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Guideline on sexually transgressive behaviour in the workplace is not strict enough

Sexually transgressive behaviour in the workplace must be dealt with more strictly, according to Government Commissioner for Sexual Transgressive Behaviour Mariëtte Hamer upon her appointment in early 2022. A year later, her 'Handreiking meldingen van seksueel grensoverschrijdend gedrag op de werkvloer' (Guideline for reports of sexually transgressive behaviour in the workplace) was published. A 'soft paper' that lacks strict measures according to Maartje Govaert and Professor of Labour Law Stefan Sagel.

Employer is unable to intervene 

The guideline 'fails to provide employers with a firm package of sanctions', Govaert and Sagel argue in Dutch newspaper FD. 'The measures range from an informal conversation, mediation, and conciliation to a group discussion or ultimately a corrective meeting.' Sanctions such as dismissal or transfer are not mentioned. Govaert and Sagel call it a ‘polder approach’, an approach based on reaching a consensus, that is not always appropriate when it comes to sexually transgressive behaviour. It could become a problem for employers who want to take stricter action: 'You can almost hear the lawyer say: Hamer doesn't even mention those measures, so shouldn't a milder approach have sufficed in the case at hand?' 

Double chilling effect 

They refer to a 'chilling effect' where there is no intervention because the employer is unable to take proper action. 'If their intervention is too strict, they’ll be hit on the head with the Guideline, but if their intervention is too lenient, they won’t have done enough to ensure a safe working environment.' Govaert and Sagel also fear that the Guideline will have a negative impact on victims. 'If a meeting with the perpetrator is expected to be part of the procedure (...) this will deter many of them from making a report.' Feelings of shame or a relationship of subordination are likely to arise, preventing people from filing a report. 'This creates a double chilling effect'.


The full article (€) is available on the website of Dutch newspaper FD.

Image by Gabriëlle Henderson via Unsplash

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