Spanish football's #MeToo moment

Moira Grassick - Chief Operating Officer

August 28 2023

First published: August 28th 2023
Last updated: August 28th 2023

The behaviour of the Spanish football federation’s president following Spain’s recent Women’s World Cup win has overshadowed the team’s triumph.

As the team celebrated their win, Luis Rubiales joined the players and kissed midfielder, Jenni Hermoso on the lips.

The incident has since divided Spanish football. The players have backed Hermoso and stated that they will not play while Rubiales remains in his position. Rubiales on the other hand remains defiant and awaits possible disciplinary action pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.

Prevention is better than cure

The incident highlights the risks for employers around sexual harassment in the workplace.

In Ireland, the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 impose specific duties on employers to prevent harassment in the workplace.

There is also a Code of Practice that provides guidance for both employers and employees on how to prevent bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The aim of the legislation and the associated statutory guidance is to highlight that prevention of workplace sexual harassment is better than cure.

This recent high-profile incident demonstrates how disruptive a case of harassment can be for employers. The focus has completely shifted away from the historic achievement of the Spanish team to finger pointing about Rubiales’ behaviour.

Not only is the Spanish football federation under scrutiny for its management of the aftermath of the kiss, it’s also facing questions about why it failed to prevent such an incident from happening in the first place.

The lesson for Irish employers to learn from this incident is that prevention is better than cure.

When celebrations get out of hand

There is a direct comparison to be made between what happened in the wake of the Spanish team’s victory and employers who arrange work-related celebrations.

A sales team might celebrate hitting a target or the whole business might convene for a summer barbeque or Christmas party.

This type of event tends to be particularly high risk for employers and it’s a good idea for management to remind everyone of the standards of behaviour that are acceptable and examples of what is not acceptable.

The challenge for employers is communicating this message in a way that shows the priority is to promote respect. An excessively authoritarian tone risks creating a divide between management and staff.

How to prevent workplace harassment

The most effective way to prevent workplace harassment is to foster a positive workplace culture that minimises the likelihood of employees being the victims of sexual harassment or any type of unwanted behaviour.

To create this culture, employers need to take steps to ensure all staff are clear that there is a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment in your workplace.

This can involve investing time (and money on third-party expertise if necessary) in developing a robust anti-harassment policy that is tailored to the type of workplace the employer operates in and communicated effectively to staff.

If an allegation of harassment is made, employers need to ensure that there are fair procedures in place to deal with the issue, and that there is always a clear response to complaints.

Line managers also need training around how to encourage positive behaviours and values as well as how to manage a complaint.

Expert HR assistance with creating a positive workplace culture

Employers with no HR support and employers who have never had to deal with a sexual harassment claim are the most vulnerable to suffering the negative outcomes of a poorly managed harassment claim.

If you need help taking steps to prevent sexual harassment in your workplace, call one of our HR experts today.

Creating a workplace culture that promotes respect and inclusivity is the most effective way to prevent harassment-related incidents.

Speak to a Peninsula HR expert today on 1800 719 216

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