Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs Ayanna Webster-Roy issued a release about sexual harassment policies and expediting the National Sexual Harassment Policy on the same day Diego Martin Central MP Darryl Smith was fired following calls for his removal from the Opposition and lobby groups.
In the release yesterday she said the Government "takes all allegations of sexual harassment seriously and is committed to providing information, resources and clear direction to all members of staff and stakeholders both internally and externally so that together, we can help prevent and address this conduct."
She added: "This Government is committed to assisting victims or complainants of this misconduct through various available support services such as the Employee Assistance Programme."
She reported the Office of the Prime Minister recently laid the National Policy on Gender and Development in the Parliament as a green paper for further comment. The policy document, she explained, clearly highlighted the importance of the development of a Gender Just Society to attaining our Vision 2030 goals.
"This Government must therefore ensure that men and women are allowed to make their contributions in the workplace free from all forms of sexual harassment, sex/gender discrimination and other gender-based misconduct, by promoting and fostering a safe environment, which complies with the Equal Opportunity and Occupational Health and Safety Acts, and more recently the National Policy on Gender and Development."
Webster-Roy said all citizens, all members of staff and all ministers of Government in a workplace are required to treat others with dignity, courtesy and respect. She explained sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour, which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It is specific and a serious form of harassment which can lead to a hostile work environment.
"All members of staff have the same rights and responsibilities in relation to sexual harassment. Failure to object to inappropriate behaviour in the workplace when it occurs, it does not imply consent. So the onus is on each employee to conduct themselves appropriately and in accordance with the established code of conduct for the Public Service."
She said the Government recognises its obligation to provide a safe and respectful environment for staff and clients in the public sector and the private sector has a similar obligation to its staff and clients.
"While there are procedures in place to lodge complaints of sexual harassment in several agencies of Government, and some may even have a policy, having had to address the matter in the past, the Government recognises the need for an overarching policy. In this regard, the government will expedite the drafting of the National Sexual Harassment Policy which is currently being worked on by the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development."
She said additionally the Office of the Attorney General was collaborating with the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs Division) and the Equal Opportunity Commission to identify areas within the legislative framework that were in need of strengthening to better protect the workforce.
Webster-Roy made no mention of Smith who was moved from Sport Minister to Minister in the Ministry of Housing and was then fired from that appointment today.