SPAIN’S Equality Ministry is preparing official guidelines on how to behave appropriately to colleagues at work in a bid to tackle Spain’s traditionally ‘machista’ office culture.
The recommendations under consideration will outlaw jokes or comments about sexual appearances, unwanted physical contact and inappropriate flirting.
It comes following a report that shows that 40% of women in Spain say they have suffered sexual harassment with one in five women experiencing it in the workplace.
The guidelines were announced by Equality Minister Irene Montero who said they were prepared under consultation with Spain’s Women’s Institute to promote a ‘zero tolerance’ to sexual harassment in the workplace.
The protocol is designed to serve as a model for companies with more than 50 employees and outlines non-acceptable behaviour and an action plan to detect, investigate and punish offenders.
Innuendo or propositions, inappropriate flirting, suggestive, indirect, or obscene comments, unwanted contact or social media interactions, and jokes or comments about sexual appearance are all examples of behaviour classified as ‘punishable verbal conduct’.
Whereas sharing sexually suggestive or explicit photos, as well as ‘vulgar looks or gestures’ are examples of “non-verbal actions.”
E-mails or messages on social media that are “offensive in nature” and contain “clear sexual content” are also prohibited.
There are also rules against non-consensual contact, “unwanted hugs or kisses” or “excessive physical closeness.”
According to a report drawn up by Spain’s Women’s Institute, sexist jokes are the most frequent form of harassment (83.1%), “sexual compliments and comments” (74.8%), “suggestive gestures or glances” (73.3%), “physical contact” (67.0%), and sexual invitations (30.9%).
The company should have a means of reporting incidents confidentially which should then trigger an internal investigation.
The protocol recommends that the firm create a committee of managerial staff and workers who would be able to take statements from the victim, alleged perpetrator and possible witnesses and decide whether harassment has occurred.
If this has happened the harasser would face a punishment depending on the gravity of the incident, varying from dismissal or ‘transfer of position’ to a ‘formal apology’ if the victim agrees.
The investigation should also support either party going to court. Either due to a criminal offense having occurred or because one of them is against the resolution proposed by the committee.
The protocol also underlines that the issue must be resolved within 3-4 weeks of filing in order to create an environment where women feel heard.
Speed is essential in tackling such workplace complaints according to a CCOO study sponsored by the Ministry. Some 72% of women who have experienced workplace harassment admit not reporting it to employers for fear of punishment or social stigma.
The proposal has been described as ‘absurd’ by the far-right Vox party whose spokesman Iván Espinosa de los Monteros portrayed it as more severe than the ‘strictest catechisms’ and so ‘far from the real problems of Spaniards’ that it was almost ‘comical’.
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