Abuse in connection with employment can include any form of harassment and/or abuse of power. Employees may experience improper and unwelcome conduct by staff or other persons (such as clients or suppliers) that might reasonably be perceived to cause offence or humiliation. Abuse of power refers to an improper use of a position of influence, power or authority. Such abuses may violate numerous human rights, including the right to non-discrimination and the right to a safe working environment.
Internal grievance mechanisms help businesses identify and address adverse impacts on human rights that occur in the course of their operations or in their supply chains. Employers can respect the human rights of employees and mitigate the adverse impacts of workplace abuse (including reputational and legal risks) by implementing an effective internal grievance mechanism that is clear, equitable, transparent and accessible, and appropriately addresses cultural or religious sensitivities. To be effective, the mechanism needs to be trusted and used by employees, which means that it should protect the confidentiality of the complainant and allow for independent investigation of the complaint (that is, not by the same person who is alleged to have committed the abuse). If a complaint is proven, the employer must be prepared to implement disciplinary sanctions against perpetrators, regardless of their stature within the organization.