What Works? Reducing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

External Resource

08/11/2018 12:00 am

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Why focus on sexual harassment in the workplace?
Sexual harassment adversely impacts people and business, it has significant physical and mental health consequences, costs business operations in productivity and efficiency, and can affect the well-being of all employees in the workplace. This review draws together insight on promising global approaches to addressing harassment in the workplace. The knowledge, practice, and accountability of employers and industry to workplace health and safety can therefore bebased on robust evidence of what works to address this sensitive and pervasive issue.

The evidence shows significant convergence around several themes, including:

  • the importance of sustained leadership engagement and commitment;
  • broader efforts to prevent sexual harassment by shifting social norms;
  • whole of organisation’ approaches that include formalised governance approaches and policies, effective
    complaints mechanisms, and ongoing staff training; and
  • embedding organisational approaches in a broader commitment to gender equality.

These review and recommendations are intended to provide evidence-based principles to guide responses and
prevention. Where evidence is lacking, we point to promising practice. Documenting and building on these
recommendations and continually reframing best practice approaches will inform greater efforts to improve working conditions globally.



Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome, or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature which could be expected to make a person feel humiliated, intimidated, or offended.1 Sexual harassment can take many forms including, sexist and sexual hostility, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion.2 It is an act of sexual violence that is often unrecognised and underreported, that disproportionately impacts women, and contributes to creating hostile work environments. 3 Common elements in definitions of sexual harassment in the workplace are:

  1. occurs in the place of work or in a work-related environment;
  2. occurs because of the person’s sex and/or it is related to or about sex;
  3. is unwelcome, unwanted, uninvited, not returned, not mutual; and
  4. affects the work environment itself or terms or conditions of employment.2

Sexual harassment in the workplace has high economic, human, and social costs. Harassment creates a toxic workplace and originates from and deepens gender-based discrimination.


CARE’s Enhancing Women’s Voice to Stop Sexual Harassment (STOP) project, aims to reduce sexual harassment against women in garment factories in Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, by designing and implementing context specific workplace models and mechanisms. The project builds on the model CARE developed in Cambodia, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Package for Garment Factories which includes a workplace policy, an implementation guide, and multimedia training designed to engage women workers. The STOP project has three objectives:

  1. Supporting garment factories to develop effective workplace mechanisms to respond to sexual harassment.
  2. Supporting female garment factory workers to feel safe to report sexual harassment, and through engaging with garment factories, to do so free from negative consequences.
  3. Strengthening the national regulatory environment of factories to promote laws, policies and mechanisms to address sexual harassment in the workplace.

This review was undertaken to gain and share insight on promising global approaches to addressing harassment in the workplace. It takes up the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace and explores its causes and consequences,outlining promising practice and strategies for mitigation. Drawing together empirical research, grey papers, and programmatic case studies, this paper outlines the most recent evidence and approaches, providing foundational thinking to guide policy and programming.


Read the “What Works? Reducing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” review.

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