KUCHING (July 26): Every workplace must have a clear policy stressing that no form of sexual harassment would be tolerated, said Minister for Women, Early Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Sarawak Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah.
She added that there must also be a system in place at the workplace for reporting and investigating cases of sexual harassment, and for a range of actions that could be taken against the perpetrators.
The minister stressed that any probe launched must be conducted fairly, and confidentiality to be accorded to both the accuser and the accused, adding that there should be no party seeking retribution on anyone.
According to her, in most abuse cases, the person reporting it is likely to be in a position of less power than the accused.
“Policy is a start, not an end. All employers need to know about it – not just those in their posts when it is launched, but also those who join the company afterwards.
“It (policy) is also needs to be known by the sub-contractors and members of the public who have dealings with the company.
“The workplace is not just a building where the employees sit in,” she said when officiating at the ‘Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment’ programme at Sarawak Energy Bd (SEB) Tower here yesterday.
Fatimah also reminded all about sexual harassment being a serious matter regardless of where it took place – be it at the workplace, on the street or within one’s social and family networks.
She said when sexual harassment ‘is hidden, ignored, tolerated or even in some settings, it is part of the work culture, the firm is hurting itself as well as its employees’.
“Those staff members who are being targeted will be hurting, and it will cause their productivity and loyalty to the firm to drop. It will add to staff turnover and those remaining will be fearful, upset and angry.
“When the public learn about the sexual harassment, the firms that have been found wanting in taking action will be headline news for all the wrong reasons,” she added.
Adding on, Fatimah commended the SEB for taking steps to raise awareness of sexual harassment to ensure that every staff member would be equipped with the necessary knowledge to address and combat this serious issue.
“There may be a lot of things to think through and put in place, but I am confident that SEB has the commitment towards achieving its goal.
“I am so proud of Sarawak Energy – you are facing these challenges and acting by launching your programme today. I am confident you will be a role model within the corporate sector.”
According to Fatimah, Malaysia’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Act 2022 also requires companies, like SEB, to actively educate their employees about and raise their awareness of sexual harassment by displaying relevant posters and materials.
“Furthermore, any company that fails to act against incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace could be fined up to RM50,000 per incident.”
SEB group chief executive officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili was also present at the session.