Guidelines for dealing with harassment and inappropriate treatment
Which laws protect against harassment in Finland? How to act in a harassment situation? How can harassment and innappropriate treatment be prevented in the workplace? What are the responsibilities of the employer and the board of the organization?
Examples of inappropriate treatment and unhealthy structures in art and culture work communities have become public in recent years. Fortunately, grievances are no longer just kept secrets: they have become shared problems for which solutions are actively sought. Public debate and cases with their solutions will define the working life of the future.
TAKU has published a guide to encountering harassment in everyday situations in working life (only in Finnish), which offers a perspective for both employees, managers and board members of the organization. The guide pays particular attention to small work communities and association-based operators. The guide is published in Finnish only, so this article summarizes the main points in English.
(Do you want to learn more? Read Meri Jaakola's master's thesis commissioned by TAKU (2022): “My work opportunities depend on how much I can take”: inappropriate behaviour and harassment in the cultural domain in Finland.)
The Finnish law protects against harassment
Recognizing and demonstrating inappropriate treatment can be challenging. Finnish laws protecting against harassment:
The Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits harassment that causes harm or danger to an employee's health. Harassment is systematic and continuous negative activity or behavior, such as threatening, insinuating, belittling, mocking, excluding, sexual harassment.
It is good to note that many things that cause confusion or conflict of values are not necessarily illegal.
How to act in a harassment situation?
What to do if you encounter inappropriate behavior:
- Bring it up (Ask, why do we act this way? Tell your viewpoints. Maybe you start with: ”I don't like that…”).
- Turn to the person in charge.
- If the matter cannot be resolved, seek external help, e.g. from the occupational health service or from the lawyer of your trade union.
- In severe cases, it is recommended to take the matter to the occupational health and safety authority.
The occupational safety and health authority is a neutral party in the explanatory work. The employer also receives information about the occupational health and safety notification.
If you struggle with grievances, remember that you are not alone: help and peer support are available.
Invest in preventing unwanted situations. Basically, the most important thing is to build an open and conversational operating culture that creates equality in the work community.
- Is there time and space for discussion in the workplace, for example joint weekly meetings?
- What is the workplace culture like? Are the rules the same for everyone?
- What kind of values guide the activities, are the values reflected in the everyday life of the work community?
- Are there instructions for intervening in inappropriate activities?
If a recurring problem situation occurs in the work community, it is the manager's responsibility to take further steps. The manager can intervene in the situation by talking to the parties involved, but the obligation to intervene can also mean labor law measures such as job changes, a warning or the dismissal of the person who acted incorrectly. Serious issues must also be brought to the attention of the board.
If the employer does not take sufficient measures to stop inappropriate treatment, the employer can be accused of neglecting occupational safety and even committing an occupational safety crime.
The role of the board of the association
If the employer is an association, its board is obliged to take care of the employer's responsibilities.
The board of the association, and especially the chairman, are also responsible for how possible problems are handled or how they are prevented.
If the operative management of the work community is already trying to resolve the situation, the board should support the management. The board must also monitor the progress of the situation and be active in order to obtain the necessary information.
If the problem itself is related to the manager of the work community, the board must pay attention to listening and neutrality. The board can act as a mediating or balancing party.