Labour expert tells THA: Establish sexual harassment policies

Sabina Gomez, Chief Labour Officer in the Ministry of Labour at a forum on Tuesday at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands. Photo by David Reid
Sabina Gomez, Chief Labour Officer in the Ministry of Labour at a forum on Tuesday at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands. Photo by David Reid

THA divisions and other organisations are being advised to establish policies in keeping with the guidelines outlined in the national workplace policy on sexual harassment.

Sabina Gomez, chief labour officer, Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, said on Tuesday sexual harassment was a “very real issue” in the workplace that must be addressed.

She said those accused of it are often "people that we know, and sometimes we talk about it or we hear about it and sometimes we don’t.”

Gomez was delivering a presentation on the national policy at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands.

The event, hosted by the Department of Labour, targeted HR officers, senior managers and supervisors in the public and private sectors.

Gomez said the national policy, in the absence of legislation, provides guidance on how the issue is to be dealt with.

“Because this could be a mental health issue. We have had persons who come and certain things are taking place in the workplace and nobody will take them on, nobody will investigate in terms of how the issue is to be dealt with, because they come to us and you could see them looking really drawn...”

Saying many of the stories she had heard were heartbreaking, Gomez said she often felt she, too, needed therapy after the sessions.

“So it is important that we engage persons and educate them in terms of what their rights are and the responsibilities of their employer.”

Gomez said at present, there is no legislation in TT governing sexual harassment in the workplace.

“We do have a draft bill. It’s in the AG’s (Attorney General’s) office. It’s a work in progress. It’s being worked on. But there is a draft bill coming out of the policy, that would have been drafted by the Ministry of Labour.”

In the meantime, she said the national workplace policy was developed so that each organisation will develop their own policy in terms of giving guidance if an employee feels they have been sexually harassed.

“A lot of employers, when things happen in the workplace, they don’t know what to do. It could be because the person has an important role in the organisation and sometimes with that role it’s, ‘What am I to do? How do I address this?’”

She said some employers find out about sexual harassment by way of pre-action protocol letters from workers.

“Matters have reached to the court. They have passed through our conciliation division and they would have reached to the courts.

Gomez added that the forthcoming legislation will be very important in addressing sexual harassment.

Elon Mayo, manpower and labour Relations director, Department of Labour, who delivered welcome remarks, said implementing transformative and sustainable change to address sexual harassment in Tobago requires long-term commitment, reform systems and the necessary resources.

He added the sexual harassment workplace policy highlights the importance of addressing attitudinal change in handling pressing issues.

Mayo believes public/private partnerships also have to be established to build capacity and increase resources, especially when considering how diverse Tobago has become.

“This partnership plays a pivotal role in generating, transferring knowledge to all people, employees, employers and students who are our future workforce,” he said.

Mayo urged organisations to implement their own workplace policies.

“At the end of this, let us all welcome the change that we want to see in our workplace and in our environment.”


"Labour expert tells THA: Establish sexual harassment policies"

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