Are you Changing HR Policies in the #metoo Era?


As those of us in the recruiting industry know, work norms are always shifting, but the #metoo movement is resulting in a systemic change, and its impact is now being felt on the front lines of human resources departments everywhere. HR practitioners have always walked a fine line, working to serve the interests of the company and those of the staff, while being committed to upholding a high level of ethics and confidentiality. The #metoo movement highlights these challenges.

In The Workplace

Over the years some of us have witnessed inappropriate behaviour ignored by management because the perpetrator is a top performer or senior manager; in these situations, the principled HR professional faces an untenable position.

53% of Women Experienced “Unwanted Sexual Pressure”

Over 1-in-10 Canadians – both men and women – say sexual harassment of women in their workplace is “common”.1 This behaviour cuts across all professions and industries and any business leader that believes they are immune could set themselves up for a harsh surprise.

Behaviors Constituting Harassment

One of the most significant effects of the #metoo movement has been publicizing the definition of harassment. Victims who were reluctant to speak up were confused about what constitutes inappropriate conduct will be more likely to do so now that these behaviours are being discussed more openly.

The first step towards preventing sexual harassment is for employers and employees to be fully informed about what behaviours constitute harassment, which can range from staring to unwelcome remarks, or any kind of unwanted physical contact, amongst other behaviours.
In building an understanding about what constitutes sexual harassment, it’s helpful to review provincial legislation, which applies to public service employees 2

Accessing Sources at Work

Most corporate policies make it the duty of the human resources department to respond a complaint or when an employer observes or hears statements that suggest harassment, an ethical violation, or discrimination. It’s important, however, to train your managers and supervisors in how to recognize a situation even when it’s not brought to anyone’s attention. Keep your ears open for the “open secrets” and whisper campaigns about certain individuals.

Future of #metoo in the Workplace

Most leaders would say one of the most important assets of their business is the ability to attract and keep talent. As the head of a Canadian recruitment organization, I believe that candidates will increasingly be making it part of their hiring process to inquire about harassment policies as well as the record of the company for promoting women into positions of power. In the ongoing competition for talent, being prepared to answer those questions is one part of the equation; the attitudes of leadership and their proven support for inclusive corporate culture is the other part.

If your company is looking to hire a senior HR Manager to implement these policies in the workplace contact our Senior Recruiter, Karen Epp at [email protected].

You can also read the recent blog, Women in PR: Know your worth seminar. It is vital to be investing in the professional careers of women in your organization, giving them an opportunity to market themselves and know their worth.

1 Abacus Data,
2 HRM Online,