JYY’s action plan for preventing and addressing inappropriate behaviour addresses inappropriate behaviour, harassment and bullying in the workplace, and includes instructions for both the employer and employee to prevent and deal with these situations. The action plan will be updated if necessary.
1. Definitions of harassment and bullying
Sexual harassment is defined as a verbal, non-verbal or physical unwanted conduct of a sexual nature by which a person’s psychological or physical integrity is violated intentionally or factually, in particular by creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere. Sexual harassment is considered discrimination under the Equality Act.
Sexual harassment includes sexually charged behaviour, such as looks, comments or physical advances that are unwanted or unpleasant. It is always the person who has been harassed who determines whether another person’s behaviour is acceptable or not.
Sexual harassment can be expressed in the following ways:
- sexually suggestive gestures or expressions (e.g. appraising somebody from head to toe)
- indecent talk, puns and comments or questions referring to body parts, clothing or private life (e.g. an offhand personal comment about someone’s looks)
- pornographic material, sexually suggestive letters, emails, text messages or phone calls (e.g. private message sent through the organisation’s internal chat platform on how sexy someone always looks)
- physical contact (e.g. giving someone a shoulder rub without asking permission when they complain about a stiff neck)
- suggestions or demands for sexual intercourse or other kinds of sexual activity (e.g. when a colleague with whom someone has worked closely suggests that they should spend the night together at a conference)
Under the law, behaviour only becomes sexual harassment once the receiver of the unwanted behaviour has made their view known to the perpetrator, either in person or through their manager or HR department, and the harassment continues regardless. The employer becomes responsible for eliminating the harassment from the moment they receive information about the harassment that the employee has experienced. Immediate intervention is essential. The law also refers to rape or attempted rape as a form of sexual harassment, although these are criminal offences provided for in the Criminal Code.
Gender-based harassment means unwanted conduct that is not of a sexual nature but which is related to the gender of a person, their gender identity or gender expressions, and by which the person’s psychological or physical integrity is intentionally or factually violated and an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere is created. Gender-based harassment is considered discrimination under the Equality Act.
Gender-based harassment can be expressed in the following ways:
- degrading talk concerning another person’s gender, such as “It’s so typical of you men…”, “Trans people are always…” or “You never know with women…”
- offending someone by refusing to work with them because of their gender, gender identity or gender expression
- bullying someone in the workplace or at school through language or conduct that refers to a person’s gender, gender identity or gender expression, and that a person experiences as isolating them from the rest of the community
In all these situations, it is the receiver of the behaviour who determines when humorous language referring to gender, gender identity or gender expression is offensive.
Harassment in the workplace
Workplace harassment refers to a long-term, repeated, inappropriate and negative treatment of one or more members of the work community. A person who is being bullied is pushed into a defenceless position.
Harassment in the workplace can be expressed in the following ways:
- work-related inappropriate treatment, such as withholding information and unfairly criticising work performance
- negative treatment of an individual, such as denigration, social isolation, shouting, insulting and ridicule under the guise of humour
- Subjective experience
In cases of sexual and gender-based harassment, the person who has been harassed determines whether the behaviour is desired or not. The employer becomes responsible for eliminating the harassment from the moment they receive information about any harassment experienced by an employee. If any party brings the matter to court, it is the court that decides whether harassment according to the definition under the law has taken place.
The website of the Ombudsman for Equality states: ”It is, however, primarily the responsibility of the victim of the harassment to make the perpetrator aware that their actions are not desired, unless there are special reasons to the contrary. If the harassment for example includes threats of weakening the victim’s position if they do not submit to the harassing behaviour, then no importance should be placed on whether or not the victim expresses that the behaviour is undesired. In situations where the perpetrator should have exercised judgement and should have known that their behaviour was disturbing and unwanted, the victim cannot be considered to have a responsibility to express to the perpetrator how they feel about the perpetrator’s behaviour.”
The prevention of sexual harassment is one of the employer’s duties.
It is the employer’s responsibility to secure a safe work environment for all employees. It is in the best interests of JYY that both employees and outside actors feel welcomed, involved and can safely work within the organisation or interact with the products or services of the organisation at its facilities or events.
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that each new employee starting at JYY is familiarised with the guidelines and routines of this action plan.
The action plan should also be reviewed regularly with all the personnel to ensure that everyone is aware of the content of the action plan.
The employer must ensure that the action plan is available to all employees electronically.
When an employer becomes aware of potential harassment, they must investigate what has happened and take appropriate measures to stop the harassment. The employer is guilty of discrimination as defined in the Equality Act if they neglect to take steps available to eliminate the harassment.
You are the one who determines your own boundaries on what is appropriate behaviour. By standing up to harassment you can encourage open discussion at your workplace about what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.
Read your organisation’s guidelines and policies on preventing and intervening in sexual harassment so that you know your rights and feel safe to report any incidents.
You should always be sensitive, not only to direct verbal communication but also to other non-verbal signs that may reveal that your behaviour is making another person uncomfortable. Help improve the working environment for all at the workplace by learning to take others into account.
Read the situation. Things that you have intended as a compliment can be highly awkward or unwanted by the recipient. We are all different and it is important to take the other person into account even if you mean well by your comments. If you tell a joke, make a compliment or touch someone, pay attention to their reactions.
- Did they stay silent?
- Did they laugh nervously?
- Did they look uncomfortable or anxious?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the chances are that your comment or behaviour feels unpleasant or intrusive to them. Stop acting that way and avoid similar comments or behaviour in the future.
Don’t protest. If your colleague feels that you have crossed the line with your use of language or physically, or that you have contributed to a frightening, hostile, offensive, humiliating or unpleasant atmosphere and asks you to stop, do not try to defend your actions or challenge your colleague’s views or experience. Stop and apologise. Remember how difficult it can be to bring up this type of issue and be respectful of a colleague who has had the courage to speak to you directly. By reacting correctly, you can be supportive of a corporate culture where difficult issues can be raised without the whistle-blower being treated like they are the problem. In a positive corporate culture, even minor misconduct is taken seriously in order to prevent a culture of silence from ever taking root in the workplace.
3. Guidelines and routines
Employees have the right not to be harassed by their managers and colleagues. This includes everything work-related, including business trips, company parties and any interactions between colleagues. The perpetrator may be a colleague or a manager, but also a contractor, customer, visitor, client or organisation member.
Procedure for the person who has been harassed
If you encounter harassment, inappropriate treatment or bullying in any of the above situations:
- Speak up. You are the one who determines your own boundaries on what is appropriate behaviour. By standing up to harassment you can encourage open discussion at your workplace about what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.
- Document what happened. Write down what has happened and when it happened. Being able to cite specific events and the time and place will give your report extra credibility if you are challenged. If there were other people present, talk to them and save all messages, images, videos and any other evidence that supports your report when you take the matter further.
- Inform your manager, their manager, JYY’s harassment contact person, occupational safety representative or the Chair of the Board as soon as possible. The employer is required by law to stop the harassment when brought to the attention of the employer. The employer is guilty of discrimination as defined in the Equality Act if they neglect to take steps available to eliminate the harassment.
- If the perpetrator is the employer themselves (for example the CEO, a member of the Board or another person with a similar position) then the victim does not have to inform another representative of the employer separately about the discrimination for it to be considered prohibited discrimination. In this case, a victim of harassment can inform, for example, JYY’s harassment contact person, another manager, the union or the Ombudsman for Equality.
- If your employer fails to take sufficient action, report it to your union or the Ombudsman for Equality.
Procedure for the manager
- Discuss the harassment experience individually with those involved as soon as possible.
- Acting quickly shows that the workplace has zero tolerance on harassment. Also take into account the wishes of the person being harassed, but remember the duty of the employer to act.
- Take notes during these discussions.
- If possible, arrange a meeting with all parties, as appropriate, and if all parties voluntarily agree to it.
- If you find out that the harassment has actually happened, take immediate action to stop the harassment. The employer may give a perpetrator a notification or warning, transfer them to other duties or another location, or terminate of cancel their employment contract.
- Follow up on the situation. Make sure that the harassment has stopped. Schedule a follow-up meeting with the perpetrator within six months of the incident. Arrange a meeting with the harassed person according to their wishes and needs.
- If the harassment continues, the measures you have taken have been insufficient. Consider taking further steps.
- The victim of harassment informs about the harassment.
- The employer (and, if necessary, the harassment contact person) discusses individually with each party and minutes of these meetings are drawn up.
- If all parties agree, the matter will be discussed together with all parties and minutes of the meeting are drawn up.
- The employer takes necessary measures to stop the harassment.
- If necessary, the adequacy of the measures will be monitored in follow-up meetings that will be agreed with all parties and scheduled within six months.
4. Guidelines and recommendations in cases of harassment where the perpetrator is an outsider or a user of services and products
Sexual and gender-based harassment may also take place between two members of JYY, tenants of the Kortepohja Student Village, sub-contractors of JYY or visitors. It is in the best interests of JYY that its services and products are not associated with harassment. JYY can prevent any kind of harassment of its members, tenants and contractors by informing in advance about the organisation’s zero tolerance policy on harassment (in marketing, website or mailings) and on location (by signs or verbally).
If JYY personnel become aware of any suspicion of harassment within the members, services or sub-contractors of JYY, they must immediately inform the employer and take action to stop the harassment.
In these situations, the employer will, if possible, follow the routines described in Section 3 and ensure that the harassment does not continue.
If there is any suspicion that the situation may fulfil the elements of a crime, the personnel and occupational safety manager of JYY encourage the victim of harassment to file a criminal complaint.
FIBS & Ekvalita 2018. Zero tolerance of sexual harassment.
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 2016.
APPENDIX A: Key legislation governing sexual and gender-based harassment
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT (738/2002)
Section 28 – Harassment
“If harassment or other inappropriate treatment of an employee occurs at work and causes hazards or risks to the employee’s health, the employer, after becoming aware of the matter, shall by available means take measures for remedying this situation.”
Section 18 – Employee’s general obligations
“Employees shall avoid such harassment and other inappropriate treatment of other employees at the workplace which causes hazards or risks to their safety or health.”
EQUALITY ACT (609/1986)
Section 7 – Prohibition of discrimination
“Sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and any order or instruction to engage in discrimination based on gender shall be deemed to constitute discrimination under this Act.”
Section 8(d) – Harassment in the workplace
“The action of an employer shall be deemed to constitute discrimination prohibited under this Act if, upon receiving information that an employee has been a victim of sexual or other gender-based harassment in the workplace, the employer neglects to take the steps available to eliminate the harassment.”
NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT (1325/2014)
Section 8 – Prohibition of discrimination
“No one may be discriminated against on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. Discrimination is prohibited, regardless of whether it is based on a fact or assumption concerning the person him/herself or another.”
“In addition to direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, denial of reasonable accommodation as well as an instruction or order to discriminate constitute discrimination as referred to in this Act.”
Section 14 – Harassment
“The deliberate or de facto infringement of the dignity of a person is harassment, if the infringing behaviour relates to a reason referred to in section 8(1), and as a result of the reason, a degrading or humiliating, intimidating, hostile or offensive environment towards the person is created by the behaviour.”
“An employer’s actions are to be considered discrimination if the employer, after having been informed that an employee in their employment was subjected to harassment as referred to in subsection 1, neglects to take action to remove the harassment.”
THE CRIMINAL CODE OF FINLAND (509/2014)
Section 5(a) – Sexual harassment
” A person who, by touching, commits a sexual act towards another person that is conducive to violating the right of this person to sexual self-determination, shall be sentenced, unless punishment is provided elsewhere in this Chapter for the act, for sexual harassment to a fine or to imprisonment for at most six months.”
APPENDIX B: Checklist for the employer in case of harassment or bullying
When you become aware of potential harassment or bullying in the workplace, make sure you take at least the following steps:
- Discuss with the victim of harassment or bullying. Find out how the victim wants the case to be dealt with. Take notes of the discussion.
- Discuss with the person accused of harassment or bullying. Take notes of the discussion.
- Find out whether all parties are willing to resolve the situation in a joint discussion. If so, arrange a joint discussion. Take notes of the discussion.
- Take the necessary measures to stop harassment. If a possible joint discussion fails to come to an agreement, consider the appropriate course of action. The employer may, for example, give a perpetrator a notification or warning, transfer them to other duties or another location, or terminate or cancel their employment contract.
- Follow up on the situation. Agree with the victim of harassment or bullying how they will inform about the situation in the future if the harassment or bullying does not stop. Schedule a follow-up meeting with the perpetrator no later than six months from the incident.
- If the harassment continues, the measures you have taken have been insufficient. Consider taking further steps.
APPENDIX C: Template for the employer for discussions held with the receiver(s) and perpetrator(s) of harassment
- Describe why the meeting is held, who are attending and why (e.g. employer representatives, JYY’s harassment contact person, writer of the memo).
- Find out what has happened and how the persons involved see the situation. Always remember at the beginning of a discussion to give the person an opportunity to tell their own perspective of the situation in peace.
- Tell the other party’s understanding of the situation, if you have been given permission to do so.
- Find out how the party wants the matter to be addressed in the future. Can their report be shared in writing or orally with the other party? Will they voluntarily agree to a joint discussion between all parties to try to resolve the situation together?
- Explain the employer’s legal obligation to stop harassment or bullying.
- Describe the possible options or measures to be taken in the situation.
- Agree on how to monitor the situation.
- Make sure that the person knows who to turn to if they need more help. These include, for example,
- occupational health care;
- JYY’s harassment contact persons or occupational safety representative;
- helplines (e.g. the Crisis Center Mobile Jyväskylä, Victim Support Finland, Rape Crises Centre Tukinainen);
- trade union or the Ombudsman for Equality.
APPENDIX D: Template for discussions
Persons present: Names (and titles, if applicable)
Topic: Description of the topic
A description of what happened:
Write down as accurately as possible what has happened, where and when.
Also write down any witnesses, evidence, written materials, etc.
Write down what you have agreed about the proceedings.
Can the description of the recorded situation be shared in writing or orally with the other party?
Will the parties agree to a joint discussion?
Write down how the employer intends to act in order to stop the harassment or bullying.
Write down the schedule for implementing the agreed actions and how they will be communicated.
Monitoring the situation
Write down how the agreed actions are monitored and who is responsible for monitoring them.
Also, write down the way of how you will communicate with the person in case the problems continue.
Write down where the person has been encouraged to contact in case they need more help (e.g. occupational health care, JYY’s harassment contact persons, helplines, etc.)