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His appointment in the new role is subject to approval by the Central Bank of Kenya/FILE

Kenya

Equity Bank institutes new measures to guard against sexual harassment at work

The bank, through its Group Chairman Designate David Ansell, said it had taken disciplinary action against the accused and instituted measures to prevent the repeat of the same in future/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – Equity Bank has instituted new measures to guard against and prevent future occurrence of harassment at the work place after sex assault claims were made against one of its top managers.

The manager was forced out after the bank investigated the allegations against him, which were made public in Facebook posts last month. He is alleged to have made inappropriate advances towards some female interns on the Equity Leaders Programme.

The bank, through its Group Chairman Designate David Ansell, said it had taken disciplinary action against the accused and instituted measures to prevent the repeat of the same in future.

“The Board recognises that with a staff complement of more than 7,000 and having offered more than 5,400 internships to date, there is a need to strengthen internal human relations capacity. As such, it has established a dedicated team within the Human Resource department to focus on internal training and sensitisation of policies and procedures as well as rights and obligations of staff and interns.

“Sexual harassment/assault in the workplace is totally unacceptable. We at Equity Group have chosen to share our experience openly and raise awareness on this issue of public interest. By doing so, we hope that our actions will inspire and encourage other leaders and organizations to consider their own workplaces and to take action where necessary to address sexual harassment,” stated Ansell.

To reduce the probability of future occurrence of sexual harassment incidences, the Group said it had rolled out a comprehensive refresher training for all staff and interns on existing policies and procedures that safeguard their safety and security in the workplace.

As part of addressing the issue, the Group interacted with stakeholders and also took into consideration global best practices in dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace.

“The Group is committed to maintaining the confidentiality of both the claimants and the accused. This said, the Group has taken necessary measures in line with its policies and procedures, including disciplinary measures, and in some cases termination/separation of employment of certain staff.

“Furthermore, we confirm that the claimants who presented their concerns have been individually contacted and informed of the outcome of the process, and offered all necessary support.”

The company said it was informed early last month that some interns from the programme were having the discussions on their group’s Facebook pages.

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“Members of the Facebook group raised concerns related to sexual harassment/assault by staff and fellow interns during their internship at the Bank and the Equity Group Foundation.

“Upon learning of this information, Equity Group’s leadership team convened an urgent Board Governance Committee meeting on October 4, 2018. The Board resolved and created an institutional framework with a three-tiered structure to address the concerns raised.

“This structure was communicated to the interns through their group’s Facebook pages. They were invited to come forward with information so that their concerns could be addressed within the stipulated framework.”

Ansell said Equity is deeply grateful to the people who came forward with information, adding that their courage had made the group make important progress.

According to Ansell, the company’s policy on sexual harassment has been updated with the creation of an institutional framework with a three-tiered structure to address the concerns raised.

He said the company would now take harder line on inappropriate behaviour.
Equity, says Ansell, has identified lessons and recommendations that will enhance existing policies and procedures to reinforce a safe and secure working environment.

“This includes updating our Child Protection, Sexual Harassment/Assault and Speak Up policies, and putting in place a Bystander Intervention initiative, which will equip staff and interns with the skills they need to recognise a potentially harmful situation or interaction and to respond appropriately.”

“The Group will continue to strengthen governance structures, coaching, and mentoring programs to ensure each staff and intern feels safe and empowered to air their grievances. This will include identifying and onboarding an external party to provide staff and interns with alternative reporting channel to complement the already existing internal reporting channels, which are also being strengthened.”

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