On Friday 18 March 2022, a government gazette was published in regard to the Code, being Regulation Gazette No. 11409, Vol.681, No 46056.

This Code is effective from the abovementioned date.

SA’s sexual harassment code now covers bullying and ‘condescending eye contact’

It defines various types of harassment, including passive-aggressive harassment via facial expression.

Employers, including those of domestic workers, are now required to protect their employees from “condescending eye contact”, including by visitors and staff.

South African employers are required to protect their staff against a wide range of bullying behaviour, from gestures that threaten violence to certain types of facial expressions.

The new code lays out what employers should do such as providing extra sick leave and trauma counselling – and should not do – such as belittling complaints – when it comes to harassment of just about any nature, just about anywhere, from just about anybody.

It covers racial harassment, including innuendo and stereotyping based on race, which is “assumed to be offensive and unwanted to any individual who may be exposed to the language or conduct.”

It covers people who work from home, and work-related communication, as well as any space an employer may have control over. Domestic workers are explicitly included, as are workers in the informal sector.

It covers harassment by bosses as well as colleagues, visitors, and clients, and managers are specifically required to protect workers against a hostile work environment created by nasty customers.

Employers can fall foul of the code through actions such as “surveillance of an employee without their knowledge and with harmful intent”, but also by failing to stop colleagues from “spreading rumours maliciously” about one another.

Perhaps the most difficult to guard against is passive-aggressive harassment.

Passive-aggressive or covert harassment may include negative gossip, negative joking at someone’s expense, sarcasm, condescending eye contact, facial expression, or gestures, mimicking to ridicule, deliberately causing embarrassment and insecurity, invisible treatment, marginalisation, social exclusion, professional isolation, and deliberately sabotaging someone’s dignity, well-being, happiness, success, and career performance.


For more information on labour law advice or services. Please feel free to contact us at Cape Labour Consultants and we will gladly assist you. Cape Labour & Industrial Consultants is a Cape Town-based providing Labour Law (Industrial Relations) and advice to employers and employees across all market segments and industries since 1987.

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