Red Stripe ahead of the game

AS several private sector entities update their policies to reflect the requirements under the new sexual harassment legislation, one of the island’s leading companies, Red Stripe, is confident that it is already ahead of the game in fostering a safe, respectful, and inclusive work environment.

According to officials of Red Stripe, the provisions of the Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2021, which took effect on July 3, 2023, closely mirror the principles that drive its corporate culture.

The aim of the Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2021, is to protect all Jamaicans in the workplace, when renting property, conducting business or in any other daily interactions.

It introduces a structured redress system for individuals who have encountered sexual harassment and ensures victims are protected against discrimination when reporting harassment incidents.

Red Stripe says its commitment to workplace protection started with its clear and comprehensive definition of sexual harassment which is: “Any unwarranted, unwanted approach, verbal or non-verbal, physical or psychological, that one person does to another that another person believes is suggestive or of a sexual nature”.

According to Judon Bowden, head of human resources at Red Stripe, the company’s focuses on maintaining a culture of respect, inclusivity, and equality.

“When the Government established their framework, we looked at ours to see what elements they had that we didn’t have and made slight updates. But most of the provisions that the Government has identified we already had in place,” said Bowden.

“This policy extends on Red Stripe’s Human Rights Policy and is built on the value we place on caring for people. When we say we care for people, it means respecting all people’s dignity and human rights.

“This overarching framework speaks to how we do business, ensuring that from a code of business conduct standpoint, we are firm on our commitments to local standards like the new Sexual Harassment Act and international standards, given that we are a Heineken-operated company,” added Bowden.

He said Red Stripe places great importance on empowering its employees to speak up when they have experienced or witnessed harassment.

Bowden further outlined that Red Stripe encourages its employees to exercise their freedom to speak up if they have experienced or witnessed harassment and let their voice be heard so the correct channels can be engaged to remedy any issue that goes against its culture of caring for people.

He said the company has also implemented a system of “trusted advisors” who are people nominated by fellow employees who undergo specialised training to provide confidential guidance on harassment-related issues.

Employees are also encouraged to know the policy and their rights through continuous education and support mechanisms.

“We provide the fora and resources for continuous education. Once per year, outside of orientation, we do a workshop with leaders to reinforce our zero-tolerance approach to any form of harassment. Every two years, we anonymously canvas the organisation to get a sense of whether people are experiencing or seeing forms of harassment in the workplace, and we use that feedback to zone in on areas of improvement for the policy,” said Bowden.

Offering advice to other organisations embarking on similar initiatives, Bowden said, “If you’re values-led, it allows you to create a programme around sexual harassment avoidance that everybody would subscribe to, both employees and customers.

“I also encourage organisations to go beyond compliance and think about the culture they want employees to experience daily.”