The concern is that interpersonal misconduct such as discrimination, bullying, and harassment will now move online and such figures can be expected to peak during the pandemic.The pandemic had already seen a rise in face-to-face discrimination. Trade unions have already been forced to warn of an increase in discrimination at work, particularly against people of Asian heritage as a result of Coronavirus. Meanwhile, advice from ACAS goes so far as to say: “Employers must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity”. Last year it was revealed that 1 in 4 adults had experienced cyberbullying and in the workplace, up to 75% of workplace misconduct goes unreported, highlighting the need for immediate action to tackle misconduct. 3. How can we sustain a workplace culture moving beyond the crisis? Whether or not the pandemic marks an epochal shift in the relationship between humans and technology or even the interaction between humans, the need for safeguards to protect the mental health of the masses has never been more significant. It is clear that some level of human interaction is needed and technology will not replace this, but it can act as a helping hand rather than a hindrance. The time for new solutions that replace outdated and ineffective tools to create a workplace culture of speaking up and rebuilding trust between employees and their organisations has come. To address these concerns, it is important to: ● Remind your employees of your organisation’s discrimination and harassment policies and ensure that these are adapted for a remote-first culture (i.e. how they apply to discrimination across messaging apps) and are easily available. ● Encourage a speak up culture: stigmatising issues (such as with race-related discrimination due to COVID-19) can be challenging for employees to report. Without effective reporting tools in place, many will suffer in silence. ● Take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment: Typically, employers will only avoid liability in the event of a discrimination case if they can show they have taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to protect employees, such as implementing an effective and secure solution for reporting sensitive issues that take place in person or digitally. Only with these safeguards in place, will workplace culture survive.
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