Code of conduct introduced to prevent sexual harassment in Cyprus

By on 30/07/2018
Cypriot civil servants are to be guided by a new code of conduct on sexual harassment.

Guidance on how to prevent and deal with sexual harassment in the Cypriot civil service has been published by the country’s ombudswoman.

The Commissioner for Administration for Protection of Human Rights (Ombudsman) is investigating eight sexual harassment cases pending since 2015, according to local news website cyprus-mail.com.

Ombudswoman Maria Lottides said that the courts had previously taken the government to task for failing to protect civil servants from harassment.

The code of conduct explains what constitutes such behaviour and gives instructions to employees on how to prevent it, and what to do if it takes place. It lists myths and stereotypes about harassment. It also lists the responsibilities of each authority, including how to prevent harassment, and how to provide support to a victim of harassment. Cases are to be dealt with discreetly, it states.

Legal responsibilities

There are both unofficial and formal ways to investigate such claims, the code notes, with the informal process aimed at addressing improper behaviour before it spirals into sexual harassment.

“Each supervisor, each competent authority and the public administration in general must know that harassment and sexual harassment at the workplace constitute gender discrimination forbidden by law, and that they have the legal responsibility to ensure a safe, dignified, healthy and friendly work environment,” Lottides said.

If employers do not take action, they are jointly responsible for the harassment with the perpetrator, she added.

Protecting women protects organisations

The chairperson of the Gender Equality and Vocational Training Committee, Luiza Zannetou Christodoulidou, said that employers have an obligation to take preventive and punitive measures as soon as they are aware of any harassment. She pointed out that the Republic of Cyprus has previously had to pay compensation for the action of an employee, due to its failure to inform its staff that such behaviour was not acceptable. “It is these gaps that the code will cover,” Christodoulidou added.

Speaking at the launch of the code, labour minister Zeta Emilianidou said that she would promote the code of conduct and asked all authorities to apply it. “It is a very important tool, because for the first time all necessary actions are being provided for anyone to be able to know how to act,” she said.

She added that harassment at work is a disciplinary offence, and that no one should tolerate such behaviour.

The Ombudsman is also preparing a code of conduct for the private sector.

About Catherine Early

Catherine Early is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has worked for the Environmentalist, the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue.

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