassment takes many forms. Here's how to identify some of the most common forms of harassment – and what you should do if you see it happening.


Workplace harassment is considered unwanted conduct which impairs dignity, and which creates a hostile or intimidating work environment for one or more employees. A hostile work environment will be present where conduct has a negative impact on the employee’s ability to work and/or on their personal well-being.

Of note the new Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace (Code), took effect on 18 March 2022.

This includes LGBTQIA+-phobic language, as well as passive-aggressive or covert harassment such as negative joking at another’s expense, sarcasm, condescending eye contact or gestures, negative gossip, deliberately causing embarrassment or insecurity, and social or professional exclusion.

Significantly, the new Code explicitly recognises online harassment, cyber-bullying, and covert surveillance of an employee with harmful intent, as possible expressions of workplace harassment. Furthermore, according to the new Code, employees who work virtually from their homes or any other place other than the employer’s premises are to be protected against harassment.

The four factors which are to be taken into account to establish whether there has been harassment remain the same: namely, whether the harassment is on the prohibited grounds of sex, gender, and/or sexual orientation; whether the sexual conduct was unwanted or unacceptable; the nature and extent of the sexual conduct, and the impact of the sexual conduct.

The code highlights that employers are under an obligation in terms of section 60 of the EEA to take proactive and remedial steps to prevent all forms of harassment in the workplace.

“This includes conducting an assessment of the risk of harassment to employees; creating and maintaining a working environment in which the dignity of employees is respected; adopting and implementing an appropriate policy addressing harassment in the workplace; conducting training to educate employees about the various forms of harassment; implementing ongoing awareness initiatives and programmes; and investigating allegations of harassment.

About our speaker

Colette Tanner - DRG

Colette Tanner has had over 20 years’ experience in human resources.

She is well qualified having completed both HR honours and an MBA.

On writing her MBA dissertation Colette says, “I really unpacked business culture and this has supported my understanding of how and why people do or do not work together …just understanding the human being that we all are.”

Colette’s passion is value creation as she believes adding value brings about success in whatever we do.

She is family centred and has a heart for the differently abled.


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