- Workplace harassment reports are down but the time to close cases is up, according to the 2020 Ethics & Compliance Hotline Benchmark report by NAVEX Global.
- The research, which was conducted "before the worst of the COVID-19 crisis," according to a press release, revealed a 13% increase in case closure time to 45 days. Carrie Penman, NAVEX Global's Chief Risk and Compliance Officer, said a best-practice average for case closure should be 30 to 32 days. A fifth of organizations are taking 100 days or more to close cases, Penman said.
- Additionally, while last year's report showed an increase in harassment reporting to 5% of total reports, this year that number dropped to 4%. That figure "is approaching the percentage of reports received prior to" the #MeToo movement, according to the press release. Penman said this drop could reflect organizational improvements, a return to a standard baseline following a post-#MeToo spike or a reluctance on the part of good-faith reporters to come forward.
The NAVEX report noted that while 31% of reporters come forward within nine days of an incident, "a surprising 20% of reports came in 60 days or more after the incident occurred." Long reporting lag times, according to NAVEX, can occur for a variety of reasons — including retaliation, awareness and the availability of reporting systems — and can make it difficult to effectively complete an investigation.
Clearly, HR departments play a crucial role in reducing and remediating workplace harassment. Unfortunately, a recent study found that many managers and other leaders are not well-prepared to handle harassment claims, bias, bullying and other misconduct. For example, they often don't know what to ask workers who file complaints and aren't always aware of, or don't communicate, the company's anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.
HR can help managers and themselves become better equipped to handle misconduct with thorough training. Additionally, HR can create and enforce strong policies, hold wrongdoers accountable and promptly and thoroughly investigate all complaints.
It's also important for HR to demonstrate to senior management that harassing behaviors have big human and financial costs, and that a head-in-the-sand approach is not helpful.
As the NAVEX researchers noted, "[T]here's no reason to think that workplace harassment is an issue that's gone away — and organizations should emphasize internal processes, work to garner support of leadership and generally embrace cultures that encourage coming forward."