Soon, victims of harassment within and outside of the workplace will find it easier and faster to get a remedy as the Ministry of Law sets up the new Protection from Harassment Court (PHC).
The new court, which will be set up if Parliament passes the Protection from Harassment Act Amendment Bill, will oversee all criminal and civil matters relating to harassment.
The initiative will see victims of harassment obtaining relief such as Protection Orders (POs) and Expedited Protection Orders (EPOs) within a shorter timeframe.
The new court will also hear applications for EPOs within 42 to 72 hours of the application. If there is a risk of violence or actual violence, the PHC will hear the application within 24 hours.
The POs and EPOs will now also be extended to protect the people related to the victim such as family members, or close friends, as these people are often at risk of violence from the harasser as well.
Should the harasser breach the PO or EPO, the amended law will make it an arrestable offence in cases where there is hurt, intimidation or continued harassment. And if found guilty, the harasser can face up to $10,000 in fine and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
Prevention Better Than Cure
Workplace harassment can occur when a person or group of people at the workplace demonstrates behaviour that causes alarm or distress to another party.
Some examples of workplace harassment behaviour include using threatening, abusive or insulting language, comments or other non-verbal-gestures, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and stalking.
For a start, you will need to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from ever happening in the first place by protecting yourself and keeping away from all potential harassment situations.
Some tips from the Tripartite Advisory for Workplace Harassment:
- Keep a distance from people who exhibit unacceptable social behaviour, where reasonably possible.
- Be familiar with workplace harassment-related procedures in your organisation.
- Adopt a buddy system in situations where your personal safety might be compromised.
- Summon help using pre-arranged distress signal or other appropriate means in situations where personal safety may be compromised.
- Escalate or report potential cases to the appropriate parties promptly.
But let’s say harassment has already occurred and you’re now a victim of workplace harassment. What can you do besides making a police report and getting criminal or civil remedies from PHC?
Dealing with the Harassment Yourself
Upon recognising that you’re caught in a harassment situation, you can consider diffusing the situation on your own. You should do this only when you believe it’s safe and reasonable to do so. Otherwise, seek formal or informal help immediately.
Getting Informal Help
If you’re uncomfortable in confronting the harasser, approach him or her with a trusted person, colleague or friend.
You can also seek help from someone who is trained or knowledgeable in defusing difficult situations.
Getting Formal Help
If you need the intervention of your organisation to stop the harassment, you should report the encounter to your supervisor, manager, HR or a neutral party with authority within the organisation.
Your company should intervene quickly upon receiving the report. But if you are uncomfortable in reporting it to your management, you can also seek advice from your union, association or professional organisation.