Violence and harassment in the workplace – whether in Westminster, Hollywood or McDonalds– continues to make headlines. Its impact on workers and business is increasingly becoming apparent. CARE research in the Cambodian garment sector revealed that there is an estimated US $89 million annual cost to the economy from absenteeism and lost productivity. Legislative changes are also afoot – with proposed changes in the UK and a new global convention due to be agreed in 2019. What then, can companies that want to take the issue seriously do to prepare and improve?
CARE and Diageo have been working together in a global partnership since 2016 and our work has a strong focus on empowering women across their business, from assessing the role of women in their barley value chain in Ethiopia to supporting women beer promoters and outlets in Asia to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. When we approached Diageo about assessing the extent to which they were tackling violence and harassment across their whole business, they agreed. How, they wanted to know, can business move from risk mitigation to creating a safe and dignified environment where employees are proud to come to work?
We wanted to test whether we could develop a diagnostic to help business know where to look for the problems and how to tackle, report, and address them.
First, we assessed what the standards which have been set out in the forthcoming ILO Convention will mean for business at large, and more specifically, Diageo. Some of these standards include;
(a) prohibiting in law all forms of violence and harassment;
(b) ensuring that relevant policies address violence and harassment;
(c) adopting a comprehensive strategy in order to implement measures to prevent and
combat violence and harassment;
(d) establishing and strengthening enforcement and monitoring mechanisms;
(e) ensuring access to remedies and support for victims;
(f) providing for sanctions;
(g) developing tools, guidance, education and training, and raising awareness; and
(h) ensuring effective means of inspection and investigation of cases of violence and
harassment through labour inspectorates or other competent bodies
We identified key points of pertinence within the draft convention and over-laid these with CARE’s best practice recommendations through an in-depth desk analysis. We then took this framework of recommendations and benchmarked every relevant Diageo policy against them, noting the applicable points in the value chain. This bench-marking exercise allowed us to identify the bright-spots and the gaps in Diageo’s protection and response policies. Best-practice such as broad definitions of harassment within supplier standards and community programming initiatives focused on the sales environment were highlighted and recommendations created for Diageo to replicate and scale-up these initiatives at a global-scale.
We all know however, that strong policies are just part of the solution. We took the time therefore to validate our assumptions and recommendations with a wealth of the Diageo global team, across multiple low and high-risk countries and in business functions ranging from sales to HR and sustainability. The result was a strengthening of our recommendations, an acknowledgement of the need to respond to diverse cultural contexts and social norms and a series of actions for the Diageo Executive Committee to roll-out the emerging pockets of best practice at a global scale.
Having completed the research and recommendations through our partnership,
Diageo is now rolling out a strengthened global standard for the protection of brand promoters and scaling up specific Dignity at Work policies across its markets.
Diageo have taken a bold step in deciding to dig deep and assess what the ILO standards mean and this has been a positive experience for them. We now need more to do this. Currently we are only aware of a handful of companies that have publicly supported the ILO convention and a third of countries have no laws covering violence and harassment.
Here in the UK the legislative framework is pretty strong and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission offers some helpful guidance for companies and other organisations. MPs are also pushing for gaps to be addressed, for example; ensuring companies are legally liable to prevent violence and harassment, that third party workers are also protected and ending the use of Non- disclosure agreements for violence and harassment. If the UK government agree to these changes they will be very strongly placed to continue to push for a robust global convention when it is negotiated in June 2019.
Whatever happens, it’s clear that the pressure to tackle workplace violence and harassment is not going away.
For more information about CARE’s work please contact Verity O’Shaughnessy os**********@ca***************.org
Business Fights Poverty is exploring the idea of launching a new Challenge on tackling gender-based violence in the workplace. If you would be interested in getting involved, please get in touch.