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What is the economic cost of sexual harassment at the workplace?

Apart from the emotional and social cost of sexual harassment, it can also impact on the bottom line in the workplace. Harassment in the workplace can lead to absenteeism, increased turnover and lower job performance and productivity.

A. Productivity:

Victims of sexual harassment may not be able to function at their normal productivity level. If perpetrators are successful in blocking victims from advancing within a company, the company loses out because the best candidate for a given position may not have the opportunity to fill it. Additionally, dealing with sexual harassment incidents and their impacts can take time away from managers’ time to complete their other tasks.

B. Employee morale:

It also decreases employee morale. The threat of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, or the conflict and stress caused by incidents of sexual harassment, can dramatically decrease employee morale.

C. Staff turnover:

Staff turnover can become an issue. Employers may lose talented employees due to sexual harassment or a hostile work environment – not only the victims, but also witnesses or observers, who frequently will leave a workplace in response to their experiences.

Employers may also incur costs due to sick leave, health benefits, monetary damage awards to victims, and legal expenses.

Why do women sometimes not report sexual harassment at the workplace?

There are a number of reasons why some women do not report sexual harassment if it happens to them. These include fear of losing their job, fear of being stigmatised, fear of not being supported by workplace supervisors and/or colleagues, fear of violent or abusive retaliation by the harasser, and fear of having to undergo a formal investigative process with an unsympathetic employer.

Sometimes women don’t report because they think "everyone already knows" and action hasn’t been taken. They have no faith in the system, even if there is a workplace policy in place, and/or strong labour laws to protect them.

There is also the fear of not being taken seriously, or being blamed. Sexual harassment is sometimes excused as a “natural” practice based on simple sexual attraction (i.e. “boys will be boys”).

Sometimes the victim is blamed for being sexually harassed because of her so-called “provocative” dress or behaviour (i.e. “she was asking for it”).

Sexual harassment is also sometimes justified because women are working in jobs traditionally held by men (i.e. “this is men’s work - women don’t belong here”).

In all of these cases, there is little incentive to report sexual harassment.

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