Cost of the #MeToo movement has businesses scrambling to prevent sexual harassment

Dealing with sexual harassment can be a difficult, lengthy and unavoidable cost to companies.

But as organisations become aware of more subtle forms of harassment, they also find secondary costs to their businesses.

Josephine Wintle, a human resources consultant with PeopleScape, said most workplaces would have strong anti-harassment policies.

“But we’ve actually seen an increase in the reporting of these experiences within Australian organisations,” she said.

PeopleScape has been solicited by workplaces trying to stop sexual harassment and bullying before it happens.

Ms Wintle said her clients often had entrenched belief systems or weren’t self-aware when it came to harassment.

Her work has typically involved looking inside the organisation for a solution, but outside of business there’s an entire movement demanding change.

Businesses are bearing the brunt of increased harassment complaints but researchers say that’s a good thing.

The cost of #MeToo

Organisational psychologist Dr Michael Leiter has linked the international #MeToo movement to his research.

“People are making a very clear statement,” he said.

“Being treated like a full-fledged, valued member of the work group, whatever your demographic qualities might be, is vital.”

He said the increased awareness of everyday harassment had exacted a cost on companies.

“Dealing with a workplace bullying or harassment complaint on average costs organisations $27,000 in terms of the direct cost,” he said.

“Employees in that kind of situation are often off work for about 10 weeks, so that’s a lot of potential being set aside.

“Nursing administrators, say, it costs them around $25,000 to hire and put in place a registered nurse.

“Hospitals have a lot of nurses.”

Western Health in Victoria has contracted Ms Wintle and Dr Leiter to shake up workplace culture at its hospitals.

In the healthcare sector Dr Leiter’s research has shown a direct correlation between internal conflict and patient dissatisfaction.

He said there would be similar costs to companies which lose customers.

“People notice. People have very refined capacities to perceive what’s going on in social relationships.”

Financial repercussions

Data has projected dire financial repercussions to businesses due to harassment — potentially millions of dollars with larger industries.

A 2012 government report into workplace bullying estimated its cost to the economy was between $6 billion and $36 billion every year.

The Australian Human Rights Commission recently announced a national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment.

But despite the financial repercussions to businesses, Dr Leiter said there was no question that increased complaints were a positive thing.

“It’s quite unlikely that you’re the only person in the organisation that has that problem,” he said.

“Research over the past decade has shown that you don’t have to look at the extreme, aggressive behaviour to understand what’s going on.

Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading article here.