Harassment Prevention Protocols in the workplace

Nowadays, harassment is a problem that deeply concerns companies because they often do not have a protocol defining the course of action to follow in instances of suspected misconduct.

In this article, we briefly outline the main characteristics of these actions to provide companies and their directors with guidelines on what they should expect.

First, we must remember that in Spain, there is no express legal obligation for companies to develop a protocol to prevent and take action in cases of harassment. However, Law 31/1995, on the Prevention of Occupational Risks (Ley 31/1995 de Prevención de Riesgos Laborales) and Organic Law 7/2007, on Equality between Men and WomenWomen (Ley Orgánica 7/2007 de Igualdad entre hombres y mujeres) imply this legal duty. Both statutes establish the companies’ obligations to safeguard the employees’ mental and physical health and their commitment to undertake any actions guaranteeing the safeguarding of such protections.

Therefore, companies must put in place pre-established actions to manage such behaviours. These actions must respect the provisions of the applicable collective agreements (hyperlink) as said collective agreements may include specific instructions for these cases.

Contents of the Harassment Prevention and Action Protocols

Regarding the contents of these protocols, two types of actions are planned: informal and formal.

The informal course of action channels complaints and detects cases where misconduct may exist. It includes the study of the complaint, interviews with the accused employee, and mediation between the parties.

After this procedure, if the investigation must continue because of the severity of the events, then a formal course of action will ensue. At this stage, it is essential for the protocols of harassment or the disciplinary procedures contained in the provisions of the collective agreements to be respected.

This stage includes the following actions:

  • Designation of a mediator: generally, a person from outside the company who can provide an objective assessment
  • Examination of the alleged offender, the claiming person, and the witnesses; all of them must be informed about the confidentiality
  • If necessary, suspension from employment and salary for the alleged offender, unless forbidden by the appropriate collective agreement
  • The evidence of the cases study, the draft of a list of charges, and –if necessary– a proposal for a penalty
  • Announcement of the decision by the company to the affected parties.

Lastly, it is essential to emphasize the duty of the company and the affected employees to respect, at all times, the confidentiality of the procedure and the dignity of the persons involved.

Considering the information above, we strongly recommend to executives and human resources managers to put into effect protocols to prevent and take action in terms of workplace harassment. This way, they will safeguard the employees’ welfare and the company’s proper management of the risks of said conduct.

Alejandra Sanz

If you require additional information regarding harassment prevention protocols in Spain,

This article is not considered legal advice

Mariscal Abogados provides corporate labour advice (employment contracts, collective bargaining, dismissals...). If you have a query, do not hesitate to Contact us.