Original Research

The effectiveness of sexual harassment policies and procedures at higher education institutions in South Africa

Pierre Joubert, Christo van Wyk, Sebastiaan Rothmann
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 9, No 1 | a310 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v9i1.310 | © 2011 Pierre Joubert, Christo van Wyk, Sebastiaan Rothmann | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 June 2010 | Published: 22 February 2011

About the author(s)

Pierre Joubert, Vaal University of Technology, South Africa
Christo van Wyk, North-West University, South Africa
Sebastiaan Rothmann, North-West University, South Africa


Orientation: Sexual harassment policies are generally in place in higher education institutions without any indication of its effectiveness as determined by the awareness of the policy.

Research purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the awareness levels of academic staff members at higher education institutions in South Africa of sexual harassment policies and procedures in their institutions.

Motivation for the study: A number of high profile court cases emphasised the need for effective policies to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment complaints.

Research design, approach and method: A cross-sectional survey design was conducted amongst 161 academic staff members, representing 10 higher education institutions in South Africa. The measuring instrument that was used is the Sexual Harassment Questionnaire (SHQ) that was developed specifically for this study.

Main findings: The results showed that despite indications that sexual harassment policies do exist and that they are regarded as effective tools in addressing sexual harassment, the implementation of such policies is not effective and few academic staff members received training and/or guidance on the utilisation of the policy. Significant correlation coefficients were found between the elements of an effective policy and between population group and some of the elements.

Practical/managerial implications: Employers across the board should regularly conduct an audit to determine the level of awareness of sexual harassment policies and procedures and plan interventions.

Contribution: No other study in South Africa attempted to measure the awareness levels of academics and its impact on the management of sexual harassment.


visibility; effectiveness; liability; prevention; implementation


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