“Sex” is a word that demands attention, so it’s unlikely many Essex companies are unaware of the recent upsurge of interest in exposing sexual misconduct.

The global campaign to draw attention to this important topic – which uses the #metoo hashtag – has highlighted victim impact. However, it has also heralded a sea change in the UK workplace.

How employers respond is vital

The smartest employers have realised that creating a truly diverse and equitable team is not just an ethical imperative, but a commercial one. Staff attraction and retention – and brand reputations – can hinge on making sure any remnants of harassment and discrimination are rooted out.

However, greater emphasis is now placed on being able to positively evidence this and being transparent in systems to uphold it. Basically, having policies and procedures in place, is far from job done. Companies must be seen to be heard on this issue.

Steps to #metoo support for HR Essex

Increase awareness

Staff at all levels must know the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

Putting on training courses is not enough. Training needs to be a continuous process and delivered in a way that measures effectiveness. It should also be a part of the onboarding process, so all new employees are aware of the procedures your company has in place.


This is part of the bigger picture. Essex companies must stimulate and support a collaborative culture, using openness, incentives and “no blame, no shame” to ensure business growth. Every employee has a right to be heard, not just on how they are treated in the workplace but on other topics too. The benefits of a collaborative team are too numerous to mention here.

Managers who are leaders and mediators

Empowering staff to speak up and address issues at an early stage is half the battle.

Managers who are leaders are alert and empathetic; with the emotional intelligence to get the best out of every team member. They need to be able to spot issues at an early stage, and shift perceptions or change actions which could stray into unacceptable conduct. Prevention is always better than the cure!

What are the risks of not having a policy?

There really is no room for complacency on such a hot topic, especially as it brings with it so many complexities.

Instigating thorough audits of working practices and business culture, then making the necessary changes, is the only way to avoid being on the receiving end of some heavy penalties.

Of course, much of the risk in ignoring #metoo – or assuming your organisation has “got it covered” – comes from regulatory action against you. Ignorance about what goes on within your company will not stand up as a defence in a tribunal. Also, your inadvertent lack of compliance on key equality issues could lead to hefty fines.

However, with such heightened interest in workplace inequality – and sexual misconduct – the financial ramifications are far more insidious than these potential pay outs and fines. To be frank, your whole company’s reputation – and the integrity of your brand – could be at stake if you overlook behaviours that fly in the face of rising public standards.

For this reason, the time to act is now, including creating preventative measures within a comprehensive staff policy; preferably a policy prepared by a knowledgeable and neutral third party. This needs to be presented to staff effectively, and reiterated on a regular basis.

This is the only way to change the culture of your workplace from top to bottom. Anything less leaves your organisation exposed to a commercially destructive backlash.

Next step

There are multiple benefits for companies who outsource HR. Internal personnel are not always the best placed to seek out and identify lingering cultural or procedural anomalies.

Also, staff often respond more transparently to “outside experts” as opposed to HR staff they work with daily. It’s often also much better for a staff member with concerns about sexual misconduct to speak to a HR person first before deciding on their next move.

Newman HR can also do skills audits, to equip companies to adhere to Me Too principles, and to build diverse, collaborative and productive teams.