Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 251


EOC Chairperson explains in “Letter to Hong Kong” why organisations must establish policy to fight sexual harassment

Following the EOC’s recent publication of a study that indicated a significant increase last year in the number of National Sports Associations with an anti-sexual harassment policy, questions have emerged over the practical importance of written policies in combatting sexual harassment. Speaking on the programme Letter to Hong Kong on RTHK Radio 1 on 30 January 2021, Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin, EOC Chairperson addressed these doubts and explained why policy matters.

“Having a policy in place serves as a crucial first step,” Mr Chu said. “A good policy should include not only a zero tolerance statement and a comprehensible definition of sexual harassment, but also a clear complaint-handling procedure, a designated contact, and an express assurance that complainants wouldn't be penalised for coming forward in good faith, among other elements.”

In fact, under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, employers will be held liable for any unlawful act of sexual harassment committed by their employees in the course of employment unless they can prove that they have taken “reasonably practicable steps” to prevent the act. While ultimately, in the event of a civil claim, the Court will consider the specific circumstances of the case and decide whether the steps taken, if any, are sufficient, it is in the interest of organisations to formulate a comprehensive policy, ensure it is transparent and properly implemented, as well as provide training for staff on a periodic basis.

Mr Chu also expressed hopes that the EOC’s newly established Anti-Sexual Harassment Unit, tasked with operating a hotline service (2106 2222) dedicated to enquiries about sexual harassment and proposing law reform to fill protection gaps, will play a central role in enhancing support for people affected by sexual harassment in Hong Kong.