In South Africa, it is far more common for female employees to fall victim to Sexual Harassment in the workplace. They are often too afraid to speak up or break the silence out of fear of losing their jobs.

It is important for all female employees to be aware of the fact that there is legislation in South Africa which offers protection from discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the workplace and also to be well informed as to what can be classified as Sexual Harassment.

The Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (hereinafter “EEA”), provides protection for all employees in the work place. On the 4th of May 1998, a Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in terms of Section 203 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (hereinafter “LRA”) was published.

The Code of Good Practice on the Handling of Sexual Harassment , as amended has defined Sexual harassment as:

“the unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. The unwanted nature of sexual harassment distinguishes it from behaviour that is welcome and mutual.”

Sexual attention becomes Sexual Harassment if:

a. “The behaviour is persisted in, although a single incident of harassment can constitute sexual harassment; and/or
b. The recipient has made it clear that the behaviour is considered offensive; and/or
c. The perpetrator should have known that the behaviour is regarded as unacceptable.”

What protection is offered to female employees who fall victim to Sexual Harassment in the work place?

Section 6 of the EEA provides that: no person may unfairly discriminate against another” and that “harassment of an employee is a form of unfair discrimination and is prohibited on any one, or a combination of grounds of unfair discrimination”.

Sexual Harassment is specifically defined as a form of discrimination on one or more of the above grounds and is now expressly forbidden in terms of Section 6(3) of EEA.