How Will You Handle Your Harveys? Panel Discussion 4 December 2017

How Will You Handle Your Harveys? Panel Discussion 4 December 2017

Managing Harassment in the Workplace

There is a new climate. Employees are speaking up and tolerance for harassment is down. In the face of changing attitudes, companies cannot afford to wait until there is a crisis to put the right policies and practices into place.

Learn from experts on the best practices for creating a safe work environment and managing workplace harassment.

This event will be hosted by Bloomberg, in partnership with AWARE and TSMP Law Corporation who are the sponsors of refreshments. Refreshments will be offered from 6pm.

Note: This session is ‘off-the-record’

Please RSVP here to ensure your spot.

Date: Monday, 4 Dec 2017
Time: 6pm to 8.30pm
Venue: 23 Church Street, 12/F Capital Square Auditorium, Singapore 049481.


Meena Anand

Meena Anand is an experienced global HR professional with strong expertise in Organizational Development, Employee Relations and M&A. Currently she leads the Employee Relations and Conduct functions globally at Standard Chartered. In the past Meena has successfully held both senior generalist and specialist HR roles at Standard Chartered, Barclays and UBS.

Corinna Lim

Corinna Lim is Catalyse Consulting’s Director and AWARE’s Executive Director. Corinna has extensive experience advising and training on workplace harassment. She was involved in research on workplace harassment and advocating for legal protection against workplace harassment. In 2014, she worked with the Ministry of Law on the Protection of Harassment Act. Corinna has provided consultancy to organisations on managing workplace harassment, and has also advised workplace harassment victims on their legal rights. She also founded and ran a successful technology start up, Bizibody Technology, and practised law in Allen & Gledhill, Khattar Wong and Koh Ong & Partners.

Ian Lim

Ian heads the Employment & Labour team at TSMP. His practice covers advisory, transactional and contentious employment work, with a focus on non-competition, dismissal, data privacy, harassment, M&A employee transfers and industrial relations issues. Ian is the lead author for the Singapore chapters of “The Employment Law Review” and “Getting the Deal Through – Labour & Employment”, as well as the Employment chapter of “Law Relating to Specific Contracts in Singapore”. Ian serves as Chairman of the Law Society Civil Practice Committee, and is a Referee of the State Courts Small Claims Tribunals and a Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators.

How Unconscious Bias Affects Mothers Returning to the Workforce

How Unconscious Bias Affects Mothers Returning to the Workforce

Many women find it hard to return to work. Are negative perceptions and unconscious bias hampering women who want to return to work?

Susanna Nickalls, our Director of Catalyse Consulting gives an insight to unconscious bias by sharing why we have biases and why it is important to be more aware of them and talk about them.

By taking the Gender-Career Implicit Association Test, we can understand how quickly we associate female and male terms to family and career. The Implicit Association Test shows that 3 in 4 people have an automatic association of Male with Career and Female with Family.

This shows that there is a need for us to be more aware so that we can overcome the automatic association we make that might hinder women to rejoin the workforce.

This video was aired on June 29, 2017 and you can watch the full episode at:

Balancing a Career and Caregiving is no Longer just a Women’s Issue

Balancing a Career and Caregiving is no Longer just a Women’s Issue

This article appeared in TODAY on March 29, 2016.

March is the month to celebrate and discuss women, as organisations centre their events around International Women’s Day. It is always heartening to see companies invested in balancing gender in their workforce and leadership.

Companies that are committed to maintaining and attracting female talent know there is a strong business case for doing so. A company is only as good as its people, and the female talent pool is too rich to miss out on. Furthermore, high turnover rates indicate a waste of investment in recruiting, training and mentoring women.

Many companies and countries have implemented policies to support women’s leadership.

Things that work well include setting targets on women in leadership roles, designing systematic plans to achieve these targets and commitment from senior management.

Firms can also benefit from training that makes staff aware of biases (including unconscious biases) that may limit women’s achievement, together with practices to reduce these unconscious biases.

Nevertheless, progress remains slow. The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2015 estimates that it will be 118 years before the global gender pay gap closes — putting us four generations away from parity. In 2014, the prediction was 81 years.

What still stands in the way of women’s potential to earn as much as and climb the career ladder like their male counterparts? A key issue, often overlooked, is care.

Even today, women are expected to be the primary caregivers for children. Many leave paid employment to fulfil this role because their workplaces do not make space for caregiving needs. For gender parity to become a reality, companies need to recognise that every worker has caregiving responsibilities, and that these responsibilities — quite rightly — affect men as much as women.


Women face great cultural pressure to be primary caregivers, and often they are. However, this is changing. In a 2014 Harvard Business School (HBS) Study, one-third of 6,500 male millennial HBS graduates expected to split childcare responsibility 50:50 with their partners, compared with 22 per cent of Gen X men and 16 per cent of male baby boomers. Similar findings were reported by Stanford and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

With rising cost of living, most couples are in dual-worker relationships. In Singapore and Hong Kong, it is almost a necessity for both parents to work to ensure a good life for their family, leaving a gap when unpredictable moments of caregiving arise.

Hence, balancing the dual tug of care and career is no longer just a women’s issue. It is also a men’s issue and, ultimately, a work design issue. Our workplaces have yet to fully adapt to a workforce who are all, at the same time, caregivers. Companies must recognise that we do not — and cannot — have the traditional workforce, where the typical worker is a work-obsessed man supported by his full-time, homemaker wife.

Notably, caregiving today also includes caring for aged parents. The 1960s Baby Boom is morphing into an Elder Boom, and this will hit us hard if our workplaces are not prepared.

Although flexiwork schemes exist in most companies, often they are not working. Companies need to ask themselves honestly: How many people are taking advantage of those policies? And how many who have worked flexibly have advanced to the top?

Some managers refuse to let employees work flexibly, prioritising presence over performance. Even when flexiwork is accessible, employees eschew it, fearing the associated stigma of being out of office.

One novel and exciting initiative to erase this stigma is Telstra’s All Roles Flex movement. Its premise is that all roles are flexible, unless a manager can justify otherwise. Flexibility can mean part-time work, different working hours or working from different locations.

Telstra’s All Role Flex policy showed encouraging results. Company-wide female representation had increased, and 30 per cent of new applicants stated that they applied because of the new flexibility. Now, the company sees flexibility as the norm instead of a rarely broached alternative, helping all workers to balance the tensions between care and career. The model has since been adopted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, ANZ Banks and the Australian Securities Exchange.

Many people have children because it can be a deeply rewarding experience. But we need to ensure that everyone — women and men both — has the genuine choice to take this up, without losing access to paid employment. Society should accommodate and support caregiving, instead of penalising this choice. Having a rewarding career, along with a personal life that allows for the satisfactions of loving and caring for others, should be available to all of us, not only the privileged few with access to full-time care support. It is up to all of us to make this happen.

By Corinna Lim, Catalyse Consulting Director

How do Harassment Laws Affect your Company?

How do Harassment Laws Affect your Company?

Protection from Harassment Act

Prior to 2014, there were very few easily identifiable laws on harassment in Singapore. In November 2014, The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) was passed as a landmark legislation, and is now the main body of law protecting people who have become the targets of harassment or stalking, both online and physically.

Under POHA, harassment is described as actions ‘involving threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviours or communications. Such behaviours may be actionable if a) it is meant to cause you harassment, alarm or distress or b) is likely to cause you these feelings and you heard or saw the offending behaviours or words’.

With the recognition of harassment laws under a formal legislation, there is a renewed focus on workplace harassment.

In view of the broadened reach of the Act, it is important that companies ensure that their anti-harassment policies comply with the new legislation.

Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment (the “Advisory”)

After POHA was passed, the Advisory was also issued by a committee comprising government stakeholders, unions, employers and subject matter experts to provide authoritative guidance for employers on addressing workplace harassment.

Although the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment is not technically law, it may have legal implications as it prescribes what companies and their staff should do to address and prevent workplace harassment. This may affect a company’s duty of care to provide its employees with a safe place of work.


As a facet of POHA, the Advisory recommends that employers adopt the following practices:

  1. Develop a harassment prevention policy

Employers should develop a formal policy which prohibits harassment and also ensures recourse in the case of harassment at the workplace. The policy should be developed in consultation with workers in the organisation/the unions (if any)

  1. Provide information and training on workplace harassment

It is important to ensure that harassment is taken seriously at all levels of the organisation. Thus employers are encourage to train their employees, especially the HR, line managers and supervisors to handle harassment cases. Employers can also consider establishing a support group or engaging professionals to provide counselling services and support to affected persons.

  1. Implement reporting and response procedures (grievance handling)

Employers should develop the following procedures, where practicable, to handle any potential workplace harassment issues:

  • Harassment reporting line to ensure timely reporting
  • Investigation procedures to ensure fair treatment of workplace harassment issues
  • Closure to prevent recurrence of incident

Employers should ensure that employees are aware of these procedures, and are able to utilise them easily.

Given that workplaces are rapidly becoming more diverse, cultural differences may lead to different conceptions of what is acceptable workplace behaviour. It is thus critical that companies trains their staff on recognizing what constitutes harassment, who to turn to when a problem arises, and the company’s zero-tolerance policy against harassment.

In our experience we have found that clear policies and procedures on workplace harassment is the key to effective resolutions of harassment incidents, and a strong signal that the company cares about the safety of its employees.

Dealing with Sexual Harassment

Dealing with Sexual Harassment

 What Constitutes Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as behaviour of a sexual nature that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another party (Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment).

Workplace sexual harassment is not limited to the confines of an office environment. Any misconduct during a work-related activity such as a company function, corporate event, team-building exercise, or out-of-town business trip can constitute sexual harassment. AWARE’s 2008 Research Study on Workplace Sexual Harassment found that 20% of sexual harassment incidents occurred outside the office but during work-related business activities like office parties, lunch outings, client entertainment or team-building events.

The harassers need not necessarily be colleagues at work; they can be clients, suppliers, or peers from outside the company.

Harmless flirting between consensual parties is NOT sexual harassment. However, when the feelings are no longer mutual and one party persists even though the other party makes it clear that he or she is no longer interested, the other party may be deemed to have crossed the line.

Sexual harassment can consist of repeated or singular acts that cause the victim(s) to feel uncomfortable and unsafe. It can be verbal, visual and/or physical:

  1. Verbal Sexual Harassment refers to sexually suggestive remarks, or obscene or insulting sounds. It includes unwelcome and offensive names or terms of endearment such as ‘honey bun’ or ‘boobsy’. Other examples of sexual harassment include:
    • Cat calls, kissing sounds, howling and smacking lips
    • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions
    • Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey
    • Whistling at someone
    • Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy or looks
    • Turning work discussions to sexual topics
    • Sexual innuendos or stories
    • Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences or history
    • Telling lies or spreading rumours about a person’s personal sex life.
  2. Visual Sexual Harassment is an assault to the sense of sight where someone exposes his or her private parts or repeatedly stares at another person’s body parts in a way that is offensive or uncomfortable for that person. Being made to look at sexually explicit images or being shown obscene sexual gestures may constitute sexual harassment. Some examples of visual sexual harassment are:
    • Obscene or unwanted sexual looks or gestures
    • Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature
    • Emails, text messages, lewd wallpapers or screen savers on computers, nude calendars.
  3. Physical Sexual harassment is the act of being brushed against, hugged, kissed or touched in any way that is unwelcome and discomforting. It could also refer to being forced to touch someone. Some examples of sexual harassment are:
    • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault
    • Unwanted pressure for sexual favours
    • Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching
    • Unwanted pressure for dates
    • Touching an employee’s clothing, hair or body in an inappropriate and non-consensual manner
    • Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person
    • Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements.

Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

There are two types of sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo harassment refers to sexual blackmail, where the harasser demands sexual favours, forcing the recipient to choose between acceding to lewd requests or risk losing out on salary increases, promotions or even the job itself. This is an example of power play at work and an abuse of authority.

  • Hostile Sexual Environment is created when the behaviour of management or co-workers causes severe stress to the employee, rendering him or her unable to reasonably perform his or her tasks adequately. An example would be lewd sexual actions, manners or pictures exhibited, tolerated and supported by management or co-workers.

Effects of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Victims of sexual harassment feel intimidated, ashamed, angry and humiliated, and find it difficult to continue working under such circumstances. Sexual harassment may be traumatic for some and leave long term psychological effects.

Sexual harassment creates an unhealthy working environment.  Employees’ morale is affected and work productivity decreases when employees are distracted by emotional or psychological abuse and concerns about their job security.

Support for Victim 

It is important for victims of sexual harassment to process their feelings about their experience. Sexual harassment can be traumatic and may give rise to long term adverse psychological effects. Victims of harassment may experience a range of emotions, including confusion, humiliation, fear, anger, isolation and guilt.

For advice on how victims can deal with a harasser in the workplace, visit AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre website.

Statistics on Workplace Sexual Harassment

Statistics on Workplace Sexual Harassment



The issue of workplace sexual harassment in Singapore remains for the most part a ‘hidden’ problem. In 2008, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) conducted a survey to address this issue.

Snapshot of Statistics

Their study on 500 respondents and 92 companies reported these findings:

  1. Sexual Harassment is common in the Workplace
    • 54% (272) had experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment.
    • 27% of the 272 respondents experienced harassment by their colleague, while 17% were harassed by their superior.
    • 79% of the victims are women; 21% were men.
    • 12% had received threats of termination if they did no comply with the requests of the sexual harassers.
  2. Sexual Harassment occurs across the board.
    • Both women and men are more likely to have been harassed by the opposite sex, although some have also experienced harassment from the same sex. In AWARE’s survey, 79% of the respondents who reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment were female; 21% were male.
    • Sexual harassment occurs across the board. Most of the harassment is experienced at executive levels, followed by administrative staff. While reports of victimization are fewer, there are incidents of sexual harassment at management and senior management positions.
  3. Awareness of mechanisms for redress within the Workplace
    • 66.6% (333) were not aware of any policies.
    • 50.4% indicated that they were aware of a department or resource person they could approach on sexual harassment.
  4. Industries with high levels of sexual harassment incidents(in no particular order)
    • Business, trade, banking and finance
    • Sales and marketing
    • Hospitality
    • Civil Service
    • Education, lecturing and teaching


Research Report on Workplace Sexual Harassment by AWARE