Addressing GBVH and Building Respectful Workplaces

Develop policies and procedures to recognize and reduce the impacts of gender-based violence and sexual harassment (GBVH), and promote respectful workplaces.
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This tool suite provides 15 practical tools and guidance notes to address GBVH as a workplace issue and build respectful workplaces by improving employee and community well-being.
Benefits of creating respectful workplaces


GBVH and respectful workplace issues have a significant negative impact on a company’s bottom line, leading to absenteeism, increased health & safety risks, reputational damage, and high staff turnover. Respectful workplaces and GBVH mitigation and response promotes staff wellbeing and boosts productivity.


This tool suite includes a menu of tools for companies to choose from. The priority should be providing a safe workplace by addressing bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) within the organization, and prioritizing putting survivor care first. Companies can then build on this foundation to support employees by responding to domestic or sexual violence outside the workplace.

What is the Impact of GBVH on Your Business and Community?

These tools will help companies better understand their GBVH challenges and opportunities.

  • Use the roadmap to get an overview of how your organization can address GBVH as a workplace issue and build respectful workplaces that improve employee and community well-being.
  • Read the business case to understand how GBVH affects your business, employees, and the communities in which you operate.
  • Access guidance on finding and assessing GBVH data specific to your company and the legal obligations that may apply to your company.
  • Research what supports are available for survivors and perpetrators of GBVH in the locations that your business operates.
  • Conduct a gender safety audit. For an overview of gender smart safety and a case study, see Tool 4.6.
  • Collect data through employee engagement mechanisms. Let your approach to measurement be guided by a focus on the survivor-centered approach – i.e. empowering the employee by prioritizing their rights, needs, and wishes. Make respect, confidentiality, and safety the core objectives of all interventions (see box 4I
  • Adapt the sample questions to include questions about worker safety and perceptions in your employee engagement surveys. Since you should not ask your employees about their personal experiences of GBVH, you must hire an expert if you want to conduct interviews or survey your employees.
  • Access a sample term of reference (ToR).
  • If you are an IFC client, you will receive specialized support from IFC E&S specialists linked to IFC performance standards. Summary available here.

How Can You Take Action Against GBVH and Build Respectful Workplaces?

Based on the understanding developed from the ‘Assess’ tools, the ‘Address’ tools empower companies to take action against GBVH and build a respectful workplace. All activities should be based on a survivor-centered approach (See Box 4I).

How Can You Institutionalize GBVH Initiatives for Lasting Change?

Monitor progress and institutionalize mechanisms to ensure continued improvement and sustained progress to address GBVH.

  • Maintain a confidential record of complaints and actions taken, including details of support to survivors and disciplinary actions taken. Adjust actions at the company level as needed based on lessons learned. 
  • Track changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behavior using a theory of change. Be aware that the work of changing culture is often complex and long-term, and therefore requires time and continued efforts.
  • Collect data through employee engagement mechanisms.

IFC Respectful Workplaces Program
IFC’s Respectful Workplaces Program seeks to enhance business value by addressing gender-based violence and harassment including customer and client aggression, workplace bullying and sexual harassment, domestic and sexual violence, and sexual exploitation and abuse connected to the workplace. The Respectful Workplaces program supports private sector efforts to create safe and resilient workplaces in emerging markets by demonstrating the business case for action and providing businesses with advisory services, resources, and tools to help them address the issue.
Corporate Social Responsibility & GBVH
Many companies have also made commitments to address GBVH through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives at a global, country, or community level. Examples of contractual or CRS initiatives to address GBVH include:

Waka Mere: Fifteen of the largest companies in the Solomon Islands committed to measures to promote gender equality in the workplace. Through the Waka Mere Commitment to Action, they work toward at least one of three goals: promote more women in leadership, build respectful and supportive workplaces, and increase opportunities for women in jobs traditionally held by men.