In light of the implementation of the Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act and as part of efforts to protect household workers within the home, The Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA) has indicated that a guide will be developed to help household workers properly report sexual harassment claims.
“In terms of the implementation [of the Act], this is where we have to sit together and look at the situation of the household workers. You are in a workplace but it’s a home. Are we going to leave it up to your employers in individual homes to do a workplace policy for you? No. So, that’s what we’ve been thinking about. At the implementation level, this is how we have to look at it practically. How are we going to protect our household workers within the home?” said Tina Isaak, acting senior sexual harassment investigative officer at BGA.
Isaak was speaking on a panel discussion at the Jamaica Household Workers’ Union 32nd Anniversary and Commemoration for International Domestic Workers’ Day 2023 on Friday (June 16).
“One of the things we’ve been looking at is having a resource guide for household workers that the Bureau of Gender Affairs will develop at the Ministry [of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport] and we’ll [do so] along with the Jamaica Household Workers’ Union,” said Isaak.
“This is something that you will have access to. It will tell you clearly where you can make your report, who is going to take that report, and how you can follow up on that report. That is one of the things that we are thinking of implementing for you as household workers, because your situation is definitely different and it needs more intervention than what the legislation offers as it is now,” she added, speaking to the members of the JHWU.
Though Isaak did not explicitly provide a timeline in which the guide book for reporting sexual harassment will be complete, she stressed the importance of the document being made available for household workers.
Isaak shared that public education and sensitisation of tenets of the legislation is important prior to its operationalisation and that BGA has been playing its part in educating the public about the provisions and what they mean.
She added that while the legislation will protect everyone equally, “we have to start thinking about the equity of it” and asked, “how can the legislation protect those who are most vulnerable?”, noting that the vulnerable population, in this case, also includes household workers.
On June 13, Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, announced that the Sexual Harassment Act is set to commence on July 3.
Grange said that mechanisms are sufficiently in place to enable the efficient operation of the Sexual Harassment Tribunal that will “hear and determine complaints of sexual harassment and make formal judgements based on complaints by a worker of the employer’s failure to act on their complaints.”
For her part, Isaak, shared that the legislation is intended to provide protection to all persons who experience sexual harassment and to ensure that the environments for work, educational institutions, places of residence or accommodations, and of course landlord/tenant relationship are free from sexual harassment. She also said that the Act is intended to clearly articulate avenues of recourse and redress in specific situations.
The legislation was initially rolled out in April 2022.
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