Examples of good practice
in preventing and intervening
in sexual harassment
in working life

Methodology and findings

- Fact sheet on the research project -

Authors: Barbara Nägele, Nils Pagels und Filiz Berger (Zoom – Sozialforschung und Beratung GmbH, Göttingen), on behalf of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) Year of publication: 2021

Brief overview

The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) affords comprehensive protection from sexual harassment in employment and occupation (section 3 (4) of the AGG). Nonetheless, sexual harassment in working life remains a serious problem.

A growing number of private companies and public-sector employers are taking active measures to protect their employees from sexual harassment at work.

For the study, examples were researched in the 2020/2021 period of good practice addressing sexual harassment in working life put in place by employers throughout Germany. Out of a total of 120 good practice examples identified, 25 were selected for in-depth analysis. Firstly, the study report discusses the methodology used to research, select and analyse the good practice examples and presents the selection criteria, quality requirements and a needs survey among future users of such a compilation of examples.

Secondly, it identifies the following overarching findings:

  • What motivates employers to take action against sexual harassment?
  • What prevention and intervention approaches do they embrace and how are those implemented in different sectors and corporate structures?
  • What are the overarching findings on the effectiveness, quality and transferability of such action?

An in-depth analysis of 25 examples describes in each case the employer’s motivation, how the measures are implemented, looks at the integration and effectiveness of each measure and provides tips for its transfer.

Main results

Results of the needs survey among companies, associations and multipliers

Too many companies still have no adequate strategies for addressing sexual harassment. Especially small and medium-sized companies were unlikely to have any measures in place against sexual harassment. Essentially, this issue was a taboo. Moreover, few people were aware that sexual harassment as defined in section 3 of the Equal Treatment Act (AGG) is covered by the AGG. Companies and organisations tended to only actively address the issue of sexual harassment when prompted to do so by concrete incidents of sexual harassment and, as a result, adverse consequences for the company, such as resignations.

Incentives for addressing the issue are:

  • Public debates and increased awareness among the general public such as # Metoo
  • Themed campaigns and prompting from outside, such as from ministries, chambers, unions
  • AGG and employers’ statutory obligation
  • Duty of care, inclusion of the concept under safety and health at work as well as health protection
  • Positive effects and benefits for companies, such as improved working climate and lower rates of illness-related work absence
  • Positive company label
  • Active actors in the company promote the topic

Results of the overarching research findings and in-depth analysis of the examples

Often a company implements more than one measure, because sets of measures or overall strategies possess greater and more sustained efficiency. Employers seek out bespoke measures that are tailored to fit their work context and corporate culture.

They contextualise measures against sexual harassment into various topics:

  • AGG and ensuring a non-discriminatory working environment
  • Equality/advancement of women and the fight against sexism and violence against women
  • Sexual abuse of persons in one’s charge
  • Diversity measures
  • Good working atmosphere and conflict resolution
  • Safety and health at work, health protection and risk management
  • Protection from violence and threat management
  • Compliance

The research identified about 120 examples from companies and organisations. Most examples stem from public service, i.e. Federal, Land and local administrations. Universities and (university) hospitals are also strongly represented. Theatre and film institutions also account for a relatively high number. A scoping review was performed to select 25 examples for in-depth analysis.

Certain sectors (trades, retail, hotel and restaurant sector) and small companies were not represented at all. Small and micro-companies only have a minimally differentiated corporate structure. However, differentiated responsibilities in human resources and staff representation tend to be the prerequisites for the development of such measures. One conclusion was that research was needed into how small and micro-companies handle cases of sexual harassment and which options for prevention and intervention might be feasible – also examining the potential for cross-institutional approaches.

Options for action

Throughout Germany, a large number of exemplary and transferable action options exist for the prevention of, intervention in and sensitisation to sexual harassment in the workplace. These approaches are suitable for private companies, non-profit organisations, the public service and various sectors and company sizes alike.

A rich diversity of good practice measures for prevention and intervention can be found in the following areas:

  • Guidelines and codes of conduct
  • Further training and instruction
  • Information and sensitisation activities
  • Advice and support for those affected
  • Shopfloor or works agreements
  • Staff surveys
  • Risk assessments
  • Threat management
  • Auditing

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