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It’s important that VR members know that they can seek assistance with VR if they have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Within VR there is a team that deals with issues related to sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace.

Please contact the VR service centre by calling 510 1700 for further information and assistance.

See regulation and measures against bullying, sexual harassment, gender harassment and violence at work. (Icelandic only)

Sexual harassment

We are all entitled to a working environment that is characterised by mutual respect in communications and includes, amongst other things, protection against gender and sexual harassment and other violence in the workplace. Such behaviour is both legally and morally objectionable. This applies regardless of whether the behaviour is that of an employer, colleague or person with whom an employee has to interact for his/her work.

The employer is required to reduce the risk of situations arising in the workplace where harassment or abuse can thrive, as well as has the obligation to make sure that such behaviour is unacceptable in the workplace. Employers must clearly inform employees that such behaviour is not permitted. An employee who becomes aware of harassment or violence in the workplace is also obliged to inform the employer or the health and safety representative about this.

What to do

An employee who believes that he/she has been subjected to gender-based or sexual harassment or violence in the workplace, or who has a reasoned suspicion or knowledge of such behaviour in the workplace, must inform the employer and/or the health and safety representative. If the complaint is directed against an employer, then his or her immediate superior should be consulted or, as appropriate, the Chairman of the Board in case of a company or organisation.

Available approaches

Trade unions and government agencies can provide employees information, advice and assistance on gender-based harassment, sexual harassment, and violence in the workplace.

Trade unions
The primary role of trade unions is to safeguard employees’ rights and to protect their interests. This includes providing assistance and counselling to their members if employees considers themselves to be in unbearable working conditions, such as due to gender-based harassment, sexual harassment, and violence at work.

The Administration of Occupational Safety and Health
The Administration of Occupational Health and Safety is the body that oversees the implementation of occupational health and safety in the workplace and regulations on measures against bullying, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, and violence at work. The Administration of Occupational Health and Safety does not have the role of deciding whether certain behaviours are considered sexual or gender-based harassment or violence in the workplace. The role of the organisation is, however, to make sure that an employer fulfils his obligations under the regulation, for example, regarding risk assessment and prevention.

Centre for Gender Equality
The Equal Opportunities Agency supervises the implementation of the Gender Equality Act, deals with education and information activities and provides counselling in the area of gender equality. The organisation is working to prevent gender-based violence in collaboration with others who specifically carry out such prevention. The Equal Opportunities Agency monitors annually workplaces employing more than 25 employees, in order to make sure that there is a valid equality plan. In such a plan, there should be, amongst other things, specific measures that employers take to prevent gender-based violence, gender-based harassment, or sexual harassment at work. If the Equal Opportunities Agency has a reasoned suspicion that an institution, company or association has violated the Act, it shall examine whether there is reason to request that the Gender Equality Appeals Committee take the matter for consideration. It is obligatory to provide the Equal Opportunities Agency with the information and data that the Agency deems necessary to assess the merits of the case.

Gender Equality Appeals Committee
The task of the Gender Equality Appeals Committee is to take into consideration cases and provide a written ruling on whether the provisions of the Equal Opportunities Act have been violated. Individuals, companies, organisations, and associations can bring an action before the Gender Equality Appeals Committee if they consider that the provisions of the Act have been violated. The decision of the Appeals Committee is binding, which means that the employer must either comply with the decision of the Committee and act in accordance with it or the employer can present his case to the courts of law within a specified time limit.

The Police
Charges for sexual harassment and violence can be made to the police; such violations are discussed in General Penal Code. The procedure provided by law is different from the above, as the complaint or rather the charge for such behaviour is directed not against the employer but the alleged perpetrator. Sexual harassment within the meaning of General Penal Code can result in a prison sentence of up to two years. It is clear from the definition of the General Penal Code on sexual harassment that the law deals with more serious cases, and it states that it includes, inter alia, stroking, groping or probing the genitals or breasts of another person, whether under or through clothing, as well as suggestive behaviour or language which is extremely offensive, repeated, or of such a nature as to cause fear.